Charleston Boating Accident Lawyer

Just as Charleston’s three rivers converge to meet the Atlantic Ocean, the peninsula and neighboring islands have created an intrinsic gathering place for U.S. residents and visitors alike. For many, alcohol is synonymous with boating and celebration, but it is also the highest contributing factor in recreational boating accidents and fatalities. Fluid waterways which prohibit proper boundaries and the constant motion of a floating vessel can sometimes spell disaster offshore when combined with a lack of focus.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident — as an operator, swimmer, jet ski driver, or water skier — Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers are here to help. Determining how an accident happened is essential to holding the responsible party accountable for medical bills and other economic and non-financial losses. Once contacted, we will send a Charleston boating accident attorney to the site to connect with local officials, secure the vessel or watercraft involved, order an inspection and make sure your rights and interests are protected.

Charleston Boating Accident Statistics

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, in 2017, South Carolina had 151 boating accidents, including 13 fatalities and over $2.9 million in damages. The following graphic demonstrates the causes and factors of fatal boating accidents during 2017. Surprisingly, operator errors meet or surpass hazardous waters and weather contributions, while predictably, alcohol use far exceeds any other causes.

A Charleston boating accident lawyer understands the multiple facets involving recreational boating accidents. Our objective is to demonstrate the highest caliber of legal representation for the injured parties. We are confident that taking steps to win compensation for those harmed by reckless boating accidents will ultimately contribute to the safer use of Charleston’s waterways.

Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Accidents and Injuries on the Water

Not all accidents and injuries are preventable, but many are. Here are some tips to reduce your risk:

  • Always wear a life jacket, even if you know how to swim. You could be disoriented or knocked unconscious in an accident, and a life jacket may keep you from drowning.
  • Don’t rely on smartphones, which may not have service everywhere on the water. Keep a working VH-FM marine radio on board in case you need to call for help in n emergency.
  • You should also have a US Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher on board.
  • If you get tired, your attention may waver, and inattention is another common cause of accidents on the water. Plan to take turns with another experienced boater if you will be out for a long time, or anchor your boat and take a break.
  • Be careful not to overweigh the boat by crowding it with passengers or carrying too much heavy equipment.
  • Don’t mix alcohol with operating a boat. Have a “designated driver” or hire a professional to operate the boat while you and your friends have a good time.
  • Reconsider going out on the water if the weather is particularly bad or stormy.

Rules and Regulations for Boating in South Carolina

As with driving a car, there are rules to keep people safe on the water. It’s important to understand these, and we recommend everyone who plans to operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) take a boating safety course to get up to speed. Here are some essential rules for boating in South Carolina:

  • Anyone operating a boat is expected to use a “reasonable degree of care” to avoid hurting others. If you’re in an accident with another boat, whether or not the other operator displayed that “reasonable degree of care” will be an important question.
  • Don’t speed. Officially boaters are prohibited from going at a speed likely to cause injury, although some people may have different ideas about how fast that is. There are specific speed limits in certain situations. For example, boaters should not go faster than idle speed (the minimum speed required to stay in control of the boat) within 50 feet of a moored/anchored dock, a wharf or pier, any person in the water, or signs warning “Idle speed” or “No wake, idle speed.”
  • Boats should not be anchored in a way that stops other watercraft from traveling through a channel or river, or obstructs a pier, wharf, or boat ramp. In general, try not to make an obstacle of your boat.
  • You should not attach your boat to navigation aids like buoys or beacons.
  • Boating under the influence is illegal and carries stiff penalties, depending on how many offenses you’ve had. If you are seriously hurt in an accident caused by an intoxicated boater, they can be charged with felony Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and face up to 25 years in prison. You will still need to file an insurance claim and possibly a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damages. An experienced boating accident lawyer can advise you on the best way to pursue compensation in your particular situation.
  • Ensure your boat or PWC meets all the safety equipment requirements, including the appropriate number of flotation devices, navigation lights, fire extinguishers, sound-making devices, and visual distress signals.

What Should You Do After a Boating Accident in South Carolina?

A boating accident can be frightening and leave you reeling. Try to stay calm and follow these steps after a crash occurs on the water:

  • Immediately stop your boat and remain at the scene of the crash.
  • Check yourself and others on your boat for injuries and the occupants of the other boat. Do your best to help anyone who is hurt or needs assistance. Call for emergency assistance if anyone is seriously injured.
  • As you would do in a car accident, exchange contact and insurance info and boat registration numbers with the other party.
  • Take pictures of your boat, the other boat, and any other damaged property at the scene.
  • Seek medical attention even if you don’t think you were badly hurt. Sometimes injuries don’t present symptoms immediately, but you may develop severe pain a few hours or even days later. It’s a good idea to get checked out to document any issues you have and rule out any serious problems that need immediate attention.

How Do You Prove Liability in a Boating Collision?

Boating crashes with other watercraft can be complicated, some more so than others. It’s common for an injured party to seek compensation from the other boater’s insurance, only to receive a denial. Often, the other boater claims they weren’t at fault, and their insurance company is happy to accept that explanation since it gives them an excuse not to pay the claim.

If you’ve been hurt in an accident on the water, speak to a Charleston boating accident attorney as soon as possible. They can advise you on all the possible ways to cover your damages, including sorting out any liable parties (there may be more than one). Depending on the situation, you may have a claim against the boat’s operator, the boat’s owner, or occasionally the boat’s manufacturer (if some sort of defect led to the accident). Rarely another third party may be liable, such as when a third party provided alcohol or drugs to someone who later operated a boat under the influence and hurt someone.

In many cases, we find that another party’s actions were negligent, leading to the victim’s injuries. Here are some examples of negligence in boating crashes:

  • Getting too close to another watercraft or cutting off the other boat by crossing its path.
  • Ignoring clear signs to the contrary and going into restricted areas of waterways.
  • Permitting passengers to ride in unsafe areas of the boat where they are likely to fall overboard, like the bow, transom, or seatbacks.
  • Going too fast.
  • Failing to have all the necessary safety equipment, such as flotation devices or navigation lights.
  • Boating under the influence.
  • Failing to pay attention while operating a boat and hitting another watercraft or person in the water.
  • The boat operator allows someone inexperienced to operate the boat, especially without supervision.
  • It’s not just boat operators – someone on a jet ski or other small craft may be negligent if they run over another person in the water or hit another craft.

What if the Other Boater Isn’t Insured?

Unfortunately, boater liability insurance isn’t required in South Carolina (although it’s highly recommended), so you may find that the person who caused your accident isn’t insured. Naturally, this is very upsetting, and we’ve received more than a few calls from people wondering if they have any recourse.

Fortunately, there are other options in most cases. In some situations, the boater’s homeowner’s insurance may cover the accident, but not always. We will thoroughly look for any applicable insurance policy, but if none exists, we’re prepared to help you sue the boat’s owner directly for damages.

Your lawyer will also work with an investigative team to uncover as much evidence as possible in your case. Investigators will talk with witnesses, go over any photos or video of the crash or the scene, review what safety precautions were taken, and work to understand exactly how your injuries occurred. In many cases where the responsible party was insured, but the claim was denied, we’re able to find additional evidence that convinces the insurance company to reconsider the claim. If not, or there is no relevant insurance policy, we will fight for you in court or mediation. Our goal is to help to secure a settlement that will allow you to pay your medical and other bills and move on with your life.

Damages in a Boating Accident

If you’ve been injured on the water, you may have suffered several kinds of damages. Figuring out how much compensation you should expect can be complicated, and most people will not think of everything that should be included. Your lawyer will review all of these items with you to ensure you seek enough money to cover all your expenses.

  • Healthcare costs. Exams, tests, X-rays, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up visits, and physical therapy can all be expensive. You’re entitled to compensation for your medical costs, including future expenses, if you expect to need ongoing care.
  • Lost wages. If your boating accident left you out of work for days, weeks, or months, you could have suffered a serious loss of income. We’ll help you figure out exactly how much money you lost so you can recover it.
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement. This includes lost earning potential if your disability prevents you from returning to work or forces you to work fewer hours or switch to a lower-paying job.
  • Property damage to your boat or other items on the boat.
  • Pain and suffering, including emotional or mental pain and distress, as well as the pain from physical injuries.

Auger & Auger Boating Accident Lawyers

Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers will help you deal with the insurance company, following through with all legal processes required to make a claim for your compensation. There may be multiple persons or entities to be held responsible, from commercial vessels with liability policies to manufacturers of the watercraft or maintenance providers.

The first few days after a boating accident are critical for gathering and preserving evidence due to the quick deterioration of the accident scene. Please do not hesitate to call our Charleston boating accident attorney today! We make the pursuit of a claim for damages and handle all the paperwork and legal tasks our job — so you can focus on your health and well-being. Even if you’re unsure who’s fault the accident was or if you have a valid claim, call us for a free consultation, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions and explain the options.

Call (843) 203-5129 for your free consultation today, with no fees due until recovery!