Early in March a shocking news story was reported from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, about a surfacing whale hitting a boat loaded with 9 tourists who were returning from a snorkel tour.
What might have otherwise been an exciting whale watching experienced turned dire when one 35 year old passenger was tossed into the sea and ultimately passed away due to her injuries. Another two were “considerably” injured after the accident.
While there is no known legal action being taken against the tourist company or the captain of the 25 foot open boat, this does bring to question the matter of negligence on the open sea. How is negligence determined? When can a boating accident turn into a negligence claim?
Proving Negligence in Watercraft Claims
The duty upon the plaintiff in any personal injury situation is to prove that his or her injuries are due to someone else’s reckless or careless behavior. When it comes to boats and watercraft, this typically will be the result of one of three situations:
Colliding with Another Boat or Watercraft
In this scenario, both of the boat or watercraft operators will likely be held partially at fault. This means that any passengers of the boat or watercraft may have a legal case against both operators and can therefore claim compensation from both.
Another important consideration is what sailors call “The Rules of the Road”. For instance, if a sailboat happens to be hit by a motorboat, then the motorboat would be more likely to be at fault due to the rules surrounding safe boating practices.
Crashing into Anther Boat’s Wake or a Wave
The jolt that comes from hitting a wave or wake created by another watercraft can not cause passengers to fall or stumble, but it can throw them overboard.
Proving that the driver of the boat is negligent depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- The boat’s speed
- Visibility and the size of the wake
- The amount of traffic in the area when the accident occurred
- Whether the operator gave passengers fair warning of a wake
Colliding with a Submerged Object, Land or Rock
Even when sailing on the clearest of waters a boat can accidentally hit a submerged object. Whether or not the watercraft’s operator is liable for damages after hitting a submerged object depends on the circumstances. For example, should the operator be traveling at a slow and cautious speed and have proper nautical charts of the area and yet still crashes into land, finding him or her negligent would be difficult.
Boating accidents that result in damage not only to the boat but to its operator and occupants can be painful or even tragic.
At the law office of Arata, Swingle, Van Egmond & Goodwin, we have provided many boat owners and passengers in Northern California with experienced legal counsel and have ensured that they receive full compensation for their injuries.
If you have been injured in a boating accident, we invite you to give us a call today at (209) 522-2211.