If you were injured or lost a family member in a boating accident, you may be wondering if you have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Unfortunately, proving that you were injured or that your loved one died in the accident won’t be enough to win a settlement or verdict. You will also have to demonstrate how the defendant was liable for the injury or death, which will require evidence of either negligence or strict liability.
Read on to learn about the circumstances that may warrant a boating accident claim:
Filing a Boating Accident Claim on the Basis of Negligence
In the context of personal injury law, “negligence” refers to one party’s breach of the duty of care owed to another party. A duty of care is a legal obligation, either express or implied, to exercise a level of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under the same circumstances.
There are countless ways a person’s negligence could cause a boating accident. Common examples include:
- Operating a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failing to equip the boat with legally required safety devices such as life jackets and a fire extinguisher
- Failing to perform adequate maintenance on the vessel
- Doing watersports, such as wakeboarding and waterskiing, in prohibited areas
- Violating other boating laws
Filing a Boating Accident Claim on the Basis of Strict Liability
In the state of California, product manufacturers can be held strictly liable for injuries and deaths caused by defects within their products. If the accident was caused by malfunctioning boat equipment, you might have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer, designer, or another party that played a role in the product’s development or distribution.
Strict liability means a finding of fault is not necessary to impose liability. In other words, you don’t have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent in order to recover an award of damages; however, you must still be able to prove how the defect most likely occurred and demonstrate that the defect was the actual or proximate cause of your injury or your loved one’s death.
Important Evidence in Boating Accident Cases
Whether you bring your claim on the basis of negligence or strict liability, the outcome of your case will hinge on the strength of your evidence. The kinds of evidence that will contribute to your case depends on what caused the accident, who was liable, the types of injuries you sustained, and many other factors.
Below is an overview of just some of the evidence your boating accident lawyer might use to build your claim:
Photographs and Video Footage: If you took photos or video footage of injuries, property damage, or the scene, bring them with you to the initial consultation with your attorney. Photos and videos can serve as valuable evidence in many different ways. They can help your lawyer understand how the accident occurred, which provides a strong starting point for the investigation. They can also help your attorney prove causation—i.e. that your injury and subsequent damages were caused by the accident and not by something else. Photos and videos may even help your lawyer anticipate the disputes that are most likely to arise during the proceedings, which will enable him or her to gather evidence to avoid or overcome such disputes. If your attorney brings in an accident reconstruction expert, photos and videos can help the expert piece together what happened in the moments leading up to the incident.
Official Reports: If the Coast Guard or another law enforcement authority attended the scene of the accident, their report might serve as valuable evidence. This report may provide a description of injuries and property damage and perhaps statements from eyewitnesses and the individuals involved. If you were injured in a drunk driving boat accident, chemical test results might also contribute to the strength of your case.
The Vessel: It’s important that the vessel is preserved so your attorney and perhaps an accident reconstruction expert can analyze the damage. Photos of this damage may provide insight into the speed the boat was traveling at the time of the accident, and it might corroborate your version of events if it differs from that of the defendant. If defective boat equipment contributed to the accident, your lawyer will want to evaluate the equipment before it’s repaired or replaced.
Blueprints and Schematics: If the accident was caused by defective equipment, your lawyer will conduct an investigation to identify how the defect most likely occurred. This may involve a review of blueprints and schematics, recall data, and consumer complaints.
Medical Documentation: You will need official medical documentation to prove the kinds of injuries sustained and the cost of treatment. Diagnostic imaging, medical bills, prescription records, and any other documentation from your healthcare provider might contribute to your case.
Financial Documentation: Boat accident victims have the right to pursue compensation for any income they lose as a result of their injury. Proof of lost income may include tax documents, paystubs, and 1099s.
Expert Witness Testimony: We’ve already touched on a few reasons why your attorney might bring in an expert witness. Medical experts can provide insight into the types of injuries you’ve sustained and the anticipated cost of care. Accident reconstruction experts and boat equipment specialists can provide deposition regarding what most likely caused the crash. If you intend to seek compensation for lost earning capacity, your lawyer might bring in financial experts to assist with the settlement calculations and to provide deposition.
Your Personal Injury Journal: If your injuries were serious, you might be entitled to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and hedonic damages. To help your attorney pursue these damages, it’s a good idea to write daily journal entries about your symptoms as well as the hobbies and social events you can no longer enjoy due to the injuries.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Claim with a Boating Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks will evaluate your case in a free consultation and provide the advice you need to make informed decisions. With more than 30 years of experience, Michael has won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for accident victims and their families. To discuss your case with a boating accident attorney in Long Beach, call (562) 206-1939 or send us a message online.
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