Navigating a vessel can be risky, no matter the size. Commercial ships, tug and barges, commercial fishing vessels, recreational boats, and government vessels all share common passage and the same Rules of the Road. Thousands of vessel accidents occur every year, often resulting in extensive property damage, personal injury, and sometimes deaths.
Common causes of vessel accidents include:
Failure to obey the Rules of the Road
Failure to communicate with other vessels
Failure to carry the proper equipment
Operator inexperience with a vessel
Operator inexperience with an area
Severe weather and sea conditions
Unsafe behavior of passengers
Drug or alcohol use
Determining fault in a vessel accident can be complicated. A court will consider the Rules of the Road, the U.S. Coast Pilot, and regional rules or customs. The rules do not just delineate where a vessel should be navigated, but also how to approach other vessels, set up a passing scenario, what lights to use, how fast to navigate, etc.
If a vessel accident results from the violation of one or more of the rules that is intended to prevent crashes, then the violating party may be presumed to be at fault for the collision. However, a vessel operator could also be at fault for a vessel accident without violating any rules. A court may find that an operator contributed to the accident, even where he had the right-of-way, if he or she does not take steps to avoid a collision.
Understanding the Rules of the Road and other maritime navigational standards is important to the successful resolution of a boating accident case. Mariner Law, PLLC relies on the experience of a licensed commercial seaman, so you can rest easy knowing that your interests in a vessel collision, allision, or accident case will be well-represented.
While it is possible for one vessel to be held entirely at fault for an accident, most cases determine the recovery of each vessel owner by a process called comparative fault. Applying comparative fault, a judge or jury will assign a percentage of fault to each vessel. Compensation for each vessel owner is then calculated by reducing the owners’ damages by their percentage of fault. For example, if an owner is held to be 75 percent at fault for a collision, he would be responsible for 75 percent of the damages to the other vessel.
Time is of the essence following any boat collision, especially when it comes to preserving evidence and contacting an experienced maritime attorney. It is important for a vessel owner to keep safe the vessel and any other property involved in the collision. The other vessel owner will bear the same responsibility, but it is often useful to have an admiralty attorney communicate with the opposing party about surveys and evidence preservation.
If you have been injured as the result of a vessel accident, Mariner Law, PLLC may be able to help. The initial consultation is always free and there is no obligation. Call now to speak with an experienced maritime lawyer: (253) 600-2531. The firm serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.