North and South Carolina are full of beautiful, big lakes that beg for a day out on the water. Add in the beautiful shores and white peaks of Myrtle Beach and the rest of the states’ shorelines, and it’s easy to see why boating is so popular in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, its popularity means boating accidents are much more common than they should be.
Though boats are used for pleasure and work, pleasure boating is the most common cause of accidents. Most often, these accidents happen because someone is acting negligently. A vessel operator may get behind the wheel of the boat when they’re inebriated, or they may ignore other boats and obstacles in the water.
No matter the reason, if you are involved in a boating accident in the Carolinas, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer severe — and sometimes life-threatening — injuries. If another person is responsible for these injuries, you have legal options. North and South Carolina law lays out a clear path for recovering compensation after injuries caused by a boating accident.
At Auger & Auger, our boating accident attorneys can help you get the total compensation you deserve. We have been assisting members of the Carolina community for over 26 years. Call us at (855) 969-5671 or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 4,291 accidents in 2017 across the country. These accidents resulted in 658 deaths and 2,629 injuries. Of these accidents, the most common known cause of death was drowning. Alcohol was a contributing factor in about a fifth of all fatal boating accidents. In addition, over 80% of operators involved in fatal accidents did not have proper training.
In North Carolina, there were 117 boating accidents in 2017. Fifteen of those wrecks were fatal and resulted in 71 non-fatal injuries. The most common type of accident was collisions with a recreational vessel (32 accidents), followed by collisions with a fixed object (21 accidents). Drowning was the most common cause of death (13 deaths).
South Carolina had similar statistics, especially regarding causes of accidents and fatalities. There were 151 boating accidents in 2017, resulting in 85 injuries and 13 fatalities. Most of those were collisions with recreational vessels (54 accidents), followed by collisions with a fixed object (28 accidents). Drowning was the most common cause of death in boating accidents (9 fatalities).
These statistics are solely regarding recreational vessels. Recreational boats include:
Boating accidents fall under both federal and state laws. If the accident happens at sea instead of on a lake or river, maritime law is enacted instead of state law. Under federal law, all accidents that result in death, disappearance, injury that requires treatment beyond first aid, property damage above $2,000, or a destroyed boat must be reported to state authorities.
This report must be made within 48 hours after a fatal accident or within ten days for other situations. In South Carolina, you must report the accident to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources if any of the above criteria apply.
North Carolina specifically requires you to report the accident to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission if there is:
After you have made your report, speak to a boating accident attorney. Injuries caused by someone else’s actions or negligence may be compensable under North and South Carolina law. In order to successfully seek compensation, you need to prove that the person responsible for your injuries either acted willfully, or they acted negligently. Negligence is a legal standard that must be met by proving:
People who operate boats have a duty of care to take reasonable action to avoid injuring their passengers, those in the water, and people on other vessels. For instance, if they see a large wave coming, they have an obligation to avoid it if at all possible. Similarly, boaters have an obligation to avoid colliding with other vessels.
Not every boating accident is caused by negligence. For instance, if a boat operator hits an underwater object that isn’t noted on current navigational or nautical charts, they may not be held liable for injuries since this was an unforeseeable circumstance. However, if the accident is caused by a foreseeable circumstance, the boat operator is said to have breached their duty of care.
Injuries aren’t always directly related to the breach of duty of care. For instance, if you fall out of the boat because you weren’t seated properly, the boat operator may not be liable. In another example, if a person dies because they were thrown overboard in an accident, but they weren’t wearing a life jacket that was provided on the boat, the vessel operator may only be partially liable.
This is important because in North Carolina, contributory negligence laws mean if you are even a little bit to blame for your injuries, you can’t recover compensation. In South Carolina, you can recover compensation if you are less than 50% at fault for your injuries. However, the amount you recover is lessened by the amount you are at fault.
This is typically the easiest element to prove. If you have medical bills, property repair invoices, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, and other evidence that can show you suffered actual monetary damages.
Boating accidents are more common in the summer months when many people are out on the water – more boats lead to more risk of a collision. We also see an increase in these incidents around holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and New Year’s. These are days when people are not only celebrating on the water but may be drinking more as well – attempting to steer a boat while intoxicated can be a major risk factor for a boating crash. Although accidents are more common at these times, a boating collision can occur at any time, and you should always observe safe boating practices:
You should also consider taking a boater education course and investing in an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
There are many contributing factors to collisions on the water, and some incidents may have multiple contributions. Determining the exact reasons after an accident can take time as investigators look into what happened. However, here are some common scenarios:
If you have been injured in a boating accident, either caused by another boat operator or the person operating the vessel you’re on, you may be entitled to compensation. At Auger & Auger, we know how complicated the legal process can be after this type of accident. We’re here to help you understand the complete process to figure out the best steps for you and your family.