Who is Liable for a Boat Accident?

May 16, 2022

Boating is a popular pastime for New Orleans residents. Since Louisiana experiences sunny weather for large parts of the year, its lakes, rivers, and shorelines are often crowded with recreational boaters, jet skiers, and swimmers.

Unfortunately, this means boating accidents are common. If you’re injured in a boating accident, your first step should be to hire the services of the experienced New Orleans boat injury lawyers at Dudley DeBosier to help you build a case and improve your chances of maximizing your much-needed compensation.

Determining Liability

Boating can be a dangerous activity, so injuries can occur even when no one is at fault. However, if you suffer injuries in a boat accident, you must prove another party’s negligence to recover compensation.

Due to the nature of boating accidents, some injuries are more common than others. Boating accident victims are most likely to experience drowning, oxygen deprivation, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, whiplash, bone fractures, and electrocution. Depending on the specifics of the accident, liability may fall on various parties.

To determine negligence against another party in the state of Louisiana, you must prove:

  • Duty: The responsible party (for example, the boat operator) owed you a duty of care.
  • Breach of duty: The responsible party did not provide the owed duty of care.
  • Cause in fact: If the duty hadn’t been breached, you wouldn’t have been injured.
  • Proximate cause: The breach of duty was the direct cause of your injuries.
  • Damages: You sustained injuries and experienced financial losses as a result of the accident.

We’ve listed some of the most common boating accidents in Louisiana below, as well as who might be liable in each of these situations:

Boat collisions

In a direct collision between boats, there is a strong likelihood that both operators share some responsibility for the accident. Due to Louisiana’s comparative fault laws, you can file personal injury claims against multiple parties if they share fault in the collision that caused your injuries.

However, it may be easier to prove total negligence against a single party in some instances. For example, one operator may breach state “rules of the road” for boats, causing the collision.

There are 20 rules for boaters written by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Violation of any rule is regarded as careless operation of a vessel, making the operator liable in an accident.

Hitting another boat’s wake

A strong enough wake can rock another boat, knocking passengers around or overboard, or swamping and even capsizing the boat! Operators must be vigilant about the size of their vessel’s wake, ensuring it doesn’t create hazards for other boaters. When determining liability in a wake-related accident, several factors are considered:

  • Size of the wake
  • Speed of the vessel
  • Visibility in the area
  • Traffic in the area

Harbors and marinas typically enforce no-wake zones, prohibiting all vessels from creating wakes. Boat operators creating a wake in these zones are likely to be liable for any related accidents.

Colliding with a wave

Wave accidents often make for challenging injury claims since they don’t involve third parties. Eyewitness claims and other evidence, like onboard data recorders, can influence a case. If the operator fails to slow down adequately or warn other passengers of an incoming impact, they could potentially be held liable for injures.

Hitting a rock or submerged object

Colliding with submerged objects can cause catastrophic damage to the boat and its passengers. The boat operator’s liability in such an accident is dependent on several important factors, including the weather, visibility, speed, and use of nautical charts and equipment.

For example, if the operator is speeding in bad weather and with poor visibility, they are likely to be negligent. However, if they operate the vessel carefully, using the relevant nautical charts for the region, they may not be found negligent for unexpectedly hitting a submerged rock that they could not have reasonably known was there.

Boating while intoxicated (BWI)

Just like it is for cars, it is illegal to operate a boat, jet ski, or any other watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Boat operators above the legal limit may be held liable for an accident claim.

How to Pursue a Boating Accident Injury Claim

Boat accident victims are entitled to economic and non-economic damages in Louisiana, which they can get by filing a compensation claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance, which can be escalated to an injury lawsuit if necessary. There is no limit to the amount of compensation for damages in personal injury cases unless the at-fault party is a government agency, such as in a collision with a police or coast guard boat. Damages in these cases are capped at $500,000, but those types of cases can get very complicated and you should always get a lawyer to help you navigate them.

File Your Claim with Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers

Personal injury claims after a boat accident can be complex. Determining liability and negligence can be a grueling process, considering there are often multiple variables.

If you’ve experienced injuries in a boat accident due to someone else’s actions, contact Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers. We always seek maximum compensation for past and future medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. We investigate and analyze all cases to the fullest extent, using independent experts to estimate damages accurately.

Experience the Dudley DeBosier Difference by scheduling a free consultation today.

This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.