Boating Accidents

Can you believe you can get a boat license online? As summertime swings into full force, many prairie dwellers are out on the local lakes in motor boats, personal watercraft, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and rafts.  Lake enthusiasts are jumping off docks, sliding into the water and pulling skiers.  All in all, satisfying summer activities.

Unfortunately, all of the fun also comes with a certain share of tragedy. Boating accidents can bring the joy of a holiday weekend to an abrupt halt. Many operating watercraft lack experience and know-how, activities take place in unsafe surroundings, and alcohol often contributes to poor decision-making.

How do boating accidents happen?

The majority of fatal accidents in water are caused by capsizing boats or falling overboard.  Even the best of swimmers cannot last forever in open water.  If you add darkness or windy conditions, the chance of making it to safety deteriorates even further.  In Alberta, we often also have to contend with cold water conditions.

How to prevent boating accidents, injuries or death

Drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death for Canadians under 60.  Many of these deaths are preventable and precautionary steps should always be taken during watersport activities.

The best way to prevent boating accident-related death is to dress accordingly.  Everyone aboard should wear a PFD (personal flotation device).  And if you are in a small craft on cold water, wear a wetsuit!  No one expects to land in the water; however, you must be prepared for it to happen.

Some statistics suggest that 40% of boating accidents resulting in drowning involve alcohol.  I am surprised it is that low.  Alcohol, sun, and the rocking motion of a boat all compete to create poor judgment and fatigue.  Together, the combination can be deadly.  Wear a lifejacket, especially if you are drinking!

What to do after a boating accident

Every injury or death on or around the water brings its own special set of facts and circumstances with it. If you have been injured or if a loved one has died in a boating or water sports accident, compensation may be available; however, a number of questions need to be addressed:

1. Was a liability waiver signed?

If a waiver was signed, the boating accident lawyers at Robinson LLP would like to see a copy. More often than not, legal action is still a possibility.

2. Was someone else responsible?

Generally speaking, the captain of the boat is in charge of ensuring every passenger has a PFD and uses it at appropriate times.  The captain should NOT be drinking alcohol.  Just like for a car, the captain is responsible for collisions.  However, he or she is also responsible for ensuring guests don’t fall overboard.  There have actually been occasions where “party boats” don’t notice a guest who has fallen overboard and left to drown.  The Captain has a lot of responsibility, and if there is a lack of good judgment, the Captain’s insurance may end up paying out.

Whether someone else was clearly responsible or partly responsible for a boating accident that resulted in injury or death, or if you are unsure, the experienced team at Robinson LLP can help investigate the answer.

3. Is there a pool of insurance to draw from?

Most of us pay insurance premiums.  Most of us grumble when we do.  We pay these premiums to protect ourselves in case we cause an accident.  When we are in an accident and a friend is at fault, we hesitate to take legal action.  That is ridiculous.  Our friend has been paying policy premiums.  Everybody ought to hope those premiums are paid to ensure someone who is injured will be able to collect appropriate compensation.

Fortunately, many insurance policies cover events that occur on the water – Liability policies on watercraft,  homeowners insurance or umbrella policies may cover water accidents.  Let the lawyers at Robinson LLP help you explore whether there may be insurance coverage for an action you take.

Boating accident lawyers

Accidents on the water can happen in a million different ways.  The bottom line is that no matter how a boating accident occurs, it is often compensable. Usually, people are out boating with family and friends, so this can make the suggestion of a lawsuit uncomfortable, at best. However, do not make a decision to forfeit compensation until you know what is available in your circumstance.

If you have suffered a loss due to a boating accident, call the lawyers at Robinson LLP.  We will help sort out the facts to determine if you have a pursuable case.

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