As a Los Angeles boating accident attorney, I know that our waterways can be dangerous. In fact, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways, California is one of the highest states in the country for boating accidents. In a recent report, there were 42 people killed in boat accidents on California waterways. Moreover, 74 percent of the deaths were caused by drowning. Oftentimes general regulations regarding boating safety in these cases are not followed (e.g. Boating Safety).
Were you involved in a waterway incident and need experienced California boating accident lawyers to represent you? Contact the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to speak with experienced California boating accident lawyers today.
Of the many ways that someone can be injured or killed while on the water, just a few of the most common are listed below.
- Accidents related to the boat capsizing due to damage, flooding or swamping (can be especially dangerous in coastal waters off California due to the low water temperature and chance of hypothermia or death without prompt rescue
- Injuries or mishaps due to falling overboard the vessel
- Boating fires or explosions
- Collisions between two ships or boats
- Injury caused from the negligent operation of a boat including driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Being cut or maimed by a propeller while swimming, skiing or engaging in water sports
- Boating collisions with fixed objects like pylons, docks, or natural objects like rocks or reefs
And some of the common injuries that may be sustained from a boat accident are:
- Traumatic brain injury, anoxic brain injury, concussion
- Spinal, thoracic, lumbar, cervical injury
- Sprain, fracture, broken bone
- Internal, soft tissue, burn injury
- Serious lacerations (sometimes resulting in bleeding to death)
Current statistics show that there were more than 893,828 registered boats in California in 2006. Of all the persons that died as a result of a fall overboard, 71 percent were not wearing a life jacket. However, many of these fatalities would have still occurred because of the negligence of someone else. Most of the boating accidents are reported to happen during the peak of the spring and summer months between June and September.
California Law on Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims Related to Boating Accidents
Under California law, a boat and other personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave-runners are considered "vehicles" and have specific rules of operation. No boat can be operated without proper registration (including placement of a "Hull Identification Number" (HIN) to show to whom the vessel belongs. Boats with 15 horsepower or more must be operated by persons at least 16 years old or older. Boats or personal watercraft with less than 15 HP, may be operated by persons 12-15, if they are accompanied and supervised by an adult. It is unlawful to operate a boat or PWC in any of the following ways:
- Reckless or Negligent Maneuvers: Just like cars can be charged with "reckless driving", "reckless boating" is also unlawful. Such maneuvers can included, but aren't limited to, going too fast in violation of posted signage (including "no wake zones"), "buzzing" another vehicle or coming too close with either the boat, personal watercraft or any towed object including water skiers, operating too closely to skiers, swimmers or divers, riding on the bow or gunwhales (gunnels) or in any manner likely to cause a person to go overboard or otherwise operating in a way or at such as speed that causes a collision with either a fixed object or another boat or personal water craft. In addition, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a DUI in California. If the DUI causes bodily injury to another person, this is considered a so-called "enhancement" of the crime of DUI and subjects the boat driver to additional penalties. It is also unlawful to operate a personal watercraft at any time between sundown and sunset (even if the PWC has lights).
- Operating a Boat or Personal Watercraft in An Unsafe Condition: This can include operating with structural or mechanical defects that affect the safe operation of a boat or watercraft, failure to have sufficient life jackets, lack of required fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors and proper ventilation for fuel fumes, and problems with fuel leakage or excessive water due to bilge issues. In addition, all water vessels in CA are required to have proper navigation lights for nighttime travel. This includes both powered vessels and unpowered vessels (like sailboats). Flares, "diver down" signage and other safety equipment may also be required depending upon the activity, the distance traveled offshore and other factors. In addition, PWC s are all required to have ignition safety switches which shut the engine off if the rider is ejected.
- Improper Anchoring or Mooring: It can be unlawful to anchor or moor a boat in a way that obstructs navigation or contributes to a collision or other mishap
- Laws Related to Towing Another Vehicle or Skier: Any person being towed on water skis, a wakeboard, an inflatable or any other similar device must wear a life jacket. Skiing or towing anyone after daylight (between sunrise and sunset) is illegal in California. In addition, reckless operation of a boat while towing another vehicle or person on any type of device is unlawful (this includes trying to "spray" another boat or skier or passing on or over a ski or tow rope with another boat or watercraft.
If you were involved in a waterway incident and need experienced California boating accident lawyer, contact our office at our statewide toll free watercraft accident hotline: 866-966-5240
For a more complete and comprehensive guide on boating laws in California: Guide to California Boating Law, Boating and Waterways Commission