Though many thousands of people safely enjoy recreational boating here in South Carolina’s great and beautiful rivers, lakes, and coastal ocean, being out on the water is always a little bit dangerous. You can take every safety precaution available, but when it comes down to it, sometimes there’s just no accounting for the actions of other people. You need to know about where the liability may lie in a boating accident before it happens, not after the fact. How do you hold someone responsible for an accident, and how can you recoup your losses for medical bills, injuries, and more? How do you protect yourself legally, whether the accident is your fault or not?
Filing a Negligence Suit After an Accident
In order to get compensation after an accident, you may have to file a lawsuit. You’ll be required to prove in a court of law that the operator acted with negligence. The basis of any negligence lawsuit is that the accused person did not act with a reasonable amount of care, and that his or her action (or inaction) caused an accident that resulted in damage or injury. An example of negligence might be when someone does not follow accepted maritime laws or practices, such as:
Failure to obey no-wake zones and idle-speed-only rules, such as within 100 yards of the Atlantic shore, or within 50 feet of an anchored or moored vessel, a dock, pier, or bulkhead, or someone who is in the water
Failure to maintain a lookout for hazards or other dangerous conditions that could result in an accident
Failure to yield right-of-way, according to maritime rules: if you are to cross paths with another vessel, if that vessel is on your right (starboard) side, you must yield
Failure to possess or maintain adequate safety equipment or PFDs (personal flotation devices)
Operating recklessly or without regard to safety, including operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Whether you’re cruising off the Atlantic coast at Myrtle Beach or pleasure boating on Lake Marion, not following these or other rules of the water can result in a disaster that may have otherwise been avoidable.
How to Protect Yourself From Liability
One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a recreational boat owner or operator is to buy boater’s insurance. South Carolina does not legally require you to carry an insurance policy, although if you borrowed money to buy your boat, your lender might. A good insurance policy can really save your bank account if something bad happens while you’re out on the water. Boat accidents get expensive quickly, and at a bare minimum, a liability policy will cover you if someone is hurt (bodily injury) or property is damaged. Boater’s insurance is usually much cheaper than home or auto policies, so you may also want consider some of the following coverages, just in case:
Uninsured or underinsured coverage. Protects you if someone else hurts you or damages your property but doesn’t carry an insurance policy of his or her own. This is extremely important in South Carolina, since insurance isn’t required by state law.
Comprehensive collision coverage. This will protect you if you damage your boat and it’s your fault.
Salvage coverage. If your boat sinks and you cannot retrieve it immediately, salvage can be extremely expensive, and the cost of insurance is often extremely cheap.
There are additional coverages also available, but these are the big ones that can really save your wallet from disaster after an accident.
Get Legal Help After an Accident
The number one tip for protecting yourself after a boating accident is to get legal help fast. Don’t give a statement to insurance companies or speak to adjusters until you’ve consulted with an attorney. Remember, insurance companies are not in the business of paying out claims, and if they can spin your words to reduce the amount of your claim, they will. Contacting someone sooner, rather than later, will also help ensure that you don’t miss South Carolina’s statute of limitations laws, too.
At the Law Offices of Kenneth E. Berger, we would like to help you recover after your boating accident. You could be owed compensation to help you cover the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage that was caused by somebody else’s negligence on the water. To talk about your case, give us a call in our Columbia offices at 803-790-2800.