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Injured in a Boat Accident? When to File a Lawsuit & When to Settle



If have recently suffered an injury due to a boat accident and are planning on filing a boat accident lawsuit, you should be aware that it will most likely differ from filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is because injuries that occur on water are usually governed by maritime law, not personal injury law.

Because maritime law differs greatly from civil law, it will affect your decision of when to file a lawsuit and when to settle.

Boat Accident Lawsuit Basics

Personal injury lawsuits hinge on whether an injury was caused by another person's negligent behavior.

For example, in an auto accident, the injured person must prove that the driver who caused the injury violated the duty of care. In short, this means that the driver was disobeying driving law, was not properly controlling the vehicle, or failed to drive defensively.

Although you will also need to prove negligence in a boat accident lawsuit, there are some significant differences with boat accidents. For one, unlike accidents that happen on the road, boat accidents leave much less evidence. This makes it much more difficult to show who was liable for the accident.

In addition, thestatute of limitations (or time in which you have to file a lawsuit) for a marine accident lawsuit is often much shorter than for other personal injury cases. In fact, most boat accidents have a three-year statute of limitations. In some situations, the statute of limitations may be even shorter. Finally, there may even be situations where you are unable to file a lawsuit at all under maritime law.

Because this special area of law is so complex, it is in your best interest to contact a maritime lawyer if you are considering filing a lawsuit. Your maritime lawyer will be able to review your case and make a determination of whether you can file a lawsuit in the first place and then whether you should go to trial or settle.

Job-Related Boat Accidents

If you are injured while working on a boat that is in navigation either at sea or within interstate or international waters and you predominantly spend most of your working hours on the boat, then you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim.

The Jones Act provides compensation to injured seamen. It replaces state workers' compensation, which does not apply to water-based accidents and injuries.

The Jones Act applies to many types of seamen. This includes some fishermen, tugboat operators, fish processors, cruise ship workers, barge workers, riverboat workers, and construction workers who work on barges or other vessels.

To successfully file a claim under the Jones Act, the injured worker must prove one of two things.

First, you can prove that your employer was negligent. Examples of employer negligence include failing to adhere to safety statutes, not forcing workers to wear safety equipment, and implementing dangerous or unsafe methods of work.

You can also prove that you were working in unseaworthy conditions that caused the injury to occur. Unseaworthy conditions means that something was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose, and the term can apply to the boat, crew, or a part of the boat. An example of an unseaworthy condition would be a poorly trained crew or a damaged ship.

Once again, you should consult a maritime lawyer if you think you may have a claim under the Jones Act. If you were injured in a recreational boating accident, then the Jones Act will not apply to you, but you should still consult a lawyer to discuss the potential for a boat accident lawsuit.