The state of Georgia has over 2,000 miles of shoreline and coastline, with countless rivers and lakes. All of this access to the water creates the perfect area for boating and water sport enthusiasts. Sailing, jet skiing, and boating are all extremely popular outdoor activities, but they do come with some serious responsibilities. These fun pursuits carry with them a very heavy liability risk for operators and owners of watercraft.
Sadly, a great many people end up seriously injured in accidents in Georgia resulting from someone’s negligence in handling such watercraft. When safety guidelines are ignored and boating laws are not followed, enjoyable activities can become dangerous and even deadly. In 2017 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard reported around 1,600 boating accidents.
Individuals who have experienced personal injury or the death of a loved one in a boating accident caused by negligence may want to consider filing a boating accident lawsuit. The law allows you to seek compensation from the negligent parties to cover damages.
Laws Surrounding Boating Accidents
If you spend time in the water in Georgia by means of swimming or recreationally boating or even working on a boat, you could potentially become the victim of a boating accident. If you suffer an injury because someone else causes an accident, it could be helpful if you have at least a basic understanding of the laws surrounding boating accidents in the state before you file a lawsuit.
Because Georgia has waters touching its shores from both the ocean and state waters, there are two distinct areas of law under which a boating accident could fall. If the waterway in which you were injured is used for international or interstate commerce, maritime law applies. If, however, your injury stemmed from a boating accident occurring elsewhere, the laws of the state of Georgia apply. A qualified personal injury lawyer will be able to determine where your case lands.
Boating Accident Claims Under Georgia Law
There is a two-year statute of limitations for accidents that occur on a lake that is landlocked or on waters that are not involved with international or interstate commerce. However, if the victim claims loss of consortium, which is the companionship of a spouse, the claimant has longer to file, up to four years. It becomes clear with this type of time restriction in place that a victim should seek legal counsel from an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
It will be necessary to prove that the other party was negligent, thus causing your injuries. This requires you to show that the other party was responsible for not causing you harm. Then, you must prove that the party did not meet this responsibility, and by failing to do so, caused your injury.
Bear in mind that Georgia law decrees that if you contributed to your injuries through your own carelessness, the amount of compensation you recover must be decreased proportionately by the percentage you are deemed liable. If it is determined that your degree of liability surpasses the other party’s degree, you are not eligible to receive any compensation.
Filing Maritime Law Claims
If the boating accident in which you were injured took place in international or interstate waters, Georgia law does not apply. Your case will instead come under the scope of maritime law. You should look for a highly qualified and experienced maritime attorney. Lawsuits falling under the purview of maritime law can be extremely complex. You want to seek counsel from the right maritime injury attorney who knows all the details.
While Working – If you were injured while working on a vessel, and you primarily work on this vessel, you might be eligible to receive workers’ compensation through the Jones Act. To do so, you have to show that unseaworthy conditions or your employer’s negligence caused the accident. To prove an unseaworthy action, you must show that a piece of equipment or a condition of the vessel or the crew is not properly fit for the intended purpose. If, for example, the crew members are poorly trained or an appliance on the ship is broken, each of these presents an unseaworthy condition.
When an employer exhibits careless actions and causes injury to an employee, this equates to employer negligence. A few examples of such negligence include failure to provide adequate safety equipment, failure to provide proper medical treatment following an injury, and failure to adhere to safety guidelines.
Responsibilities of Boat Operators
Georgia law holds individuals at fault for boating accidents if they act negligently. If a person fails to conduct himself or herself as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances, he or she is deemed to have acted negligently. Reasonable boaters adhere to safety precautions and rules and are mindful of all passengers and other boaters.
A boat operator who is involved in an accident is required to:
- Stop the vessel at the scene immediately.
- Give assistance to injured persons or anyone in danger due to the accident, unless such action would seriously endanger the operator’s vessel or passengers. You will not be held liable for providing assistance.
- Give personal contact information and vessel identification in writing to injured parties and any owners of damaged property.
Reporting an Accident
The operator of a vessel that is involved in an accident is required to report the accident in the quickest way possible if any of the following occurred:
- Death or disappearance (from a vessel) of someone under circumstances indicating injury or death
- Injury that requires medical attention or first aid
- Damage to property in excess of $2,000 to all docks, vessels, etc, that were involved in the accident
Reportable accidents must be filed on a Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) form within 5 days. However, certain accidents must be reported within 48 hours. This applies to accidents where someone:
- Died within 24 hours due to the accident
- Becomes disabled for longer than 24 hours
- Required medical treatment for their injuries
- Disappeared from the vessel
Compensation for Injuries
It is extremely important for anyone who’s been injured in a boating accident to contact highly-skilled and experienced legal help. Our professionals at The Eichholz Law Firm have the qualifications to help protect your rights. Contact us at 855-551-1019 or complete our online form. We’ll schedule a free consultation.
- Boat Ed. “The Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities”, Boat Georgia Course, https://www.boat-ed.com/georgia/handbook/page/32/Boating-Accidents/. Accessed February 18, 2020.
- GADNR. “Boating Rules and Regulations”, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, https://gadnrle.org/boating-rules-regulations. Accessed February 18, 2020.