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The Basics of Boat Accident Law

In many ways, boat accident law is different than other personal injury laws, the area of tort law that covers injuries sustained as a result of someone's negligence. Specifically, when it comes to those injured in the course of work on a seafaring vessel, the law does not provide for regular state workers' compensation benefits. However, there are other methods of seeking compensation for boating accident injuries.

Boating Accident Statistics

Boating accidents are fairly common and often are caused by negligent behavior or activity.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center, there were 4,789 recreational boating accidents in 2008. Of these thousands of accidents, more than 14 percent resulted in deaths, and nearly 70 percent resulted in some form of injury.

In addition, alcohol use was a fairly common and critical factor in the worst accidents. In fact, 17 percent of boating accident deaths were partially caused by alcohol use.

Finally, several examples of negligent behavior were frequent causes of accidents. These included driver inattention, failure to have a proper lookout, general careless or reckless behavior, and driver inexperience.

Marine Accident Negligence

Under general personal injury law, the party that sustains injury in an accident, whether it is purely physical or psychological in nature, must prove that the other party's negligent behavior caused the accident that caused the injury. For example, in auto accidents, you must show that the other driver violated his or her duty of care, meaning that he or she disobeyed driving laws, could not properly maintain control of the vehicle, or failed to drive defensively, which means anticipating situations that could result in accidents.

Boating accidents, on the other hand, are often dictated by maritime law. This is different from civil law, which personal injury cases typically fall under. Because of maritime law's complexities, you should consult a maritime lawyer who has experience with boat accidents if you are considering filing a boat accident lawsuit.

You should be aware that the statute of limitations tends to be drastically shorter for cases under maritime law. In fact, even if there is evidence of marine accident negligence, you only have about three years from the date of the accident to bring a suit.

Boat Accident Law Workers' Compensation

If you work almost entirely on a boat that is on the sea or interstate or international waters, then under boat accident law you may be entitled to a special form of workers' compensation.

A piece of legislation known as the Jones Act allows for maritime workers injured in the course of work while on a boat to seek compensation granted they meet several requirements.

There are several types of compensation a worker may receive if injured while in the course of working on a boat. One form of compensation is called cure, and it covers medical expenses. There is also reimbursement of the cost of room and board purchased as a result of the injury. And there is also compensation for lost wages, as well as general damages.

To receive compensation under the Jones Act, a worker must prove either that the employer was negligent or that he or she was working in unseaworthy conditions.

A number of activities could be considered negligent. Examples include ignoring safety regulations, failing to provide adequate medical help after an accident, engaging in an unsafe method of work, and providing inadequate equipment for a job.

Unseaworthy conditions, on the other hand, can apply to either the vessel the employee is working on, the other members of the crew, or any piece of equipment on the vessel. This means that one of these three things was defective or inadequate, which resulted in the injuries. A defective device on the boat and an improperly trained crew are both examples of unseaworthy conditions.