Boat Accident Attorneys
Connecticut features over 300 miles of picturesque coast with gorgeous scenery that appeals to both locals and tourists. Coastal Connecticut has long been a center for water lovers to enjoy activities such as sailing, boating, fishing, and more.
While many boat operators pilot their vessels responsibly, accidents can still occur. Reckless decisions, inattentive or negligent drivers, inexperienced operators, and boating under the influence can all have dangerous and even deadly consequences.
If you are the victim of a boating accident, the individual who caused you harm should be held responsible for their actions. At our Connecticut personal injury law firm, our boating accident lawyers in Glastonbury, Simsbury, and Hartford, Connecticut work to represent individuals injured in watercraft accidents.
Boating Accident Statistics
According to the Coast Guard’s most recent Recreational Boating Statistics report, there were approximately 4,439 boating accidents nationwide during the 2021 calendar year. Of those, 658 were fatal.
While Florida was responsible for a large portion of 2021’s boating accidents (roughly 750 in total), Connecticut saw 43 separate incidents that resulted in seven fatalities — slightly higher than the state’s annual boating fatality average. Unfortunately, many boating accident fatalities may have been preventable. According to the report:
- 83% of fatal drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
- 75% of fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received any significant boating safety education or certificates.
- 75% of drowning victims were boating on vessels shorter than 21 feet long.
- Alcohol played a role in at least 16% of known boating accident fatalities.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
While the Connecticut coastline is one of the safer areas for watercraft, it’s important to take the proper precautions, no matter how short your journey or how skilled your operator is. Even under the best of conditions, accidents may still occur which would require the services of a boating accident attorney. Here are seven common causes of boating accidents.
1. Operator inexperience
An operator with no training is more likely to neglect boat safety rules, admiralty law, and navigation rules, and may not know how to respond safely in dangerous or emergency situations.
Connecticut law requires a Safe Boating Certificate (SBC), Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation (CPWO), or a Coast Guard-issued operator license to operate most motorboats, sailboats, and other personal watercraft. This requirement may help prevent some inexperienced operators from piloting a watercraft — but not all.
2. Negligence or inattention
Even an experienced boat operator may become distracted by things happening onboard a boat. Inattention greatly increases the risk of collision or other accidents; even a moment of distraction can create a dangerous situation. Owner negligence can also extend to failing to prepare a boat properly. This can be anything from not fueling up to failing to pack the proper safety equipment to forgetting to maintain a lookout.
3. Reckless behavior
A boat operator’s job is to pilot their craft safely, paying close attention to their boat, the water, their passengers, and the weather. Unfortunately, some operators and boat passengers don’t prioritize safety, instead engaging in reckless behavior such as speeding, overloading, racing or crowding other crafts, or riding in the wrong area of the boat.
4. Boating under the influence (BUI)
Alcohol and boating shouldn’t mix, especially if you’re the boat operator. Drinking can impair your judgment, impact reaction times, and put the boat owner, passengers, and others in needlessly dangerous situations. Just as with a car or motorcycle, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence.
5. Machinery failure
It is the job of a boat owner to ensure that their vessel is in proper working condition. Unfortunately, not every boat owner performs regular maintenance and upkeep on their craft. Broken or damaged elements greatly increase the risk of machinery failure, which can lead to breaking down, boat fires, accidents, sinking, or injuries.
6. Failure to adhere to waterway rules
Boat operators should have the basic knowledge of how to pilot their boats around other watercraft in various situations; they should also understand the aids to navigation (ATONs) that help mariners pilot their boats safely. Ignoring or misunderstanding these rules greatly increases the risk of a boat accident.
7. Inclement weather and rough waters
Weather can change quickly on the water. It’s imperative for boat operators to understand weather conditions before going out and to keep a close eye on them while piloting a vessel. Harsh weather such as storms can make it more difficult to operate watercraft and may create sudden, hazardous changes in the water.
What to Do Immediately After a Boating Accident
Through no fault of your own, you’re involved in a boating accident. What happens next? If you’re the victim of someone else’s bad decision out on the water, here are your next steps.
Step 1: Look after those involved: Immediately do a headcount after a boating accident. If anyone has fallen into the water, attempt to reach them with a flotation device if possible. If it becomes necessary to go into the water after them, be sure that the rescuer is wearing a life vest.
When your party is accounted for, determine if anyone requires medical care. If any injuries cannot be treated by the first aid supplies on board, call for help immediately.
Step 2: Move the boats: All operators and persons involved in the accident must remain at the scene of the accident to assist any others involved unless they require immediate medical treatment. If the boats are in a busy or dangerous area, move them out of the way into a safe spot to prevent further accidents.
Step 3: Call for help: After a boating accident, you will want to alert the proper authorities not only for assistance but also to report your accident. You are legally required to report a boating accident within 48 hours if it:
- Results in a missing person or fatality
- auses serious injuries
- Destroys a vessel
- If the accident causes over $500 in property damage, it must be reported within five days of when the incident occurred.
Step 4: File a report: Even if an officer has filed a report, you may still wish to — or be required to — file your own report.
When reporting the accident, give as much information as possible without allowing your story to be colored by opinions or speculations. It is also best to avoid issuing any apologies or accepting responsibility or blame for the accident. Doing so may hurt your case later on.
Reporting the accident is not only legally required in many cases, but it also ensures that you have an accident report on file, which can then be used by your boat accident attorney to help support your claim
Step 5: Gather information: Do your best to collect information from all parties involved in the accident. This includes but is not limited to the:
- Names, addresses, contact information, and vessel identification information of all boat operators
- Insurance information from operators and others
- Names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident
- Photos of the accident scene, injuries, and damages
Step 6: Post-accident tasks: In the days after your accident, there are several things you should do to protect yourself. Begin by reaching out to your insurance agency to notify them of the accident, even if you were not the one at fault. The insurance agencies of other parties involved in the accident may reach out to you as well; speak carefully to them to protect your case — or, better yet, allow your boating accident lawyer to speak for you.
You will also want to visit your doctor soon after the accident, even if you feel fine. Some injuries won’t display immediate symptoms or have symptoms that seem trivial at first but which can quickly become a serious problem. Get a professional opinion of your condition early on. This will protect both your health and your legal position.
Finally, be sure to reach out to a trustworthy boating accident attorney for legal advice tailored to your situation. If you are located in Simsbury, Glastonbury, or Hartford, Connecticut — or the surrounding area — you can get in touch with the team at Hassett & George for more information regarding your boating accident.
How an Attorney Can Help
Whether you’re seeking compensation or not, engaging an experienced legal representative is an important step to take to protect yourself and your interests after a boating accident. The team at Hassett & George can help you with your claim by:
- Determining liability
- Gathering relevant reports and evidence
- Determining your losses
- Negotiating fair compensation
- Representing you in court
If you were the victim of a boating accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and more. A knowledgeable boat accident attorney may be able to help you reclaim your losses.
Determining Liability in a Boating Accident Claim
Understanding the nuances of liability can be key to a boating accident claim. But how do you determine which party was in the wrong and therefore the cause of the accident?
There are many people who may be at fault, including: The operator of the watercraft (either your watercraft or the other party’s vessel), a passenger on one of the vessels, the individual or company who owns the boat, or the manufacturer of the craft or its components.
With so many potential liabilities, determining the main cause of a boating accident can be difficult. However, skilled >personal injury lawyers will be able to determine liability based on the unique circumstances of your case so that you can collect evidence showing that the at-fault party was indeed negligent — and that their negligence caused you harm.
Connecticut Boating Laws
In order to operate a boat or other watercraft on Connecticut waters, you must abide by Connecticut boating laws. These rules are determined by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and include factors such as the necessity of owners obtaining a Safe Boating Certificate (SBC) or a Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation (CPWO) and boat operators obeying waterway speed limits and other rules. Some of these rules include:
- Not entering swimming or diving areas
- Adhering to Slow-No-Wake zone rules
- Reducing speed in certain areas or under certain conditions
- Mooring your vessel at the request of an enforcement officer
- Not exceeding carrying capacity
- Preventing passengers from riding in unsafe areas on the vessel
- Boat operators must pilot their craft in a way that will not endanger or harm others.
- All watercraft must have enough USCG-approved life jackets on board for every passenger.
- Boat owners must maintain their vessels and make necessary repairs promptly.
What Types of Boating Cases Does Hassett & George Handle?
At Hassett & George, we can assist with a variety of maritime cases from our offices in Glastonbury, Simsbury, and Hartford, Connecticut.
Commercial boating accidents
Working in or around commercial ships can be dangerous. Machinery malfunctions, faulty equipment, negligent operation, and more can lead to hazardous or deadly situations. The owner and operator of any commercial boat are legally responsible for ensuring that it is well-maintained and adequately operated by trained professionals.
Private boating accidents
Connecticut law requires private boat owners and operators to adhere to a strict set of laws and rules. Unfortunately, not everyone does. When a private boating accident occurs, the owner and/or operator may be liable.
Personal watercraft accidents
Personal watercraft (PWC) have a higher collision rate than other vessels, in part due to their fast speeds, small sizes, and propensity for being piloted by inexperienced operators. Like motorcycles, Jet Skis and other personal watercraft accidents often result in significant injuries to the driver, making these cases extremely complex.
A defective boat or part that has been ill-designed or manufactured with a flaw in it can lead to an accident out on the water. When this occurs, the manufacturer may be liable for the accident under the rules of product liability cases.
Connecticut Boat Accident Attorney
At Hassett & George, we’ve been helping clients recover from unforeseen events and receive the maximum compensation possible for their cases. Our Connecticut boat accident attorneys are well-versed in the intricacies of maritime cases and are prepared to fight aggressively to ensure you receive what you are entitled to.
Some of the locations in and around Hartford County our accident lawyers serve include: Hartford, Simsbury, Glastonbury, New Britain, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Danbury, Norwalk, Manchester, Windsor, Farmington, Windsor Locks, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Avon, Bloomfield, Bristol, Enfield, Newington, South Windsor, Southington, Plainville and more.
For more information about retaining one of our attorneys, or to schedule a free consultation, please reach out to us today at 860-791-4274.