Recreational boating is very popular in Victoria, with many locals and tourists cruising down the Yarra River throughout the year checking out the great buildings and architecture that make Melbourne such a beautiful and delightful city.
However as more and more people take to the water each year, many are not aware of the tricky legal issues that arise in the event of a boating accident. It takes only a simple mistake, such as not loading a boat properly, for a fun day out to turn into the worst day of your life.
Accidents do happen, and recent research suggests that there is an increasing potential for boating accidents caused by negligent behaviour. You can try your best to be careful, but when the accident is caused by someone else you may not necessarily see it coming.
What the statistics show
The Maritime Report on incidents that occurred between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2014 shows that during the six months there were:
- 4 fatalities resulting from marine incidents,
- 11 serious injuries resulting from marine incidents,
- 667 recreational marine incidents,
- 580 recreational marine incidents involving a vessel disablement,
- 38 commercial maritime incidents, and
- 12 commercial maritime incidents involving a vessel disablement.
These statistics are rather high, so if you and your loved ones are planning to head out on the boat once spring hits, then it’s important that you’re aware of the risks.
Most common boating accidents
There are many types of boating accidents, with most recreational boating accidents involving capsizing, injuring a swimmer, or hitting other boats. In other instances, people have also fallen or been pushed overboard.
Other types of accidents include:
- Fires and explosions,
- Sinking and flooding,
- A person disappearing, or
- A boat disappearing.
When it comes to negligence, the majority of cases involve a boat:
- Colliding with another boat,
- Hitting another boat’s wake,
- Hitting a wave, or
- Hitting a person or submerged object, rock, or land.
Possible consequences of injury include:
- Back injuries,
- Neck injuries,
- Brain injuries, or
- Temporary or permanent disability.
What to do if you’re involved in a boating accident
First, you must remain calm and vigilant. If you’re in a motorboat, turn off the engine, check all passengers, and give them assistance if required.
- If you are not in immediate danger, you must report the accident to the Water Police on 1800 135 729
- For urgent assistance, contact emergency service. Simply dial triple zero (000) and ask for Victoria Police assistance
- If you’re in charge of a commercial vessel, you must provide full details in writing to Transport Safety Victoria.
Claims and compensation
Boating accidents generally fall under public liability and cover scenarios such as poor driving or steering of a boat, faulty maintenance issues, and being thrown overboard by sudden movements when the boat collides with other boats or objects.
If you have an ongoing injury or permanent impairment that was caused by the other party acting negligently, you are entitled to damages. These may include the reasonable value of your medical expenses, your lost income, as well as emotional and physical pain and suffering.
If you want to see a successful outcome then it’s best to start the investigation early. So speak to a lawyer immediately after the accident to ensure that they can get to work on the case immediately. They will identify and analyse the details of the accident, visiting the site where it happened and hiring the appropriate expert for the investigation.
Your lawyer will need to prove that the other party acted negligently and that their action caused the accident. The lawyer must also prove that you suffered damages as a result of the offender’s negligence.
10 ways to reduce the risk of a boating accident
The Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook is available free of charge. Grab a copy as it contains valuable information that can help prepare you for boating.
Some of the quick tips we like to share with clients who like to go out to sea:
- If you’re a passenger, request a life jacket. If you’re in charge, make sure that everyone is wearing one
- Take an experienced boater with you until you know what you’re doing
- Don’t drink alcohol while driving the boat or when assisting the crew
- If you haven’t yet, attend a boating safety course
- Know where your passengers are and make sure you can always see them
- Don’t show off; slow down so you can maintain a careful lookout
- Know and follow the boating safety and navigational rules
- Triple check the weather forecast
- Book your vessel for regular safety checks
- Equip your boat with reliable communications and warning devices.
If you or someone you know was injured in a boating accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation.
To find out more, call Henry Carus + Associates today. One of our personal injury lawyers will run through how to make a successful public liability claim, so you can get the compensation you’re entitled to.