There are over 400,000 recreational boats registered in Illinois, which is the tenth highest registration number of all 50 states. With that many boats and boaters, accidents and injuries are bound to happen. Statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) show that in 2015 there were 74 accidents, resulting in 49 injuries and 14 fatalities. The five year average is 84 accidents, 58 injuries and 18 fatalities.
Many of these boating accidents sadly could have been avoided through responsible boating. Many can be attributed to being under the influence of alcohol or other drug while operating a boat.
Boating accidents not only can cause damage to watercraft but also can result in the drowning of innocent persons. Boating is a great way to enjoy the rivers and lakes of Illinois and Wisconsin, but far too often tragedy results because of the carelessness of a watercraft operator, so be ready to contact a boating injury specialist, like the attorneys at Taxman, Pollock, Murray & Bekkerman, LLC, should tragedy strike.
Operators of boats, like automobile and truck drivers, have a legal obligation to operate watercraft in a safe manner. The major causes of boat accidents are operator inattention, careless/reckless operation, operator inexperience, operating at an unsafe speed, and failure to have a proper lookout.
One important issue in determining liability in a boating accident is whether or not the claim would be subject to admiralty jurisdiction. This issue is determined by whether the body of water upon where the accident occurred constitutes navigable water. Navigable water, for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, applies when the water, by itself or uniting with other waters, provides a continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other states or foreign countries in the customary mode in which commerce is conducted by water. If the boat involved carries passengers for hire, it is considered a “common carrier” and is, therefore, subject to liability if they do not exercise the highest degree of care.
Further, the operator of a watercraft is liable if they fail to observe and operate the watercraft using ordinary care. Additionally, an operator operating a boat or other watercraft under the influence of alcohol could be liable with punitive damages for recklessness. The owner of any watercraft or boat may be liable if they knowingly permit watercraft to be operated by someone who they reasonably know is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination therefore. The operator of a boat or watercraft must be knowledgeable in the use of the watercraft and failure to be sufficiently knowledgeable in this operation could make the operator and/or owner liable for someone who is injured as a result of the failure to understand the properties of operating the boat or watercraft. If the failure results in a boating collision resulting in injury or death, the operator and/or owner may be liable.
Chicago law firm Taxman, Pollock, Murray & Bekkerman, LLC, is currently handling boating injury cases and can help you know your rights and recover the compensation you are entitled to.