The thrill and excitement of boating and water sports is an enjoyable departure from everyday life. Fishing, watching the sunset, or relaxing makes lasting memories with friends and family. However, a day of fun in the sun can quickly become tragic when an accident occurs. According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), there were 240 boat accidents reported in New York lakes and waterways in 2020. Of that number, there were 127 injuries and 31 fatalities.

Types of Injuries in Boating Accidents

Boat injuries can include traumatic brain injury, paralysis, internal injuries, paraplegia, quadriplegia, fractured bones, and burns. These types of injuries can change a victim’s life forever.

Common Causes 

The vast majority of boating accidents are caused by human error, recklessness, and negligence. If you have been injured or have lost a family member in a boating accident, it is critical to have legal counsel from an attorney who understands the laws and regulations that govern the waterways. The Buffalo Injury Law Firm has successfully represented countless victims of boating accidents and their families throughout New York.

Common Causes of Boat Accidents are:

  • Watercraft collisions
  • Drowning
  • Alcohol or drug intoxication
  • Mechanical failure
  • Capsizing
  • Falling overboard
  • Slips and falls
  • Collisions with submerged items
  • Fires and explosions
  • Excessive speed
  • Failure to use safety equipment
  • Jet ski accidents

New York State Laws

Boating accidents are to be reported to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation within five days if there is a loss of life, disappearance, an injury requiring treatment beyond basic first aid, or property damage of a vessel over $1000. In addition, under New York State law, known as Brianna’s Law, all motorized boat operators must have a boating safety certificate beginning in 2025. New York lawmakers passed this legislation to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the water.

The operators of non-motorized boats such as sailboats, kayaks, rowboats, and canoes are not required to have a boating safety certificate to sail these boats on the water. For all vessels, an operator must provide a Coast guard approved life jacket for every passenger, according to federal law. Those operating a boat on a professional level, such as touring boats, charter fishing boats, or commercial workboats, have specific requirements and licenses.

Who is Liable in a Boat Accident?

  • Boat operators are often held responsible for an accident. They can put themselves and passengers at risk if they are inexperienced, distracted, intoxicated, or fail to maintain the vessel properly.
  • The boat designer and manufacturer may be liable for boat accidents if a design defect or faulty equipment causes a malfunction.
  • A boat owner could have vicarious liability if they loan the boat to a reckless or negligent operator, resulting in injuries or death.
  • A boat rental company could be responsible for damages due to a failure to repair and maintain the boat, resulting in a collision or malfunction.
  • A passenger on a boat can have liability for damages if they act recklessly, resulting in another’s injuries or death.

Operators have a duty of care to prevent harm to the occupants of a boat. If that duty of care is breached, causing injuries and damages, they may be held liable in a civil action. To recover damages in a court of law, the plaintiff must prove negligence or recklessness as the cause of injuries, property damage, or wrongful death.

Justice Means Making Things Right

At The Buffalo Injury Law Firm, we are experienced in representing clients with catastrophic injuries. As your advocate, we will do everything possible to maximize your recovery, including lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damages, and more. Families or loved ones may pursue a wrongful death claim for compensation in a fatal accident.

The Buffalo Injury Law Firm represents clients in Western New York, including Buffalo, Rochester, Erie County, and Monroe County. Call us today at (716) 646-8412 for a free consultation with a lawyer that cares.

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