Pleasure Boat Accidents & Injuries

Pleasure Boat Accident Frequently Asked Questions

Does federal admiralty and maritime law apply to the operation of a pleasure boat?

Generally, admiralty and maritime law will cover pleasure boat incidents occurring on navigable waters, oceans, seas, rivers, Great Lakes, etc. However, state law will apply to any incidents occurring on a land-locked lake wholly within one state, or a water way which includes obstructions which prevent navigation.

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Does federal admiralty and maritime law apply to the operation of a personal water craft?

Yes, general admiralty and maritime law will apply to seados, jet skis, houseboats and other personal water craft operating on navigable waterways.

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What should I do if I am involved in a boating accident?

Most boating accidents require a report to either the state agency regulating boats or to the United States Coast Guard or both. If an operator is involved in a collision with another boat or an ‘allision’ (which means striking a fixed object or a non-moving vessel), he or she should immediately contact the state agency regulating boats to ascertain what type of report is required, if any. A reporting requirement is generally triggered if the boating accident involves personal injury requiring medical treatment beyond immediate first aid or damage to any vessel or other property above a certain specified amount, frequently $500. Failure to remain on the scene, render aid, and timely report the boating accident to an appropriate law enforcement agency is a crime. Report the incident to your insurance company to be safe and always if a state or federal report was made. To the extent possible, you should photograph or document the scene and the vessels involved as there may be additional or 3rd party claims that arise.

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What should I do if I am asked by a news reporter for an interview or to make a comment?

Because this communication may be very important later on in your claim, an appropriate response is “no comment.”

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What should I do if I am asked by an insurance adjuster to make a recorded statement?

Do not give an insurance adjuster a recorded statement. You have the right to refuse to give a recorded statement. The adjuster is not your friend. He or she wants to limit your claim and if possible will use the statement against you later on in your claim. An appropriate response to an insurance adjuster under the circumstances would be ‘I’m not ready at this time to make a statement or answer your questions.’, ‘May I have your name, your company’s name, and your telephone number and I will get back with you soon.’ This response gives you room to breathe and time to contact your attorney.

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What is the Limitation of Liability Act?

The act supports the idea that a vessel owner is entitled to limit its liability after a maritime incident to the post casualty value of the vessel and the pending freight. Limitations on liability can leave the Plaintiff with next to nothing for recovery. There are circumstances in which a defendant can lose the right to limit liability or where Plaintiffs prevent application of the Limitation of Liability Act.

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What is a third party claim?

Often boating incidents reveal liability on behalf of persons other than the operator or owner of the boat. For instance, there may be product liability claims for poor design of the vessel or inadequately manufactured motors, seats, etc. It is important that all potential claims be well documented and investigated before releasing the vessel.

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Do I need an attorney if I’m injured in a boating accident?

Because of the intricacies of the law related to boating, you can probably formulate your own answer to this question. The chances of successfully settling a claim for a fair amount to the plaintiff are extremely low. It may be possible to settle your claim for a mere nuisance value if you wish to do so, but beyond that it will probably be necessary for you to seek the assistance of an attorney that handles admiralty and maritime matters.

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Contact Information

To contact us for a free confidential consult, you can call us at (850) 435-7000 (Pensacola) or (800) 277-1193 (toll free). You also can request a free private and confidential evaluation by clicking Maritime & Boating Evaluation Form, and your inquiry will be immediately reviewed by one of our attorneys who handles your specific type case.


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