Hakim Injury Law: Boat Accident Claims

California Boat Accident Liability: Causes, Injuries, and Legal Insights

September 14, 2023

In California if you have ten minutes, an internet connection, and a valid credit card, you can get a boating card. Renting a high-powered speedboat or other such watercraft is even easier. Boat owners only require a valid credit card or a small wad of bills. In other words, many people who rent and operate such watercraft have only seen them on TV. Therefore, boating accidents in California are very common.

That’s especially true since, to many people, boating and alcohol consumption go hand-in-hand. Alcohol impairs judgment abilities and motor skills. Boat operators, particularly inexperienced ones, must be functioning at full capacity to safely operate a motorboat or other powered watercraft. The stakes are so high that, in many cases, boat owners could be vicariously liable for damages if they allow intoxicated people to operate their motor vehicles. More on that below.

Also as outlined below, boat accidents usually cause very serious injuries. The medical bills alone in these cases often exceed $40,000. So, unless a boat accident lawyer in California stands up for these victims in court, they could end up holding a very large financial bag. Fortunately for victims, the compensation in a personal injury case includes not only money for medical bills and other economic losses, but also money for emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.

Boat Accident Injuries

Boat accidents often cause collision-related injuries, in addition to fall-related injuries and unintentional drownings.

Whiplash is one of the most common collision-related injuries in boat accident claims. Although doctors see this injury a lot, they still have a hard time detecting and treating it.

Initial whiplash symptoms are almost exactly identical to accident shock symptoms. In both cases, the symptoms include stiff necks and general disorientation. Rest cures accident shock. Rest worsens whiplash. This head-neck injury requires immediate and aggressive treatment. Without such intervention, the victim’s condition deteriorates. Left untreated, whiplash could cause permanent paralysis.

Seat belts usually keep car crash victims in place so they don’t fly out of the vehicle. Boats don’t have seat belts. When victims fall, they usually hit their heads on the deck or another solid object. The resulting head injuries are usually permanent. After brain cells die, they don’t regenerate.

The permanent loss makes brain injury physical therapy very difficult. Therapists must painstakingly train uninjured areas of the brain to take over lost functions. 

Believe it or not, these victims are the lucky ones. Other fall victims end up in the water. Boat crashes are so chaotic that many people stay in the water for at least several minutes. A lot can happen in that amount of time, even if the victim is wearing a life preserver. The lack of a life preserver may or may not be admissible in court. California law on this subject is rather complex.

Liability Issues in California Boat Accidents 

Most boat accident cases are negligence cases, which means that, in addition to the operator’s lack of care, several defenses and third-party liability theories could come into play.

Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Drinking and boating clearly violates the duty of care in these cases. So does operating a boat above the posted speed limit. Boats, unlike cars, do not stop on a dime. If a lack of care causes injury, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney can obtain compensation in court, as outlined above.

Speeding and BUI (boating under the influence) also violate safety laws. If the tortfeasor (negligent operator) breaks a safety law and causes injury, the victim might be entitled to damages as a matter of law.

A solid, evidence-based case isn’t always enough to obtain maximum compensation in these cases. Possible defenses include:

  • Comparative Fault: Sometimes, both boaters are partially responsible for a wreck. Operator impairment and aggressive boating are the norm on most waterways. In these situations, jurors must apportion fault on a percentage basis. Since California is a pure comparative fault state, victims are entitled to compensation even if they’re 99 percent at fault.
  • No Life Preserver: In many states, drowning victims who don’t wear life preserves are legally responsible for their own injuries. In California, juries may consider this fact, but a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can still obtain compensation for these victims.
  • Lack of Evidence: This defense usually isn’t very effective in negligence cases, mostly because the burden of proof is very low in these cases. Victim/plaintiffs must only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Nevertheless, if victims don’t immediately see doctors, it’s not easy to establish the amount of damages.

Negligent entrustment is probably the most common third-party liability theory in boat accident claims. Boat owners are vicariously liable for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent operators to use their boats or other motor vehicles.

Operators who have never been on boats before are arguably incompetent to operate high-powered watercraft. Liability could also attach if the owner, or an owner’s agent, rents a watercraft to an intoxicated person.

Contact Sharona to get the boat accident claims you deserve!

Complex boat accidents usually cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced California boat accident attorney contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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