Jones Act Law – Recreational Boating, Fishing, Diving

With our temperate climates, ubiquitous lakes and rivers and ample coastline, many people in the U.S. have made boating an integral part of their lives. With more and more people on the water, boating accidents are bound to happen, and they do, with great frequency. Depending on where the accident occurs and what the boat’s purpose is, different laws will apply. If a recreational fishing boat collides with a jet ski or other personal watercraft in a lake, it is likely that state laws would apply. In cases involving commercial vessels in navigable waterways, federal maritime laws would apply.

Recreational Boating Accident Types

The variety of recreational watercraft is as diverse as the automobiles we drive. In some cases, accidents involve one craft that is considerably larger than the other craft, as would be the case in a motor yacht vs. jet ski accident. In other cases, only one boat may be involved. Some of the most common types of boating accidents include:

  • Bow rider accidents
  • Center console accidents
  • Yacht accidents
  • Jet skis/personal watercraft accidents
  • Charter boat accidents
  • Sailboat accidents
  • Tour boat accidents

State laws would govern most of these types of watercraft accidents because they are non-commercial vessels operating for personal pleasure. In some cases though, such as a charter boat or tour boat accident occurring in commercially navigable waters, including certain inland waterways, federal maritime laws like the Jones Act would apply. The Jones Act provides protections for maritime employees injured while working on a qualified vessel.

Recreational Boating Accident Causes

Boating is an inherently dangerous activity and must be undertaken with a high degree of care. Just like in driving, one small mistake can cause severe injuries and even death.  Some of the most common causes of boating accident causes include:

  • Excessive speed
  • Lack of experience
  • Hazardous weather
  • Over-confidence
  • Boating while intoxicated
  • Defective vessel components

Inexperience, coupled with overconfidence in ones’ abilities and craft is a most dangerous combination. Too often, jet ski drivers have little to no experience operating a personal watercraft and end up crashing into other boats because they are driving at an excessive speed and don’t realize how long it takes to stop. In other accidents, people riding on the bow of a power boat are flung overboard because the driver does not slow down when the water gets too choppy.

Recreational Boating Accident Injuries

Boating accidents often occur at high speed, which makes any injury potentially deadly. The fact that the accident is occurring on water increases the likelihood that someone might die by drowning, even if they have a relatively mild head injury. Failure to wear a personal floatation device is one of the top causes of boating accident fatalities. Some of the most common boating accident injuries include:

  • Drowning
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Amputations
  • Soft-tissue damage
  • Internal injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Lacerations

In powerboat accidents, it is common for passengers come into contact with an active propeller if they are flung from the boat, are skiing behind the boat and get run over, or are diving and are not paying attention when they are ascending. Prop injuries can cause serious, lifelong disabilities.

Sailboat passengers may be seriously injured or killed by the boom while tacking or during an uncontrolled jibe. As the heavy boom swings across the beam of the boat, individuals not paying attention may be knocked unconscious and fall overboard. Again, failing to wear a personal flotation device while onboard can mean death.

Assigning Fault In Recreational Boating Accidents

While boating accidents are sometimes unavoidable, they are almost always caused by someone’s negligence. Boat owners and operators have a duty to ensure reasonable safety aboard their vessels and are responsible for maintaining a seaworthy vessel. Manufacturers have a duty to make boats and boat components that are free from defects. Liability for boating accident injuries can be spread across multiple individuals and companies.

Having an experienced maritime attorney can be indispensable in determining liability in boating accidents. They are more attuned to the circumstances surrounding boating accidents and are fluent in the laws that apply, enabling you to obtain the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.

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