Illinois boasts dozens of popular bodies of water that are ideal for summertime boating including Lake Michigan, Chain O’Lakes, the Chicago River, the Des Plaines River, and the Illinois River. With such great access to the water, it is not surprising that thousands of residents hit the water every year as well as countless tourists and visitors who come for a summer break. Most people enjoy their time on the water safely and then go back to their daily lives but unfortunately for some, a boating trip will turn tragic and will result in an accident.
In 2012 alone, there were 101 boating accidents reported and of those, 69 resulted in injuries and 19 resulted in death. The typical boating accident occurred in June or July during daylight hours and in calm waters. The average age of a boater involved in an accident was between 20 and 40 years old, and among those driving during accidents, most had over 100 hours of boating experience. The most significant factor that the majority of boating accidents had in common was that they involved at least one operator driving in a hazardous or reckless manner and causing a collision with another boat or a fixed object. More than half of the fatal accidents involved a boater under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Most Illinois boating accidents occur as a result of negligence on the part of the driver, whether that negligence is caused by intoxication, distraction, or inexperience. Overwhelmingly, the majority of boating accidents involve operators with extensive on-water experience but little or no formal training. This combination can result in an overconfident operator who may ignore some vital safety procedures.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
In many aspects, boating accidents can mirror car accidents with many of the same factors in each causing collisions in the other. One of the biggest causes of boating accidents is operating under the influence. Too often, drinking alcohol and boating go hand-in-hand in Illinois as friends and family gather for a fun day on the water, but boating under the influence is illegal and dangerous to all of those on the water. Boaters in Illinois face the same standards as drivers when it comes to intoxication by any substance that impairs a driver’s ability to operate a watercraft yet often, those who would never drink and drive choose to boat and drive. Intoxication was a factor in 10 of the 19 boat-related fatalities in Illinois in 2012.
Another common cause of boating accidents is inattentiveness by a boater. Often this results in a collision between two watercrafts or in one watercraft striking an object or a person in the water. Every year accidents occur where a speeding boater fails to notice a swimmer in the water and strikes or runs over the swimmer, often with tragic consequences. In other accidents, a large boat operating at a high speed mail fail to see a smaller boat hidden by waves until it is too late and a collision occurs.
Like other vehicles, boats are subject to wear and require maintenance to keep them in proper working condition. This may require the installation of new parts or repair of broken parts at intervals in the life of the boat. Failing to properly maintain a watercraft can lead to a dangerous condition or even a collision that may result in injuries to those on board or to others in the area. Some properly maintained boats may otherwise be unsafe if they are subject to a flaw or defect in design that makes normal use of the boat precarious to a novel or an experienced boater.
Legal Options Available for Boating Accidents
Many of those who are injured in a boating accident are unaware that they may be able to make a financial recovery for their damages. The type of claim available and whether a recovery is possible varies depending on the type of accident, the injuries sustained by the victim, and whether someone was negligent or reckless in causing the injury. As each incident is unique, it is always a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney after an accident to learn about your legal rights.
As an accident victim, you may be entitled to make a claim against the at-fault boater, marina and/or rental company directly or against his or her insurance policy, if applicable. This can provide you with compensation for your medical bills, any lost wages you were unable to earn, your pain and suffering, and other actual damages you incurred. In the case that your loved one was killed in a boating accident, you may be compensated for your losses including the time you will no longer be able to spend in your loved one’s company.
In some cases, an at-fault boater may not be known or may not be a viable source of a financial recovery. This does not necessarily prevent a victim from obtaining compensation in many accidents and a lawyer can help you realize whether another form of compensation may be available.
The Chicago boating accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. offer a free, no obligation case consultation to all accident victims by telephone at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or online and our legal team is standing by 24 hours a day to assist you. After an accident, call us and let us help you understand your legal rights and whether you are entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.
If you have been injured in a boating accident, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or contact us online for a free consultation.