Navigating the legal waters after a boating or personal watercraft accident can be incredibly difficult.
North Carolina boasts an impressive 320 miles of coastline and roughly 12,000 miles of bays, sounds, and wetlands, adding to the many lakes, rivers, and other local areas. This diverse aquatic landscape makes the Tar Heel State an ideal destination for water enthusiasts of all skill levels. But skill does not always protect people from the possibility of maritime accidents, especially due to someone else’s negligence.
At Ward and Smith Personal Injury, our maritime accident attorneys have years of experience representing the victims of boating and watercraft accidents in North Carolina. We understand that personal injury cases involving issues specific to navigable waterways require a deep understanding of both maritime law and state negligence laws. That’s why we use all available resources to help you get compensation for the damages you need and deserve.
We represent clients in the following:
- Boating accidents involving recreational and commercial boats
- Water skies, jet skis, kayaking, canoeing, paddling boarding, and tubing accidents
- Harbor or dock injuries or wrongful deaths
- Offshore injuries
- Jones Act cases
What Causes Boating Accident?
Boating accidents can result in devastating outcomes, such as loss of life and catastrophe injuries. According to the Coast Guard, the most common types of vessels involved in fatal accidents are open motorboats and personal watercrafts. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has identified several contributing factors to these incidents. The following are some of the most common reasons for boating accidents in North Carolina.
- Operator inattention/error
- Careless and reckless operation
- Improper lookout
- Operator inexperience
- Boating under the influence
- Excessive speeding
- Weather conditions
- Violating navigation rules
- Faulty equipment
- Hazardous waters
It should also be noted that most accidents have more than one cause.
What Should You Do After a Boating Accident in North Carolina?
Once you are back safely on land, there are certain steps you can take to help strengthen your personal injury claim.
- Take photos and document the scene of the accident if possible.
- Get contact information from witnesses who saw what happened or who may have helped after the incident occurred.
- Seek medical attention right away.
It’s important to remember that time is of the essence when it comes to filing a personal injury claim following a boating accident in North Carolina. There are strict statutes of limitations that limit the amount of time you have to bring a claim; therefore, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Reporting a Boating or Watercraft Accident
In North Carolina, a vessel operator is required by law to provide assistance after an accident. This includes alerting the proper authorities and providing help to any injured parties. Additionally, filing a “Report of Casualty” with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission is required for most accidents if there was death, injury, or damage amounting to more than $2,000 or total loss of the boat.
Liability in Boating or Watercraft Accident in North Carolina
When a negligent or careless watercraft operator causes an accident, the injured parties may be able to recoup damages through legal action. Depending on the circumstances of the case, there are several potential courses of legal action available.
In North Carolina, boating negligence cases must satisfy the same elements as other personal injury lawsuits: duty, breach of duty, causation, and harm. A watercraft operator is expected to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others on the waterways and must operate their boat or personal watercraft in a safe manner.
Whether you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or are dealing with another issue related to maritime law, our dedicated team of personal injury attorneys can help.
Who is Responsible for a Boating or Watercraft Accident?
In the event of an accident caused by a watercraft operator, they can be held legally responsible for any injuries or fatalities that result from their negligence. The liability may extend to other parties, such as boat owners, marina operators, manufacturers, and boat rental companies. Additionally, government agencies may be deemed responsible in cases where they failed to adequately alert boaters of hazardous conditions through warning buoys or other measures.
In certain situations, establishing liability in an accident can prove to be a challenging task. Seeking the guidance of a skilled personal injury lawyer can assist you in identifying all the accountable parties involved.
The Role of Federal Law
Unlike car crashes and other personal injury claims, boating accidents aren’t always so straightforward in North Carolina because federal law often applies. Injuries that occur on navigable waters capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce are subject to federal maritime law, and this isn’t just limited to the ocean. It includes waterways and bodies of water such as harbors, rivers, and lakes, as well as accidents involving recreational boating. The law may also be applicable to injuries that occur on land, provided that there is a significant connection between maritime activity and the injury on land.
Additionally, application of federal law may lead to prosecution in federal court. These cases are complex because of the extensive history of case law and the need to apply specific legal standards. Having the guidance of an experienced attorney is key to pursuing a successful outcome in your case.
Compensation for Damages
When negligence has been proven, the victim can pursue damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses resulting from the accident. The purpose of awarding damages is to restore the injured party to their previous state under the law. However, when dealing with severe personal injuries or loss of life, it is impossible to fully restore the injured party.
Call Us after your Boating Accident
When you are involved in a boating or watercraft accident, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Our dedicated team of attorneys can help with cases involving personal injury and maritime law in North Carolina. Contact us today to discuss your case and learn about the compensation you may be entitled to. We are here for you, ready to help.