Boating is an enjoyable activity for many people living in California, but it’s vital to know the inherent dangers it can present and how to prevent accidents from happening. Boating accidents can be just as damaging as any other motor vehicle accident with the added danger of drowning-related injuries and deaths. So, whether you operate a boat or plane to ride as a passenger on a boat anywhere in California, it’s essential to understand the risks of boating and what you can do to protect yourself and others.
Refrain From Drinking and Driving a Boat
Almost everyone is aware of California’s laws against driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and drugs. Still, some may not realize that these laws apply to all vehicles, including watercraft. It is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, and doing so can result in devastating accidents. Many boating accidents occur due to collisions with rocks and submerged objects, and an intoxicated boater may not recognize these hazards in time to avoid a collision. It’s also possible for intoxicated boat operators to mishandle their watercraft and send passengers overboard or collide with other watercraft.
Any boater who causes a boating accident due to operating their boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face civil liability for any victims’ damages as well as criminal prosecution for violating California’s DUI laws.
Bring Appropriate Safety Equipment on Every Boat Outing
When you own and operate a boat, carrying all the safety equipment you and your passengers may need in an emergency is essential. The United States Coast Guard provides clear guidance for boaters when stocking a boat with appropriate safety equipment, such as lifejackets, life preservers, flares, fire extinguishers, and other emergency tools. However, failing to bring these items onboard or regularly inspecting them for defects and wear could mean that you and your passengers do not have them in an emergency.
As far as safety equipment such as life jackets are concerned, ensure that every passenger has a lifejacket that fits appropriately before your boating trip. In addition, all life jackets should be US Coast Guard-approved and checked regularly for rips, broken fasteners, and other defects.
Pay Close Attention to Boating Signals
There are boating signals posted around all waterways where civilians are permitted to operate their watercraft. For example, some areas have “No Wake” signs posted to prevent boaters from operating at speeds that produce wakes. The wake behind a fast-moving boat can interfere with other nearby boaters’ safe operation of their watercraft or injure nearby swimmers. There are also nautical buoys, markers, and other signals that all boaters must understand and acknowledge. If you were to cause a boating accident due to failure to follow posted boating signals, you could face fines and other penalties as well as civil liability for any resulting damages.
Track the Weather
The weather has a much more significant impact on boating than it does on driving a car in most cases. It is essential to check the weather forecast before every boating trip and to use extra caution if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse while you are already on the water. All boaters should have functional radios on their boats to receive severe weather warnings and call for help if needed. Bad weather can cause choppy water and reduce visibility, increasing the risk of an accident occurring.
Refrain From Speeding
Boating at fast speeds can be fun, but it is also perilous in some situations. Even if your boat is built for speed, it is always best to err on the side of caution and operate your boat only at a speed you are comfortable handling. If you operate your boat at too fast, it is difficult to brake and avoid a collision with another watercraft or an underwater hazard. Additionally, breaking a wave at high speed can force passengers overboard or damage the boat’s hull.
What to Do When a Boat Accident Occurs
Even if you take all the proper precautions and operate your boat as safely as possible at all times, it is impossible to predict some circumstances or the actions of other boaters you may encounter on the water. Therefore, when a boating accident occurs, stabilize the situation to the best of your ability and do everything to minimize injuries to yourself and others. You are legally required to report any boating accident in California that results in injuries, death, property damage estimated over $2,000, or if the vessel is too damaged to safely return to shore.
If anyone goes overboard, work to rescue them as quickly as possible. If your boat becomes inoperable or anyone suffers injuries, call for help immediately. If your boat is stranded, local police with a waterborne unit or the Coast Guard may need to rescue you and your passengers. If you can navigate to shore, do so quickly and safely only if someone needs emergency medical attention. Otherwise, you have a legal duty to remain at the scene until first responders arrive.
Finding Legal Help After a Boating Accident
If you or a loved one suffers injuries in a boating accident you believe could have been prevented, you should seek medical treatment immediately and contact an attorney once you stabilize. Depending on how the accident occurred, one or more other parties may bear liability for your damages, and an attorney can help you hold them accountable and secure compensation for your losses.
Boating accidents can be traumatic and damaging, but they are preventable with proper precautions and situational awareness. If you or a loved one recently sustained injuries in a boating accident that you believe occurred due to negligence, it’s vital to contact an experienced boating accident attorney as soon as possible. Easton & Easton can provide the legal guidance you need for this type of case, so contact us today and find out how our team can assist in your recovery.