Michigan has a long inland coastline that surrounds Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and Lake Huron. Boating is a very popular recreational activity. However, boating can be dangerous, and accidents do occur. Someone who causes a boating accident may be held accountable. In contrast to automobile drivers, boaters are not required to purchase no-fault insurance for their boats to cover their basic economic losses in case of an accident.
If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a boating accident, you may be able to sue for compensatory damages, including medical expenses, property damages, lost income, and wrongful death. In some cases, criminal charges may be brought against the driver of the boat. For example, if the boat's driver was boating under the influence of alcohol or showed gross negligence, he or she may be charged in criminal court. Even if criminal charges are brought, these are separate and distinct from a civil case. You can potentially hold a negligent boat operator liable in civil court, even if he or she is acquitted of criminal charges, since a different standard of proof applies. However, the evidence developed in a criminal case may influence a civil case, so it is important to consult a personal injury attorney about your options right away.
All boat owners and operators must make sure that their vessels are in good condition and being driven safely. A failure to use reasonable care can result in injuries or death and give rise to liability. In many cases, the question will be whether the boat operator or owner was negligent. As a plaintiff, you would have to prove the duty of the boat operator or owner, a breach of the duty, causation, and actual damages. Among the factors that may be considered in connection with a negligence claim are whether the boat operator used appropriate protocols in operating the boat, whether it was properly manned, and whether the operator or crew were properly trained.
In most cases, if a boat operator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or the boat was not properly equipped with safety equipment, a jury is likely to find these are breaches of the duty to use reasonable care. However, some accidents are more complex, and it may be necessary in those cases to retain an accident reconstruction expert to figure out who was responsible.
In some cases, passengers sign accident liability waivers before embarking on a boat trip. Historically, a release was not enforceable in Michigan unless it was accompanied by consideration to the individual giving up his or her rights. However, these days, waivers are sometimes upheld, and in those cases, you may have to prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct to recover compensation.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of a boating accident, contact the experienced boating accident attorneys at Neumann Law Group for a free consultation.