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Boating/Waterway Crashes and Negligence

With so many Floridians and visitors enjoying the state’s many oceans, lakes and rivers, it’s no surprise that boating and waterway injuries or deaths can be quite common.

Common Cruise Ship Injuries

Taking a vacation on a cruise ship can be an enjoyable experience providing years of memories. However, with the beautiful sights and exotic locations there are also hazards you need to be aware of to ensure your trip is a safe one.

It is the responsibility of the cruise line to ensure the safety of its passengers while on board.  The U. S. Coast Guard regularly inspects ships to make sure they are in compliance with the international rules for safety but cruise ship injuries can occur, so here are some of the most common dangers and how you can avoid them.

  • Slip and Falls are one of the most common injuries on cruise ships. They usually occur due to wet decks and stairwells or poor traction on walkways. While there are many distractions while you walk around the ship, you need to be aware of where you are walking to avoid tripping or stumbling and the type of surface you are walking on.  Decks and other ship areas can often be wet and slippery. Uneven decks, steps or being knocked down due to heavy seas can cause broken bones or head injuries.
  • Criminal Activity According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the most common crime by far reported on ships is sexual assault. Often, the victims are minors. Assaults or injuries can also be caused by intoxicated passengers or even crew members.  Because these types of crimes usually occur on international waters they are rarely prosecuted, but it is still the responsibility of the cruise line to protect its passengers. Passengers can seek civil damages against cruise lines in cases of neglect for their personal safety.
  • Health risks on cruise ships should be a concern because the medical facilities and treatment on board are rarely as thorough or accessible as they are on land. According to Consumer Reports, there are numerous medical dangers on board a ship. They include the spreading of infectious and mosquito-borne diseases, and the consumption of contaminated food items. Always remember a cruise ship is not a hospital. While many ships have medical personnel trained in emergency medicine, not all do, and it is not a requirement of international boating law. On many ships, the medical personnel are not licensed to practice in the U.S, or other first-world countries.

Some other safety concerns that could result in a personal injury lawsuit include:

  • Man or woman falling overboard
  • Collisions with other sea vessels
  • Death or injury due to a lack of safety measures during an emergency situation
  • Injury from unsecured objects on the ship including hatches or doors

Swimming Pool Injuries

According to the Consumer Public Safety Commission, every year in the U.S. about 300 children drown in swimming pools. Most victims were under adult supervision at the time of the accident and nearly all occur in familiar surroundings for the child like at home or with relatives or neighbors.

One moment of distraction can lead to tragic occurrences. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a phone call. According to the CPSC, 77 percent of drowning victims were out of sight of adults for less than five minutes.

It is important to maintain safety procedures around pools at all times. If you own a pool you are required to  install a fence around it to prevent children from wandering into the pool when unsupervised. Keep the pool covered when it is not in use.

It is also important to maintain the pool, keeping the area around it dry to prevent slip and falls on the walkways around the pool.

Water Skiing, Jet Skiing and Tubing Injuries

Water activities like skiing and tubing can be great fun but also present numerous dangers. Most injuries that occur are collision related with hitting the water or other objects due to excessive speeds and negligence. People on the boats and participating in activities like water skiing should be equipped with a floatation device like a life preserver. At all times a spotter, someone other than the driver, should be keeping an eye on skiers from the back of the boat and be able to react quickly if an incident occurs.

Always check equipment before heading out onto the water, especially if they are rentals, be aware of your surroundings and maintain proper distance from others.

Tubing is also popular but can lead to a variety of injuries resulting from a participant’s position on the water tube, lack of directional control and velocity and the number of riders per water tube.  The most common injury is head trauma and armingly such injuries are on the rise.

Like in many other maritime accidents, alcohol is often a contributing factor in people being injured. Another is negligence in basic boating safety like avoiding excess speeds and objects in the waterway.

Ferries, Water Taxis and Duck Boat Injuries and Deaths

Ferries and water taxis are often convenient ways to avoid road traffic and travel across bodies of water on repeated trips.  They are also part of tourist attractions in certain parts of the world.  While convenient, ferries and water taxis are involved in hundreds of incidents each year which cause injury or death to their passengers. One of the most common safety problems concerning ferries, water taxis and duck boats is overcrowding. When getting on board make sure to check the maximum capacity which is legally required to be posted.

Duck boats, while a hit tourist attraction for sightseers, present special problems because the regulations covering their safety can be confusing since they are considered to be both a land and water transportation vehicle. Slipping through the cracks on those regulations can lead to tragic circumstances.

In the last 20 years, 41 people have died in incidents involving duck boats in the US and Canada.  Although these amphibious vehicles are required to have life jackets on board, in several tragic cases, passengers were able to put on their life jackets but became trapped inside the vessel as it sank.

Duck boats are as equally dangerous to pedestrians or vehicles when on land.  Critics of duck boats say that they have too many blind spots for drivers to properly navigate roadways.  Drivers of duck boats sit about 10 to 12 feet behind the bow making it challenging to see what is in front of them.

In 2015, land-bound duck boats killed several people across Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.  A duck boat killed a woman in Boston who was riding a scooter, A Texas woman was killed by a duck boat while crossing a street and five North Seattle College international students died after a duck boat hit the bus they were riding in.

Advocates have long pushed for more safety measures on duck boats and even suggested they be banned.

Alcohol Is A Big Factor In Boating Crashes

Alcohol can often be a factor in waterway crashes and is responsible for one-third of boat crashes that end in fatalities. Like with a car, the operator of a boat is considered legally intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol level of 0.08. If you’ve been in a crash on the water due to someone else’s negligence, the attorneys at Coker Law are experienced in waterway crashes and can help with your case and prove  your injuries are the fault of another.

Cases Involving Underage Operators

Personal recreational watercraft are often piloted by inexperienced operators, including teens, who aren’t responsible enough to handle the watercraft. For people under 21, if they are operating the boat the BAC level for them to be considered legally intoxicated is 0.02. If proper supervision isn’t applied, parents can be held negligent in these crashes.

To Keep Your Day On The Water Safe, Follow The Rules And The Law

  • All people on a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable personal flotation device. Inflatable flotations are not considered proper safety equipment.
  • You must be 14 years old to pilot a personal watercraft in Florida.
  • It’s illegal to knowingly allow an underage driver to operate a personal watercraft.
  • Maneuvering through congested traffic, waiting to swerve or jumping wakes in congested areas can be cited for reckless operation of a vessel.
  • Personal watercraft can’t be operated at night.
  • Any aggressive driving of a boat in a congested waterway can result in a charge of reckless operation of a vessel.
  • If skiing or towing an aquaplaning rider, the boat must have a spotter.
  • Divers must display diver down flags.
  • Divers are expected to stay within 300 feet of the flag.
  • Children 6 years old or younger must wear a personal flotation device.

If You’re Injured In A Waterway Incident, What Should You Do?

Cases involving injuries on a ferry, tour boat, cruise ship or a  chartered vessel can be complex due to the legal jurisdiction at the time of the injury.  Working with an experienced attorney who understands the complexities of maritime law can be critical to the outcome of your case. You may qualify to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses related to your injuries. To speak with a Coker Law attorney or for more information, click here or call (904) 356-6071.