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.
Responsibilities of Boat Operators in Georgia
The Georgia Boat Safety Act places several responsibilities on boat operators. For example, boat operators involved in an accident must report it if there is:
- Death or disappearance of a person from a boat under circumstances that indicate death or injury
- Injury requiring first aid or medical attention
- Property damage exceeding $2,000
Most reports of accidents must be made within five days of the accident, however, boat operators must report accidents within 48 hours if:
- A person dies within 24 hours as a result of the accident
- A person is disabled for more than 24 hours
- A person requires medical treatment for injuries
- A person disappears from a boat or PWC
The Act also places an affirmative duty on boat operators to render whatever assistance is necessary to any person involved in a boating accident unless it would endanger their own boat or passengers. While all peace officers are authorized to enforce the law with regard to boating accidents, but the primary responsibly for enforcement of the Georgia Boat Safety Act lies with the conservation rangers of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Contact an Atlanta Boating Accident Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
If you have been injured in a boating accident, you may be able to seek compensation from the boat operator who was responsible. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Fulton County, DeKalb County, and Gwinnett County.