Boat Accidents Require Special Handling
Each year in British Columbia, dozens of persons are injured in boating accidents. Boats hit the shore, capsize in rough water, collide with other vessels, or sink after suffering damage from striking debris. There have even been cases of powerboats colliding with sailboats.
Apart from drowning, these accidents can cause physical and psychological injuries similar to the injuries suffered in car accidents, but the law is not the same, and these cases do require special handling by experienced boat accident lawyers.
The operation of boats, and the rights of recovery flowing from accidents involving small water craft, is governed in Canada by the federal Marine Liability Act. This statute (enacted by the Federal Parliament in 2001) creates a rigid set of laws governing rights to compensation for injuries arising from boating accidents. The statute puts into effect the rules of the Athens Convention on Maritime Law. Many of the principles set out in the Athens Convention are unique to Maritime Law.
At Hanson Wirsig Matheos, we have handled a number of cases involving injuries arising out of powerboat accidents in local waters. These cases have required specialized investigations into the circumstances surrounding the accidents, including the condition of the waters. Careful attention must be directed towards the ownership details of the boat, its insurance particulars, and the qualifications of the operator of the boat. Many boats in local waters carry marine insurance issued out of London, England. This can result in the cases being defended in a unique manner compared to claims involving North American insurers.
Proving liability in a boating accident claim requires careful analysis of the conditions of the sea and weather at the time of the accident. Generally, it is necessary to engage an expert in the conditions of the local waters, someone with extensive knowledge of a particular waterway, called a “Master Mariner” of the waters in question. He must analyze the wind, currents, tides and waves to give an opinion on the standard of care required of an operator of a boat under these conditions. This is usually necessary to establish liability. It can also be necessary to carefully study the chain of command involved in the boat’s operation. All ships on the water have a “captain” (whether designated or not), whose duty at all times is to protect the safety of the passengers of the vessel. The person at the controls of the boat may or may not be the responsible party, depending upon the boat’s “chain of command.” Usually the boat’s owner or owner’s nominee is deemed to be the “captain of the ship.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, keep in mind the need for specialized representation. Make sure the lawyer you engage has experience with the Marine Liability Act, and that he is familiar with the issues involved in establishing liability in a powerboat injury claim. As experienced boat accident lawyers, we would be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.