Georgia has multiple lakes and waterways and more than 140 boat ramps for outdoor activities. But while boating can be a lot of fun with the proper safety precautions, unfortunately, some people do experience injuries, often caused by the negligence of others.
For the year 2021, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources reports there were 14 fatalities, 67 injuries, and 243 boating under the influence (BUI) incidents.
You can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries by following these boating safety tips:
Make sure your boat is outfitted with suitable flotation devices and that everyone on the boat wears a lifejacket. Even good swimmers can benefit from a lifejacket if they are injured and unable to stay afloat on their own. The state of Georgia provides a checklist to ensure you have the right personal flotation devices (PFDs) for the particular kind of boat you’re using.
Don’t drink and drive on your boat. The US Coast Guard’s 2020 Boating Statistics Report shows that about 18 percent of boating fatalities that year were related to alcohol use, contributing to more than 100 deaths. If you want to relax and have drinks out on the water, plan on having a designated driver – or consider hiring a professional to pilot the boat while you and your guests enjoy yourselves.
Avoid distracted driving on the water. Some people think texting, and boating is safer than texting and driving because the water isn’t as crowded as the roads. This is a dangerous (and incorrect) assumption. Distracted boaters can cause accidents that lead to injuries or even fatalities, and you should always pay careful attention when operating a boat. If you need to look at your phone, get someone else to take over for a while.
Maintain a safe speed and follow other regulations. Excessive speed is another leading factor in boating accidents. When visibility is poor, or you notice more people/watercraft out on the water, slow down and proceed carefully.
Take a boater safety education course (even if you know what you’re doing). It never hurts to brush up on your skills or learn new developments in boating safety. Although Georgia only requires safety courses for some age groups of boat operators, everyone can benefit from one – and you may get an insurance discount as well.
Don’t forget a carbon monoxide detector. Most people know it’s essential to have one in their home, but did you know carbon monoxide can also build up in enclosed spaces on boats? This buildup can originate from your craft or other boats on the water. A carbon monoxide detector can alert you early, but don’t grab a regular CO detector as you’d use in your home – you need a marine-rated CO detector.
Keep an eye on the weather and adjust plans accordingly. Weather conditions can change quickly and make it harder to navigate the waters safely. Use a radio or GPS to get weather updates, such as small craft advisories, and be prepared to get back to shore quickly if necessary.
Ensure someone on shore knows where you are or your general route plan when you go out. Even with the best precautions, accidents can happen, and it’s best if someone knows where to search if you don’t make it back in a reasonable time.
If you own a boat or watercraft, get a free Vessel Safety Check from the Coast Guard at least once a year or as often as they recommend. During your safety check, a Coast Guard officer will look for any missing or damaged equipment or other safety issues so you can fix them.
How Can a Georgia Boating Accident Lawyer Help Me?
If you’ve suffered injuries because of another boater or responsible party, you may struggle with medical bills, lost income, and other damages. Your Georgia boating accident lawyer will help you determine if another party’s negligence caused your injuries.
If so, they will explain your options for seeking compensation.
Determining Liability in a Boating Accident
Figuring out who to seek compensation from after a boat accident can be complicated. If you collide with another boat, the person driving the boat might be to blame. However, there are multiple other potentially liable parties, including:
The boat’s owner (who may or may not be the operator)
The boat’s manufacturer or the manufacturer of a defective boat component
A rental company
To further complicate matters, it’s possible for more than one party to have contributed to an accident.
What About My Boat Insurance? Will That Cover My Expenses After an Accident?
Maybe. It depends on the particular type of policy and coverage that you purchased, but many people don’t have complete coverage.
In some situations, you may find that your boat’s repairs are covered, but your own medical bills (or your passengers’ medical bills) are not.
Other people learn that the boat is covered but not some of the equipment they had on the boat. Or they may have a large towing bill that isn’t covered.
Unlike car insurance, boat insurance is not legally required in Georgia, so it’s possible you will be in a collision with an uninsured boater. In this case, anything not covered by your own insurance could be a loss for you. However, once we determine the responsible parties, you may be able to pursue a claim against them directly.
What if I Was in an Accident, but It Wasn’t My Boat?
If you were on a rental boat or a watercraft owned by any kind of business, they most likely have good liability insurance for these situations.
We will start by making a claim on this insurance policy, and if there are any remaining unpaid damages after, we’ll consider a claim against the responsible party or parties.
If you were on an individual’s boat, such as one belonging to a friend or colleague, we would explore what their insurance covers.
Should they have a robust insurance policy, we may be able to recover all your damages. If not, we might seek compensation from the party whose negligence caused the accident.
Again, this could be anyone from the person driving to the boat to a passenger to someone driving another boat. It’s not always clear who is at fault in a boat accident either – you might think you know, but our investigators may find additional information.
That’s why it’s always helpful to have the assistance of an experienced Georgia boating accident lawyer.
What if I Signed a Waiver When I Rented a Boat, Then I Had an Accident?
A waiver or a release does not absolve the subject of any and all responsibility. It generally means that the rental company is not responsible for the negligent acts of other parties.
For instance, if you don’t look where you’re going and drive the boat into a bridge, that isn’t the rental company’s fault. If another boater gets drunk and crashes into you, that isn’t the rental company’s fault, either.
However, a waiver or release doesn’t excuse the rental company for its own acts of negligence. The company is still responsible for providing a reasonably safe product or service to its customers, and if they fail to do so, they could still be liable, waiver or not.
Here are some examples of situations where the rental business might be liable even if you signed a waiver:
The boat accident occurs due to an unexpected engine or mechanical failure. Close inspection of the boat or the rental company’s records reveals that the boat had not been receiving regular maintenance that could have prevented this problem.
A fire happens on the boat, and you discover there is no fire extinguisher, despite this being required safety equipment in Georgia – or, there is a fire extinguisher, but it doesn’t work when you follow the directions. The fire spreads, and you suffer severe burns. The rental company probably isn’t responsible for the fire, but they might be responsible for failing to provide necessary safety equipment, like a fire extinguisher.
The bottom line is that a waiver or release may not protect the rental company from liability in all situations. If you were hurt on a rental boat, please bring a copy of the waiver to your lawyer, and they can help you figure out what happened.
What if Someone Hit My Boat but Claims It Was My Fault?
This is not an unusual situation. As with car accidents, fault is often disputed between parties in a boat accident.
If the other boat operator has liability insurance, their insurance adjuster may take their side – that way, they can deny paying for your damages. If the other boater doesn’t have insurance, they may not want to be responsible for your damages either.
Under Georgia’s tort or personal injury laws, two parties can share responsibility for a boat or other kind of accident. The party who is mostly to blame – more than 50 percent – will be expected to pay damages to the party with less fault.
However, any percentage of fault attributed to the lesser-responsible party is taken off the damages. So if you were 10 percent at fault, you would lose 10 percent of your award.
This makes blaming the other party an attractive option for both the responsible party and their insurance company. If they can make a strong case that the accident was mostly your fault, they pay nothing – and they can seek damages from you or your insurance carrier.
If they make a slightly less strong case, they might still be able to reduce the damages they have to pay you.
It can be tempting to argue your case to the insurance company or get in a disagreement with the other boat operator, but these are not reasonable solutions. Many people who try to debate with the insurance adjuster inadvertently worsen the situation.
Insurance company phone calls are usually recorded “for quality control purposes,” and the insurance adjuster will later review everything you said.
They may focus on an offhand comment and misinterpret it to mean that you were responsible for the accident, which can make it even harder to prove your case.
Then How Do I Get the Insurance Company to Pay My Claim?
Call a Georgia boating accident lawyer right away. Your attorney will have the experience and knowledge to handle the insurance company, and they will assign a skilled investigator to assemble evidence of the other party’s liability.
Once your attorney has put together a firm case in your favor, they will begin negotiations with the responsible party and/or their insurance carrier.
What if I Already Got an Offer From the Insurance Company?
Surprisingly, you need a lawyer even more if this happens – especially if the offer arrives shortly after you make a claim. In many cases, a quick offer is a lowball one that may not cover all your damages.
Calculating all damages on your own can be tricky – medical bills (current and future), lost income, boat repairs, other property damage, pain and suffering, and possibly other damages can all add up.
We often find that people underestimate their claim’s worth or forget certain damages.
If you’ve received an insurance company offer after a boating accident, please seek qualified legal advice before you make a final decision. You can always accept the offer if it turns out to be sufficient – and if not, your attorney can negotiate for a more comprehensive settlement.
Contact a Georgia Boating Accident Attorney Today
The CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm is always available for a free consultation about your boating accident. One of our experienced attorneys will review your case and explain your options for seeking compensation.
Attorney Ali Awad founded the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm just a few short years ago and rapidly transformed it into one of the fastest-growing law firms in the country.
When he’s not negotiating settlements or fighting for his clients in court, you can find him on social media, delivering no-nonsense legal advice to more than a million followers.
Call the CEO Lawyer today at 888-307-3792.
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Frequently Asked Questions
After a personal injury, you're bound to have legal questions. The CEO Lawyer Ali Awad can provide you with answers to these questions, just as he's given answers to his millions of curious social media followers. Take a look at some of the most common personal injury law questions for general information, and then reach out to one of our seasoned attorneys for specific guidance on your case!
To quickly resolve matters following an accident, insurance companies will offer you less than you deserve in compensation for your injuries. Many victims feel pressured to accept these offers as the bills begin to pile up, but that is rarely a good idea. The insurance company is looking to protect its bottom line; and will offer injured victims less than they deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney understands how to negotiate with the insurance company and can look out for your best interests by getting you the compensation you deserve after an injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it is important to avoid negotiating or providing recorded statements to the insurance company without first seeking help from a qualified personal injury attorney.
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The best way to determine if you have a personal injury case is to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Our legal professionals have the expertise to evaluate your case and determine a strong legal strategy so that you can obtain the greatest amount of compensation possible under the law. We will enlist investigators, assistants, and other specialists to collect accident reports, speak with witnesses to your accident, and put together a plan. While you focus on your physical recovery, we will remain committed to fighting for the compensation that you deserve.
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Accident victims have a limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time period is referred to as the statute of limitations, and in Atlanta, it lasts only two years. This means that if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you have only two years to pursue a personal injury suit. If you wait too long to reach out to an experienced attorney, you might be forever barred from seeking the compensation you deserve.
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During your initial consultation with CEO Lawyer team, we will go over the important details of your personal injury accident, which include the nature and extent of your injuries, how your injuries have impacted your ability to earn a paycheck, the cost of your medical treatment, and whether further medical treatment will be required. We will answer any questions you might have, as well, in regards to our experience, our track record of success, and what to expect from the legal process.
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