Yacht & Recreational Boat Collision

Yacht and recreational boat collisions occur largely because people underestimate the dangers of yachts and boats as compared to cars. Powerboats such as runabouts, cabin cruisers and jet skis are the most common watercraft involved in collision, although sailboats can be involved in collisions as well. Having previously represented yacht and boat owners involved in collisions through the appointment of marine insurance carriers for 19 years, the board certified maritime attorneys at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak are in a unique position to help in the event of a collision between yachts, boats or personal watercrafts (a/ka jet skis and skidoos). The lawyers at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak with offices in Miami, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas are here to help victims of yacht, boat and personal watercraft (“PWC”) collisions and the resulting injury and even death.

Liability for yacht and boat collisions can be divided into 3 categories: (1) violation of safety or navigation rules; (2) failure to abide by recognized customs and uses in the area; and, (3) failure to follow general concepts of prudent seamanship and reasonable care.

Collisions involving yachts, boats and PWC are generally caused by one or both operators’ failure to abide by the federally prescribed navigational and/or safety rules. The law punishes those who disobey these regulations by presuming them at fault. The only way the violator can rebut this presumption is by proving that the violation "could not have contributed in the slightest degree to the accident" -- something rarely accomplished. Violations that trigger this presumption include:

  • Not having the appropriate licenses,
  • Failing to display appropriate lights,
  • Disobeying navigational rules (“Rules of the Road”),
  • Not sounding the appropriate horn signals in limited visibility situations,
  • Not keeping a lookout,
  • Failing to monitor radar, and
  • Not maintaining a safe or posted speed.

The second way liability can be imposed is where an operator failed to follow recognized navigational customs in the area where the collision occurred. Customs, no matter how well entrenched in the area, are not rules and cannot serve to trigger a rebuttable presumption. However, if it is shown that an operator failed to follow the area’s custom for the particular navigational situation, s/he will be deemed liable.

The final situation liability may be imposed in the absence of a statutory or custom violation is when an operator failed to follow general concepts of prudent seamanship and reasonable care. This standard is applied on a case by case basis considering the circumstances and whether a prudent operator would have acted similarly. Should it be determined that the operator did, or did not, do something a reasonably prudent operator would have done then s/he will be found liable for the collision.

A person injured due to a boat or yacht collision is entitled to a wide range of damages including payment of medical bills, lost wages, loss of the enjoyment of life, as well as, pain and suffering. Damages for wrongful deaths arising from a collision depend upon the person’s “status” aboard the vessel (e.g., crewmember, passenger or guest) and where the death occurred (inland waterways, navigable waterways but within 3 nautical miles, navigable waters beyond 3 nautical miles). For a discussion on wrongful death claims and associated damages please click Wrongful Death Claims.

Federal law requires that personal injury and death claims resulting from a collision on navigable waters must be filed within three (3) years from the date of the accident. However, if you are a passenger on a cruise ship, the ticket provisions may require you to file a claim within one (1) year and provide notice to the cruise operator within 120 to 160 days of the accident. These time periods may be different under state law and even different from state to state.

Hiring an experience maritime attorney knowledgeable of this specialized area of law can be the difference in your case. The attorneys at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve. To reach our lawyers you may click email the firm, call 1-800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.


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