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Personal Injury and Water-Sports

June 24, 2016

Most would probably not view Phoenix as a water-sports hot spot; however, with the combination of hot summers, warm winters and numerous lakes surrounding the valley, is quite the opposite.  In fact, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce once claimed that Arizona has more boats per capita than any other state.  While statistics would prove this statement to be a fallacy, Arizona is home to 200 lakes and reservoirs that families and friends can enjoy year around for boating, fishing, water-skiing, and camping. This in mind, the year around accessibility to water fun, as with most other out-door recreational activities in Arizona, does not come without the hazard of personal injury.

Boats and watercraft provide little to no protection for operators and passengers. As such, collisions that occur on the water can result in serious injury, and in some cases, even death.  Accidents that stem from water-sports typically take the form of boat-to-boat accidents, as well as collisions between boats and fixed objects, personal watercraft such as jet skis, and swimmers and water-skiers. That being said, the question arises as to what factors cause such collisions? A few are listed below:

  • Intoxication – According to the U.S. Coast Guard, driver intoxication is one of the leading factors in boating mishaps. In fact, intoxicated boat operators are five times more likely to cause a collision with another watercraft.
  • Reckless Driving – The second major factor in watercraft collisions, deals with reckless driving by speeding and dangerous maneuvering. It should be noted that boats do not have breaks; making it nearly impossible for operators to gauge the amount of time it may take to bring the boat to a full stop.
  • Unlicensed and Inexperienced Drivers – Inexperienced boat operators are more likely to miss buoys and channel restriction signs that warn of potential hazard or safety protocol.

The next question that must be answered concerns liability – Who is responsible? According to the law, the operator of the watercraft has a legal duty of care, meaning an obligation to drive the boat in a manner that would guarantee safety to the passengers and other watercraft near by. Essentially, the driver is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of all passengers. Failure to do as such would mean that operator acted negligently. In the unfortunate instance that you are hurt, the law places the burden of proof on you to prove that the driver’s negligent operation was the direct and proximate cause of the accident and/or injuries. Legal jargon aside, meeting your burden of proof simply begins by gathering the evidence and facts of the accident. Be sure to:

  • Take Photos – If you are able to, take pictures of anything that may have contributed to the accident including the boat, point of impact, exposed writing or warnings, the driver, beer bottles or open containers.
  • Incident or Police Reports – Depending on the seriousness of the accident, the police or Coast Guard may have been present. Be sure to obtain an incident report number so that one can be picked up from the assisting agency when available. Reports typically include the investigating officers opinions as well as any citations they may have been given for safety or criminal infractions.
  • Witness Statements – Gather the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident. Admissions can be crucial in recovering damages so be sure to also obtain witness reports including what they saw or herd, and what, in their opinion, contributed to the accident.

 Depending on the seriousness of your personal injury, obtaining a lawyer who understands boating laws to handle your claim may be essential. These types of injuries include hard injuries such as broken bones, severe burns, spinal injuries, scarring, amputations etc.

Call Torgenson Law to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you or a family member suffers a personal injury as a result of a boating or watercraft accident, give us a call for a free consultation. Because the personal injury process can be a complicated one, you will want to have an accomplished legal team examining your case, collecting evidence, and protecting your rights. Give Torgenson Law a call at (602) 726-0747.