Once the weather warms up, many Georgians are eager to get out on the lake. After all, what could be more fun than a day of boating, swimming, and sunbathing? However, boating accidents can and do happen, and their consequences can be severe. For example, an Atlanta man was recently charged with first degree homicide by vessel, serious injury by vessel, and boating under the influence after a deadly boating accident on Lake Blue Ridge. The accident occurred when two victims were being pulled in a tube behind the boat when the tube struck the shoreline. Although not every boating accident will carry criminal liability, boat operators can be held liable for injuries to their passengers and others through personal injury suits.
Liability for Boating Accidents
Liability for most boating accidents is very similar to liability for car accidents on land, and is often based in negligence. To win a personal injury suit for a boating injury based on negligence, the plaintiff must show that the boat operator failed to operate the boat as a reasonably prudent boat operator would have operated it and that this failure caused an injury to the plaintiff. This can include any conduct that falls below the standard of care that a reasonable boat operator would exercise–such as taking the boat out when weather conditions are not optimal, turning the boat the wrong way into a wake and causing it to capsize, going too fast to avoid hitting another vessel, or failing to provide adequate safety equipment. Boat operators can also be held civilly liable for personal injuries arising out of criminal conduct, such as boating under the influence.