Boating can provide a delightful experience for individuals seeking leisure or adventure on the water. Whether it’s on Alton Lake or Harbor Point, our local waterways provide people with an opportunity to spend time on the water and in the sun for a day of relaxation or fun activities with their family and friends.
Unfortunately, accidents and injuries can and have occurred when negligence and recklessness are involved, leaving victims wondering if they have the right to pursue legal action. If you were injured due to someone else’s behavior on or concerning the boat, then filing a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party will ensure that you do not have to pay for your pain, suffering, and hospital bills.
What you should know about the Boat Registration and Safety Act
When it comes to boating accidents and injuries, various laws and regulations govern the waters of Illinois. The Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act (BRS) is a comprehensive framework that establishes guidelines for safe boating practices, operator responsibilities, and vessel requirements. It also addresses issues of liability and potential legal remedies for those injured in boating accidents.
The BRS places certain responsibilities on boat operators to ensure the safety of themselves, their passengers, and other waterway users. Operators must possess a valid Boating Safety Certificate issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or another approved agency, demonstrating their knowledge of boating laws, safety practices, and navigation rules. Additionally, operators are expected to comply with speed limits, maintain proper lookout, and avoid reckless behavior that could endanger others on the water.
To enhance boating safety, the BRS mandates the presence and proper use of various safety equipment on board vessels. This includes personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life jackets for each person on board, throwable flotation devices, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, sound-producing devices (such as horns or whistles), and navigation lights. The BRS also requires boats to be equipped with a functional fire extinguisher, depending on the vessel’s size and the presence of fuel-burning equipment.
Determining liability in the event of a boat accident
To file a lawsuit for injuries sustained on a boat, it is crucial to establish liability. Boat accidents can result in significant property damage, injuries, and even loss of life. Liability in boat accidents is typically based on negligence, which refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care that leads to harm or damage to others. Your lawyer’s job, then, is to determine whose negligence ultimately led to your injuries and losses. The more common examples of negligence include:
- Operator negligence. The behavior and actions of the boat operator play a crucial role in determining liability. If the operator acted negligently by failing to follow boating laws, operating recklessly, speeding, operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or failing to maintain a proper lookout, they may be held liable for the accident.
- Violations of boating laws. Each jurisdiction has specific boating laws and regulations that boaters must adhere to. If an operator violates these laws and the violation directly contributes to the accident, they may be held responsible for the resulting damages.
- Owner negligence. Boat owners have a duty to properly maintain their vessels and ensure they are safe for operation. If an accident occurs due to owner negligence, such as failure to maintain the boat, inadequate safety equipment, or improper modifications, the boat owner may share liability for the accident.
- Passenger conduct. In some cases, the actions of passengers on board a boat may contribute to an accident. If a passenger’s behavior, such as distracting the operator, interfering with navigation, or intentionally causing harm, leads to an accident, they may be held partially or fully liable.
- Environmental factors. Environmental factors, such as hazardous weather conditions, poor visibility, or navigational hazards, can contribute to boat accidents. However, even in the presence of these factors, operators have a duty to exercise reasonable care and take appropriate precautions to avoid accidents.
Of course, not every boat or watercraft accident is the result of negligence. If a boat accident occurs due to equipment failure, such as engine failure, steering system malfunction, or other mechanical issues, liability may rest with the manufacturer or distributor of the faulty equipment. In such cases, product liability laws may apply, which means you can hold the responsible party accountable for the accident.
Determining liability in boat accidents often involves a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and evaluating applicable laws and regulations. Insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and legal professionals may be involved in the process to assess liability and determine compensation for the damages incurred.
It is important to note that the laws and regulations regarding boat accident liability may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of waterway where the accident occurred. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in maritime law or personal injury law can provide guidance and representation to protect your rights and pursue appropriate legal action if necessary.
As you consider legal action, it is essential to be aware of the statute of limitations, which refers to the timeframe within which a lawsuit must be filed. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including those related to boating accidents, is typically two years from the date of the incident. Failing to file within this timeframe may result in the loss of your right to seek compensation.
Note: the information we offer here speaks largely to people who were injured while enjoying some fun in the sun. Barge workers, tugboat operators, dock workers, and other employees who work in the maritime industry are governed by FELA. If you were injured while working, Glisson Law can assist you as well.
How an experienced boat accident attorney can help
If you have been injured on a boat, a Jet Ski, or in any other scenario involving a day on the water,, your first priority is to ensure your well-being and seek prompt medical attention for any injuries sustained. This not only helps ensure your health but also establishes a medical record that can serve as valuable evidence in your case.
Next, you should consult an experienced attorney. can evaluate your case, provide legal advice, and guide you through the legal process. An attorney will help determine liability and assess the potential damages you may be entitled to receive. We review and assess your medical records and employment records, as well as photographs or videos of the accident scene, contact information of witnesses, police reports, and any other documentation relevant to the incident. Such evidence can help establish the cause of the accident and demonstrate the extent of your injuries.
Once we have a full assessment of your injuries and losses, we can build a case to show why you should not be financially responsible for those losses.
In many cases, lawsuits are settled through negotiation before reaching trial. Your attorney will work to negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party or their insurance company. This process involves presenting your case and supporting evidence to demonstrate the extent of your injuries and the impact on your life.
If a settlement cannot be reached, your case may proceed to trial. During the trial, your attorney will present evidence and arguments to support your claim, while the defense will do the same. A judge or jury will ultimately determine the outcome and award damages if liability is proven.
Our experienced legal team at Glisson Law can provide valuable guidance throughout the process, ensuring your rights are protected and increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome in your case. Fill out our contact form or call our boating accident lawyers in Alton today to schedule a free consultation. Glisson Law is based in Alton and proudly serves clients in Belleville, Edwardsville, St. Clair and Madison Counties, and throughout Illinois and Missouri.