It’s an amazing feeling to be out on the water. Whether you’re slowly paddling your canoe in a lake or river, trawling for fish, or speeding around in a powerboat on a joyride, Albertans love their boats. Most of the time boating activities occur without any problems, but every year hundreds of people in our province do sustain injuries while boating and some die from their injuries.
Being involved in an accident while on or in the water can be especially dangerous because the risk of drowning or brain damage from oxygen deprivation is high. Moreover, a near drowning experience can also be highly traumatic for accident victims. First responders also may need more time to reach the scene of the accident to perform CPR or other life-saving measures.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a boating accident, you may be able to draw on insurance benefits or make a claim for compensation if another person’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury. But personal injury cases involving boats can be much more complicated than motor vehicle accident claims, and it may be in your best interest to speak to a personal injury lawyer with expertise in this area of law.
Litco Law Edmonton boating accident lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you with your claim. As your legal advocate, we will listen to your story, explain how the law works using plain and understandable language, keep you well informed as we build a case, and ensure that your best interests are always at the top of our mind as we seek a settlement or court award.
Boating Accident Statistics
An injury-causing accident can involve any kind of boat, but most of these accidents occur in vessels under 18-feet long and about a third of all boating accidents involve canoes. Small fishing boats were the most common type of vessel involved in fatal accidents.
The most frequent kinds of boating accidents include: slip and fall accidents on the boat, drowning, the boat sinking, being struck by a boat while swimming, water sports accidents, and colliding with other boats, rocks or debris. The majority of fatal accidents are caused by capsizing, collisions or falling overboard, and around one-third of all water-related deaths occurred while boating.
The preventable nature of many of these accidents is especially troubling. Consuming alcohol and failing to wear personal floatation devices (PFD) are significantly linked to boating fatalities. The number one cause of recreational boating fatalities is failing to wear a life jacket or personal floatation device. And, alcohol was a factor in 43% of boating deaths.
A 20-year study by the Canadian Red Cross found that 50% of boating deaths could have been prevented if an accident victim had been wearing a life jacket. The study found that a shocking 96% of people who fell overboard were not wearing these personal floatation devices. Even more concerning, non-swimmers were the least likely to wear PFDs and the likelihood of wearing a personal floating device actually increased alongside swimming ability. Most fatalities among the 5% of people who were wearing a personal floating device at the time of death were due to capsizing and hypothermia.
While you should never consume alcohol before boating or while on a boat, if you have had even a small amount to drink it could affect you differently than it might in another situation. Fatigue and environmental factors (wind, sun, waves rocking the boat) can make you less alert. Alcohol can magnify these affects and further reduce your reaction time and impair your judgment.
Negligence on the part of a driver or passenger in a boat is a factor in many boating accidents. In addition to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, these boaters may be driving recklessly, speeding, neglecting to observe other people or water crafts near them, or be inexperienced at operating a boat or conducting themselves on a boat. Other factors leading to a boating mishap include: mechanical malfunctions and defects, improper safety warnings in hazardous areas, bad weather, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of a boating accident or injury, you can take precautionary steps to reduce your risk of being involved in one. These include:
- Always wearing a life vest or personal floating device while in or around a boat;
- Never consuming drugs or alcohol prior to or while boating;
- Ensuring the operator of the boat understands their obligations under the Canada Shipping Act (Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations) and it regulations, has a boating license if required, and is competent to drive the vessel;
- Check the boat for any defects or harmful fumes;
- Be weather and water wise by checking conditions prior to your excursion and observing any changes while on a boat;
- Take extra caution when on unfamiliar water;
- Take a boating safety course; and
- Making yourself visible to boats if swimming or on a smaller watercraft.
If An Injury-Causing Boating Accident Occurs
The first few moments after a boating accident can seem unreal. Your mind is trying to process what seemed unimaginable only moments before. Focusing on getting yourself to a place of safety (and/or others if you are able), should be your top priority. Paramedics and police should be contacted immediately. If anyone else nearby has first aid training, they may be able to help if ambulances are unable to reach you quickly.
As soon as possible, you (or someone else close to you, if you are seriously injured) should collect as much information about the accident as possible. This includes:
- recording the names and contact information of any other people involved in the accident;
- locate and write down the Hull Identification Number (serial number) and insurance information of the boat if applicable;
- asking the operator of other motorized watercraft involved if they have a valid license (Pleasure Craft Operator Card);
- taking photos and/or video of the accident site, including any damage to the vessels, visible injuries, and other information that may be useful in a future case (the waves, weather conditions, safety equipment [or lack thereof] in the boats);
- determining if you or anyone else involved has cell phone video footage or GoPro/wearable camera footage of the accident; and,
- recording in your cell phone or on paper all that you can remember about the accident and any other factors that could be relevant (time of day, weather, etc).
Unlike road accidents (dash cams) or personal injuries in public spaces (security cameras), boating accidents cases are much less likely to benefit from video footage to help investigators piece together what happened, who is responsible, and whether there may be contributory negligence on the part of a victim. Therefore, it’s important to assemble as much information as possible at the scene and to contact an experienced boating accident lawyer as soon as possible to gather other evidence and witness testimony before it’s lost or forgotten.
What Compensation Could I Get For My Injuries?
If you have health insurance coverage through your employer or by way of a self-purchased policy, you may be eligible to draw on certain benefits following a personal injury. However, unlike motor vehicle accidents, an uninsured person is not entitled to any standard benefits (Section B benefits) through the insurer of another boat operator involved in the accident. Therefore, if these people are not at fault for the accident, or only partially at fault, their ability to access compensation rests on making a claim against the person primarily at-fault.
Canada’s Marine Liability Act limits the amount a plaintiff can sue for loss of life or personal injury to $1,000,000, and limits other claims to $500,000. To break this cap on compensation, a plaintiff must not only prove negligence on the part of the at-fault party, but also that they were knowingly reckless and could foresee those actions could result in injury or death and that the at-fault party deliberately chose to take these reckless actions. It can be a high bar to clear in court and requires a plaintiff’s legal counsel to possess a great degree of skill, expertise and experience to have a chance at success.
Why Choose Litco Law To Represent You?
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a tragic boating accident you have so many things to think about: Who will care for my dependants if I can’t return to work? How will I afford all the bills for medicine, treatments and therapy? Will I be able to enjoy my life as I did before ever again? How will I manage my grief?
These and other worries can feel like an invisible weight on your shoulders that no one can truly understand but you. At Litco Law, our Edmonton boating accident lawyers are here to lighten your load. When you contact us for a free consultation about your case, we will listen compassionately as you tell us your story and how your injury has affected you and your loved ones. We will explain your legal options in language that’s easy to understand and always patiently answer your questions. When you’re confident about the process, it makes it feel much less stressful.
As personal injury specialists, we know what’s required to build a strong case. Drawing on our extensive network of medical specialists, we’ll ensure you are properly assessed. These experts will also be able to determine what kind of treatment you’ll need now and in the future. Once we calculate your losses, we’ll make a claim for fair compensation. We will never pressure you to settle for an amount you aren’t comfortable with. We know our cases hold up well in court and we’re prepared to go the distance for you.
Kind Words From Past Clients
Our reputation for professionalism, expertise and client satisfaction over more than 40 years has led to recognition by our peers as one of the country’s Top 10 boutique personal injury firms in Canadian Lawyer Magazine. While we are very proud of this honour, what truly drives us to continue what we’re doing is what we hear from our satisfied clients.
Mick explains that he has always been impressed by the professionalism at Litco Law. “They always had my best interest at heart. I’m not just a number in their system.” Like many of our past clients, Mick’s experience with us has prompted him to refer other injured people to us. “People that I’ve recommended Litco Law to have thanked me for getting them hooked up with them. A couple of people right now are working with them on personal accident injuries, and they’re really pleased with them.”
While we know that getting you fair compensation for your injuries is extremely important to our clients, many of them tell us how comforting to know that it’s not all we care about. Stella says “I like that Litco Law don’t just talk to you about financial entitlement; they try to help the family get healed. Getting healed is the most important thing.” The kindness and care that we show those we work for makes clients like Peggy tell us that they feel like they are part of our family.
When we take on your case, we take an interest in you. Trust Litco Law boating accident lawyers to be your legal advocate. Together, we can work to get what you need to heal, recover and rebuild.
Looking For A Boating Accident Lawyer in Edmonton? Contact Us.
We service the Edmonton and surrounding area, including the counties of Parkland, Leduc, Strathcona, Sturgeon. When you need a Boating Accident Lawyer in Edmonton, think Litco Law Personal Injury Lawyers.