It’s finally warming up here in the land of 10,000 lakes, and many of us will be out at the lake for Memorial Day weekend because, well, boating is what Minnesotans do.
Boating is great, fun pastime. But we personal injury lawyers know all too well that it can also be dangerous. Point of fact: According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 50 people were injured or killed last year in boating accidents in our state.
Why Boating Accidents Happen
There are many factors that can contribute to a boating accident:
- Inexperienced boaters: Operator inexperience is often cited as the leading cause of boating accidents in the United States. In Minnesota, boaters do not need to pass a test before operating a watercraft. This can be a huge problem, because there are safety rules that operators must follow when driving on Minnesota waterways. For instance, drivers must follow speed limits, yield appropriately to other boats and follow waterway markers. Serious accidents can result when drivers don’t know these rules.
- Alcohol use: According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, alcohol is the number one factor in boating fatalities. When a boating accident causes serious injuries, we often discover that the boat operator was impaired or distracted by others’ drinking on the boat.
- Distractions: Operator inattention is another leading cause of boating accidents. Operators who should be paying attention fail to do so. They get distracted by things going on in their boats or other boats, and they fail to react quickly when they need to. Unruly boat passengers create many of these distractions. The person operating the boat is responsible for the behavior of others onboard and cannot let it affect safe boat operation.
- Reckless operation: Sometimes operators get caught up in having fun and forget the damage that boats can cause. They let passengers ride on the bow or they get too close to other boats. High speed is a common reckless activity. Just because a boat can go fast does not mean that it should, especially in crowded waterways or in unsafe weather conditions.
What to Do After a Boat Accident
Boating accidents happen suddenly and unexpectedly. People who have been involved often feel shook up and have trouble deciding what to do. The first and most important thing is to get medical attention for all people involved.
People who are seriously injured should get emergency medical attention, but everyone should get checked out. With all the commotion involved in a boat accident and the rush of adrenaline that often comes, people can overlook their own injuries. They may not realize that they sustained a concussion, whiplash or soft-tissue injuries. If you do not seek treatment, your injuries may not be treated properly and they may even get worse.
If another boat was involved in your accident, it is also important to get the names of the owner and operator, their addresses and the boat registration number.
In Minnesota, the law requires a boat operator who has been involved in a serious accident to report the accident to the county sheriff as quickly as possible. Serious accidents are those that involve $2000 of property damage or more, the total loss of a boat, personal injuries or a fatality.
Talking with an attorney is also important if you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one. Here at White & Associates, we can talk with you about your options. People who have been harmed by the negligence of a boat operator may be entitled to compensation for the harm they experienced. This may include payment of medical bills, reimbursement for lost wages, or for the pain and suffering caused by the boat accident.