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What is the Statute of Limitations in Power Boat Accidents?



Boat accident negligence cases are not the same as most personal injury cases. This is because most personal injury cases fall within an area of law known as civil law, but accidents on the water are often dictated by maritime law. If you are involved in a power boat accident, then maritime law likely applies to you.

Power Boat Accident Statistics

The U.S. Coast Guard maintains annual statistics on recreational boating accidents.

In 2008 alone, there were 4,789 accidents recorded. These thousands of accidents result in more than 3,000 injuries and more than 700 deaths. In addition, the Coast Guard reported $54 million worth of property damage.

The main cause of these accidents was negligence. In fact, the top five contributing factors to accidents as reported by the Coast Guard were:

  • Careless or reckless boat operation
  • Lack of a lookout
  • Distracted boat drivers
  • Boat drivers lacking in experience
  • Passenger behavior

Alcohol was also a contributing factor in many boating accidents and played a significant role in 17 percent of boating deaths.

Power Boat Statute of Limitations

Whether you are a recreational boater or you are employed on a vessel, your boat accident will likely fall under special maritime personal injury rules.

This rules do not parallel the rules that dictate other personal injury cases, such as auto accidents. In these types of lawsuits, the statute of limitations-or time in which you have to sue-will vary from state to state, but are usually significantly longer than the limitations set on power boat accident cases.

Power boat accident cases, on the other hand, have a fairly short statute of limitations. If they do fall under maritime law, this limit could be as little as three years. Depending on the severity of the injuries, that may not even exceed the amount of time the injured person needs treatment.

Furthermore, this statute of limitations could be shortened even more if the injured person signed a contract limiting the amount of time for bringing a lawsuit. This is typical of injuries sustained by passengers on cruise ships.

There may be some situations where a law other than maritime law may apply. This would depend on the waters where the accident occurred. Because jurisdictional issues are so complex in power boat accident cases, it is best to seek the help of a maritime lawyer as soon as possible.