North Carolina Boat Accident Lawyer

Nothing beats a day on the water, the wind blowing through your hair, the sun shining on your skin while the occasional splash cools you off. Boating is a carefree, relaxing activity until you experience a boat accident. They are rare but can be disastrous. 

If you have experienced an accident while boating, call a North Carolina boat accident lawyer from the Ricci Law Firm to receive immediate assistance. 

Types of Watercraft Operators That We Represent

Boating injuries can happen on any boat, and each type of boat has pros and cons. This is a list of the most common boats you will encounter on the water and the hazards associated with them.

Sporting Boats

Boats for active people who enjoy water sports can be a great way to get fresh air and exercise. They can also be dangerous by the nature of the activities associated with them.

    • Personal Watercraft (PWC) such as Jetskis, Waverunners, and Sea-Doos are water scooters that seat between one and three people and can reach top speeds of 70 mph. Their size and speed can make them hard for bigger crafts to dodge.
  • Kayaks are nonmotorized boats that are great for a leisurely paddle but are not always seen by boaters because of their low profiles. They can even capsize if the wake from another boat is too powerful or if the weather conditions do not cooperate.
  • Ski boats have the motor in the center of the boat to provide less wake for ski, slalom, and jump tricks. Boating accidents involving skiers can quickly become catastrophic.
  • Sailboats come in all shapes and sizes and traditionally depend on the wind to power them, but many have motors for when the wind is not cooperating, and they still want to enjoy a day on the water. The most significant risk associated with sailing is the threat of capsizing.

Leisure Boats

These boats are often used to entertain families and friends. Because of the crowds that naturally gather on these boats, the risk factors are elevated.

  • Center consoles are often used by fishermen but are great family boats because the center console provides greater visibility than other configurations. Because of the design of some of these boats, when passengers are on board, the front can become heavy, and the whole boat quickly becomes a bathtub as it allows more and more water inside. 
  • Pontoon boats have a deck-type floor plan and are kept afloat by at least two floats called pontoons. These provide a stable deck that allows passengers room to spread out and socialize, they are not the most responsive boats on the water, and this can sometimes play a role in accidents where they are involved.
  • Deck boats are similar to pontoon boats in that they have room for a crowd but have a V-hull style. Because of the hull’s shape, they are often preferred for watersports since they can cut through the water at higher speeds, and like ski boats, there are inherent dangers.

Luxury Live-Aboard Crafts

These boats can be used for weekend getaways, longer trips, or full-time living. The dangers associated with them may differ from sports boats and the like since they often travel long distances in less populated areas and feature hazards similar to those found in brick-and-mortar homes.

  • Cabin cruisers can be live-aboard boats with an enclosed area, typically a bedroom, bathroom, and possibly a galley. Carbon monoxide poisoning poses a dangerous threat to these boats.
  • Yachts are larger than typical boats, are more often considered ships, and are usually live aboard vessels with all amenities. Because of their size, stopping or course-correcting on a dime is impossible, so when smaller crafts get in the way, danger arises.

Fishing and Work Boats

Boats that are used for work or for serious fishermen have their own set of issues. The environment can be dangerous for passengers, operators, and employees. Maintenance, safety, and watchfulness play a role in keeping those aboard these vessels safe.

  • Catamarans differ from other boats because they have multiple hulls, usually two points of contact with the water. Their shape makes them difficult to dock, and sometimes accidents happen in the marina since boat traffic adds another obstacle.
  • Fishing boats are crafts that are easy to maneuver into coves, creeks, and other fishing holes, as they usually are equipped with depth and fishfinders. Though inadvisable, fishermen often go out alone, and boating poses serious risks.
  • Trawlers are roomy and are known as the working man’s boat because they are often used for commercial fishing ventures. Commercial boats and the nature of the work opens the door to all sorts of possible accidents.
  • Dinghies are usually carried or towed by larger boats and used to get around areas that the larger vessels cannot access, but because of their size, they can be blown off course in strong seas. They hold only a limited amount of gas, so they become dangerous when used for longer trips than a quick jaunt from where their larger vessel is moored.

From a personal watercraft to a pontoon, a kayak to a catamaran, the pleasure of being on the water is tempered with risks. Different types of boats pose various threats, but they have one thing in common. The most tragic accidents are nearly always because the boater is not wearing a life jacket. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, a North Carolina boat accident attorney with the Ricci Law Firm will investigate your case and pursue the compensation you are owed. Understanding boat accident law means understanding the crafts and their particulars. We bring marine knowledge and experience to your case. 

The Most Common Types of Boating Accidents

Boating accidents, though, as noted above, each craft has hazards that often contribute to its own dangers.  Below are the most commonly seen reasons that boating accidents happen. 

Collisions on the Water

Repeatedly, boating accidents are caused by collisions. These happen when boats collide or when a boat and personal watercraft (PWC) run into each other. But, they also can involve only one boat and a fixed object, such as a dock or pier. 

Colliding with a fixed object most often occurs when water levels are high, and the obstacles are hidden underneath the water. Being familiar with the area you are boating can help avoid these situations. Still, that is only sometimes possible when exploring new bodies of water, especially in the coastal state of North Carolina, where there are miles of coastline and 59 lakes to explore. 

Boats Flood and Swamp

Boats are typically very stable, but when overloaded, the weight is sometimes distributed unevenly. This uneven distribution causes it to take on water. Boats can lean to the side when too many people are on one side or when cargo and gear weigh it down. 

Taking turns too sharply can also let water in. While it may be exciting to whip a boat around, consider the possibility of swamping your boat before you do it. Making sure your bilge pump is in good working order and remembering to use it is an excellent preventive measure against a water-logged vessel. 

North Carolina is a waterman’s paradise, with beaches and mountain lakes, inlets and oceans, streams and creeks all waiting to be explored. Because so much of the state is boater friendly, there are also a disproportionate number of boating accidents. 

Personal Watercraft (PWC) Accidents 

Motoring around on a PWC can be one of the most thrilling things to do on the water. They are fast, sleek, handle well, turning on a dime. Because of the speed and daredevil qualities that they inspire, they are routinely one of the most likely crafts to be in a boating accident. 

Unlike most boats, PWCs do not have a propeller. Instead, they are jet-propelled. The steerable nozzle propels the craft, and while this works very well, when faced with a collision, most people are inclined to release the throttle, leaving the driver unable to steer. As you know, boats do not have brakes, and depending on the speed, PWCs might need up to 500 feet to stop, posing a danger in areas populated with other boats and even swimmers.

Common fatalities on these boats are caused by blunt force trauma rather than drowning. Distracted operators at high speeds can quickly lose control of their PWC and collide with boats and other obstacles. By law, PWC operators and passengers are required to wear lifejackets. While this helps them avoid drowning if the craft were to capsize, it gives them no protection from blunt force.

Falling Overboard

Most boating accidents, especially fatal ones, happen in boats under 21 feet long. According to statistics from the American Boating Association, eight out of every ten victims who drowned were in boats this size or smaller. 

The American Boating Association study from a recent year revealed that 75% of boating accident fatalities were drownings. Of these accidents, 86% of the people who drowned failed to wear a lifejacket. When thrown overboard, the chance of survival is far more significant for those wearing lifejackets. 

Falling overboard or being thrown overboard can have life-threatening consequences. They can also end in serious injuries. Qualified boat accident attorneys can throw you a lifeline if you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a boating accident and need advice. 

Why Boating Accidents Happen

Lots of conditions may contribute to boating accidents. Property can be damaged, and those involved can be injured or even killed, so a boat accident lawyer needs to analyze your case when you have been hurt due to the negligence of others. Below, we will examine some common reasons boating accidents occur:

  • Failure to heed warnings about conditions, such as small craft advisories, can lead to tragic consequences.
  • Distracted, inattentive boat operators are to blame for many boat accidents on North Carolina waters.
  • Inexperienced boat drivers who do not understand how to handle potential obstacles they may encounter are the cause of minor and severe accidents.
  • Much like on the road, driving too fast for conditions is unsafe. Just because your boat will do a certain speed does not mean it should.
  • Alcohol impairment. Drunk driving poses a probably on the water as it does on the highways.
  • Poor maintenance can lead to boating accidents. The steering, fiberglass, hull, bilge pump, and motor can all cause problems that lead to accidents.
  • Not understanding how to navigate and the rules associated with navigation leads to trouble. 
  • Forceful wakes can overturn other boats. Not paying attention to the wake a boat is creating and if it is in an appropriate area to even generate a wake can cause accidents.
  • High water levels can hide obstacles, while lower-than-average levels can create them. If you are unfamiliar with the water you are boating on, you can easily fall victim to an accident.

Some accidents on the water are associated with negligence. Suppose you have been injured in a boating accident and are searching the internet for boat accident lawyers. In that case, the legal team at the Ricci Law Firm can help you determine how to recover compensation for your injuries and property damage.

Types of Injuries Sustained in Boating Accidents

Most boating accidents do not end in fatalities. Different boats are typically involved in very different types of accidents. The injuries, of course, will differ depending on what kind of accident occurs and its severity.

Listed below are some of the more common injuries sustained in a boating accident:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) 
  • Bone fractures, strains, and sprains
  • Burns
  • Loss of limbs
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Lacerations
  • Hypothermia
  • Drowning
  • Ligament damage

Injuries due to a boating accident can make life more difficult for the victim and their family. A boat accident can leave you with expensive injuries and life alterations. If you have experienced an accident, your boat accident lawyer can advise you about damages you may be eligible to seek. 

Compensation for Boat Accident Victims

Recovery from a boat accident can be lengthy and arduous. Painful injuries, costly medical costs, missed work, and lost income, can make it challenging to keep your head above water. 

Economic Damages

A boat accident attorney can help you sort out your financial situation by explaining to you the compensation you may be eligible for.  Listed below are possible economic damages you may be permitted to recover:

  • Medical expenses, including ambulance travel, emergency room costs, hospital stays, medical tests, surgeries, procedures, prescriptions, and doctor’s appointments
  • Loss of income due to missed work
  • Travel costs to and from medical professionals
  • Loss of future income
  • The cost of altering your home includes adding ramps, raised toilets, zero-entry showers, handrails, guardrails, and lifts.
  • Medical equipment costs for things like wheelchairs, hospital beds, crutches, and walkers
  • Physical, occupational, and psychological therapy

Economic damages are far easier to assign a monetary value to. But, they are not the only damages a boat accident victim seeks. The accident victim may also be eligible to pursue the noneconomic damages listed below. 

Non-economic Damages Following a Boat Accident

Following a boat accident, you may experience damages that are harder to assign a monetary value. There is not a clear bill or cost attached to them, but your boat accident attorney in North Carolina can help you determine how much they are worth for your claim. Listed below are some of the noneconomic damages you may be entitled to:

  • Pain and suffering, while hard to quantify financially, are one of the most challenging parts of recovering from a boat accident. 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life is genuine damage that victims of boating accidents suffer when their injuries are severe, and they are no longer able to enjoy the things they once did.
  • Emotional distress manifests itself in various ways, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders, depression, and anxiety.
  • Loss of consortium applies to the spouse or partner of an accident victim. After a serious injury, the spouse may be owed damages for how it has changed their life, loss of financial support, protection, companionship, sexual relations, or the ability to have children together.
  • Scarring and disfigurement can require multiple surgeries and treatments and can take a psychological toll on the sufferer. At times, they may place new limits on the accident victim’s life.

When a Boat Accident Has You Drowning in the Aftermath, Ricci Law Firm has a Lifeline.

We understand the trauma our clients have experienced after sustaining injuries due to the carelessness or negligence of others. North Carolina’s coast, lakes, and streams are meant to be enjoyed, not to cause pain. Our job is to build the most robust case for our clients and to help them navigate the sea of insurance claims and negotiations so that our clients receive the maximum compensation. 

Reach out today for a free consultation with one of the NC boat accident attorneys with Ricci Law Firm.