Whether you are on the ocean, a river, or a lake, boating is a recreational activity that many people enjoy. When a boating accident in South Carolina happens, however, the mood changes quickly. Boating accidents can cause serious harm, including property damage and bodily injury. Getting the compensation and legal representation you deserve is critical to recovery.
At Jung Disability and Injury Advocates, our personal injury lawyer in Charleston understands how boating accidents can change lives. We help injured parties recover as best they can by persevering until they receive fair and just compensation. Contact us at (843) 576-4200 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about the potential remedies that may be available in your specific case.
Causes of Boating Accidents in South Carolina
Boating accidents do not happen in a vacuum–something or someone causes the accident that ultimately leads to injuries or fatalities. Here's a summary of the most common types of boating accidents in South Carolina.
Families, friends, and even people on their own go out on their boats to enjoy time on the water. Many times as part of that enjoyment, alcohol is involved. The mix of sun and alcohol – even if consumption of alcohol does not exceed the lawful blood alcohol content (BAC) limit – can cause impairment. An impaired operator of a boat can be dangerous and lead to serious and deadly accidents. Plus, some situations may lead to criminal charges – intoxicated driving laws in most states apply to all automobiles, and that includes boats with engines.
When family and friends are having a good time out on a boat, whoever is operating the boat may get distracted. Friends and family, however, are not the only distractions. An operator of a boat may turn their attention to the radio, their electronics, or even things like watching jet skiers or a beautiful sunset. Whatever it is, it is easy enough for an operator to lose focus on the boat and the surroundings to pay attention to something else, and because of that inattention – however momentary it is – can lead to accidents.
Laws vary state to state on what type of experience, if any, an operator of a boat must have. Oftentimes, those requirements depend on the type of boat, too. Operating a boat may seem relatively easy, like driving a car, but there are boat safety matters that may vary from operating a boat compared to operating a vehicle. Knowing the rules and regulations, too, aids a person in the safe operations of a boat. Consider, too, that it is not just you and the boat on the water; there are other boaters, swimmers, jet skiers, and wildlife. Failure to get the right education on boat operations and safety can lead to mistakes that lead to accidents.
Like operating any vehicle, including a boat, fatigue is a problem for proper and safe boat operation. Fatigue can happen simply from being in the sun, but if you have been in the sun all day and swimming or sunbathing, it can all take a toll. Fatigue and operating anything, from a car to machinery to a boat, is always dangerous.
Reckless actions by boat operators or passengers can lead to accidents. Recklessness occurs when you do something that you know or should know poses serious risks. Examples of reckless include:
- Overloading the boat with too many people
- Boating in a swimming area
- Using speed that is inappropriate under the circumstances (e.g., visibility restricted)
- Using excessive speed in crowded areas
- Operating while sleepy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
If you have a boat that can go fast, that's part of the lure and fun of the open water. But speeding is dangerous, even if you are the only boat in a one-mile radius. Like driving, accidents that result from speeding are often more serious and tragic than accidents that occur at lower speeds. The risk of more serious impact or collision is greater.
Boats are products. When a product or a product part is defective, it can lead to accidents. To research or report a boat safety defect, visit the U.S. government's database on boat recalls. Examples of defective boats or defective boat parts can involve any of but are not limited to the following:
- Battery chargers
- Diving gear
- Electrical systems
- Engine components
- Fishing vessel equipment
- Fuel pump cracks
- Fuel system line leaks
- Navigational equipment (radars, rudders, etc.)
- Pilot ladders
- Ship lift or loading equipment
- Ship conveyer belt
- Steering arms
- Wenches or winches
Boats must be maintained regularly. Failure to stay current on your boat's maintenance can cause equipment to fail, and depending on what the failure is, an accident could happen. For example, if the steering or engine malfunctions, it could lead to a crash or cause the boat to capsize. Some of the most common equipment failures that require attention include:
- Poor battery connection
- Twisted fuel line
- Overheating engines
- Propeller damage
- Ignition switch failure
Types of Boat Accidents
Types of boating accidents are many, and much of it has to do with the type of boat. Accidents can involve but are not limited to any of the following situations or types of boats:
- Boat tenders
- Cabin cruisers
- Defective boats
- Falls onboard or overboard
- Fishing charters
- Go-fast boats
- Inflatable boats
- Personal watercrafts
- Runabouts (e.g., bowriders, center consoles, cuddy cabins, and walkarounds)
It is also worth noting here accidents involving propellers. Propeller injuries occur when a person comes into contact with a motorized boat propeller that is in motion. Hundreds of people are injured and dozens die annually from this type of accident. Injuries can be life-altering, especially when the moving propeller strikes a person's head or torso, causing severe damage. Jet thrust accidents are also accidents involving the propeller where injuries are caused by the force of a propeller thrusting water and objects at people (typically people in their own personal watercraft) behind it.
Common Types of Injuries from South Carolina Boating Accidents
The types of injuries a person sustains depend on the activity, type of boat, and other factors. Common types of injuries include:
- Drowning. Drowning is the most significant type of injury from boating accidents and is a leading cause of death.
- Lacerations. Propeller blades, if too close to a person on the boat or swimmers, can cause catastrophic lacerations that lead to disfiguration or require amputation.
- Electrocution. The combination of standing water and poor maintenance increases the chances of electrocution injuries.
- Whiplash. Speeding and sudden stops or turns on a boat can cause whiplash, and whiplash may not materialize immediately, which can complicate the injury.
- Spinal cord injuries. When a boat bounces due to waves or wakes from other boats, the spine is compressed and can cause injuries like herniated discs.
Liability and Compensation in South Carolina Boating Accidents
As in all personal injury cases, if your injury is caused by another person or entity's negligence or intentional act, you may be entitled to compensation. Liability in most personal injury cases requires that you show fault, and you do so by satisfying four elements:
- The other party owed you a duty of care.
- The other party breached that duty of care.
- The breach caused your injury.
- The injury resulted in monetary damages.
In other cases, where the injury is caused by a defective product, a personal injury claim may be based on the theory of product liability, which often involves strict liability. In these cases, fault does not necessarily need to be proven. The manufacturer, designer, retailer, and others along the supply chain can be held liable in three situations where there exist:
- A manufacturing defect
- A defective design
- Failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions.
If you prove your case, you can be compensated for:
- Economic damages, which are things like medical expenses and lost wages
- Non-economic damages, which is compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of consortium
In rare cases, you could demand punitive damages, but that is very specific to the state where you file your personal injury lawsuit. Thus, knowing what the law states in your jurisdiction will be critical to proving your claim and recovering fair and just compensation.
If you have been injured in a boating accident in Charleston, you may be entitled to compensation. Each case is different and the results will be based on the evidence and how well you argue your claim. At Jung Disability and Injury Advocates, our personal injury lawyer knows the law, knows what to look for, and knows how to argue these cases to help make sure you recover compensation that is fair and just. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at (843) 576-4200 to schedule a free consultation.