Chicago Boat Accident Lawyer
Every summer, boating owners their passengers take to the waterways in Illinois to enjoy the best that the state has to offer.
Whether it is an afternoon out on Lake Michigan, Des Plaines River, Fox River, Illinois River or one of the smaller Chain O' Lakes in the state, Illinois affords residents many different ways to enjoy the water.
Unfortunately, an afternoon on the water can turn hazardous or deadly in a hurry when someone acts carelessly and you or a family member is seriously injured.
When that happens, you could not only be left with severe physical problems, but the costs of medical bills from the accident can also cripple you financially, requiring an experienced boating accident lawyer on your side.
Every year, it seems as if there are reports of people injured in watercraft on IL lakes and rivers in the media. For example, in 2019, a boat overturned and crashed in the Chicago River. Four people that were on the boat perished in the accident.
You have legal remedies when it comes to getting compensation if you are injured in a boating accident in Chicago, IL. You can file a Chicago boat injury lawsuit in order to receive the compensation to which you are entitled to your personal injuries and property damage.
Each Chicago boating accident attorney at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to helping you pursue justice and the compensation that you deserve for your boating accident injuries.
As with all of our serious injury cases, our law firm handles Chicago boating injury cases on a contingency fee basis. Contact our law office today for a free consultation.
Legal Obligation for Operators to Prevent a Chicago Boating Tragedy
Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a watercraft must follow state laws that govern boating in state waters. The state restricts many things that would make operating a boat unsafe.
These regulations are enforced by local authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard.
For example, here are some of the requirements or prohibitions of Illinois boating laws:
- Anyone on a boat (motorboats and sailboats) must wear a personal flotation device (life jackets).
- Nobody may operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The legal blood-alcohol limit for driving a boat is .08, the same as it is for driving a car under the influence.
- The boat must have all of the required safety equipment.
- Operators must adhere to all posted speed limits.
- Operators traveling at night must use the proper lights.
- Drivers cannot enter a no-boat zone or travel above a certain speed in a no-wake zone.
- Persons cannot operate watercraft (such as a jet ski) in a manner that is careless or heedless as to endanger any person or property or that endangers life and limb through recklessness.
When a watercraft owner has broken any one of these laws, it can serve as evidence of wrongdoing in a Chicago personal injury lawsuit against the person.
Statistics About Boat Accidents in IL
The United States Coast Guard puts out a periodic report that contains statistics about boating accidents in the U.S. In 2018, there were 4,145 total boat incidents in the country.
The Coast Guard counted 633 fatalities and over 2,500 injuries that occurred as a result of these accidents. There are approximately 5.3 fatalities for every 100,000 registered recreational boats. Roughly three-quarters of the people who die in boat incident perish as a result of drowning.
Boating accidents resulted in total property damage of over $46 million. Given the injuries and deaths, the true costs of these incidents far exceed that as lives are ruined and people endure lasting harm from the boating accident due to serious injury.
In IL, there were a total of 80 reported accidents that authorities investigated in 2017. These accidents resulted in 48 injuries and 12 fatalities.
However, this number includes only reported boating accidents, and not every boating incident is reported to the authorities because boaters may not realize that Illinois law obligated them to report the accident.
Illinois Laws to Prevent Boating Accidents
Even though IL aggressively enforces its boating laws, it still does not stop drivers from breaking state laws. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the state issues a total of over 6,000 citations and warnings each year to operators.
In 2017, authorities cited 148 boat drivers operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which is down from 180 drivers the year before.
Boating has actually gotten safer in the State of Illinois over the last decade as the number of accidents is down markedly.
However, if you or a family member has been injured in a Chicago area boating accident, the overall boating safety trends are little consolation and will not help you face your situation. This is where an Illinois boating accident lawyer can help you.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Chicago, IL
Watercraft accidents can be caused by a number of different factors. When out on the water, many different things can go wrong, even if the boat operator is attentive and driving under optimal conditions.
Unfortunately, many drivers are either not attentive or the conditions for boating are not the best.
Here are some common causes of watercraft accidents and boat crashes in Chicago, IL:
- Boat operators exceeding the posted speed limits. For example, the driver can be traveling too fast when approaching a harbor where the speed limits are lower. Similar to car accidents, the operator may be going too fast to control the boat and they hit other boats or swimmers in the water.
- Inexperience of boat operators. While it is easy to purchase a boat, learning to operate it safely takes time.
- The driver can be trying to operate the boat in bad weather where there are choppy or rough seas.
- There may be an accident and the boat operator has failed to have the legally required safety equipment on board such as fire extinguishers or life preservers.
- Malfunctioning or improperly maintained equipment can cause fires and give off carbon monoxide which can translate to burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- The boat can strike an object either in the water or it can hit a dock when it is traveling either at a high speed or at night. For example, the accident that killed star major league baseball pitcher Jose Fernandez occurred when the intoxicated baseball player struck a jetty when speeding in his boat at night while he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Potential Defendants in an a Watercraft Accident Injury Lawsuit
There are many possible defendants in a boat injury lawsuit. This is consistent with the fact that there are many different causes of boating accidents.
Here are some possible defendants who could be responsible for injuries sustained in boating incidents:
- Boat Operator of Your Vessel: If you are a passenger on a boat and are injured, you may have grounds for the lawsuit against the driver of the boat or the boating company the operator is employed by, especially if there is an aggravating factor such as intoxication. There is some sensitivity in this type of lawsuit given that the person behind the wheel of the boat may be a family member or close friend.
- Other Boat Operators: If you are a boat driver or rider and were involved in a collision with another boat, you can file a lawsuit against the driver of that other boat. This is also true if you were swimming in the water and you were struck by a boat.
- Manufacturers of Watercraft: If the cause of the boating accident was a defect or something wrong with your boat, you can file a product liability lawsuit against either the company that manufactured the boat or the one that was the retailer that sold it to you.
- Marinas & Harbors: You can also file an accident against any defendant that was responsible for the conditions that surrounded your accident. For example, the dock where you were parking or storing your boat may have been negligently maintained and could be the cause of your boating accident. Viable cases can also be filed for lack of safety equipment such as life jackets.
Compensation Available After a Chicago Boat Accident
You are able to recover both your economic and non-economic damages in a Chicago boating accident lawsuit.
When you receive a settlement of a boating injury claim or a jury verdict in a lawsuit, your financial compensation is supposed to put you in the same position as if the boating injury never happened at all. This means that all of your past, present and future damages are paid for by the insurance company. You can recover all of the following in a boating injury settlement or lawsuit.
- Any medical expenses that you have expended or will expend, minus the amount that reimburses your insurance company for what they have paid;
- Lost wages from your employment both in the past and future, including any loss of earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering for what you have endured, including compensation for future pain;
- The costs of any nursing or other care that you need while recovering from your injuries or to care you when you will not recover;
- Family members can also be compensated for the loss of consortium.
- If the accident has resulted in death, there may be damages for wrongful death under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act;
- Any damage to your property caused by the accident, including your boat if it was damaged in the accident;
- If the actions of the defendant were extremely reckless, shocking or egregious, you may be able to recover punitive damages. However, this is rare in a Chicago personal injury lawsuit.
How a Chicago Boat Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Each personal injury lawyer in our law firm is committed to getting the best possible recovery for you or your loved one.
In order to prove that the other party was negligent, our Chicago boating accident lawyers need to demonstrate what they did and why it was unreasonable.
This may include gathering the following evidence:
- Photographs of the accident scene including documentation of the damage to
- If the Coast Guard or local boating police was called, a report of the incident showing law enforcement's version of what happened.
- Any witness statements from people who saw the accident in which you were injured
- Your medical records and medical bills that show the scope and nature of the injuries that you suffered and when you received medical attention.
- Your earnings statements and any proof of your future earning capacity
- Testimony of medical professionals as to what you have endured during and since your accident
If you are able to take a picture at the scene of the accident, make sure to document the scene of the accident right after it happened.
It is especially important to obtain proof of any intoxication which can include alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia.
Your boat accident lawyers will help you assemble all of this information and will assist you in investigating and documenting your case.
At first, you will be seeking a settlement of your claim, but the case will go to court if the insurance company does not make a reasonable settlement offer.
Who Can Pursue an Illinois Boating Accident Lawsuit?
Anyone who was injured in an accident on bodies of water in the state (rivers, lakes or ponds) can file a lawsuit against the party responsible for it.
Boating lawsuits are not limited to just drivers of the boats. If you are a rider in the boat or even someone who was swimming in nearby water, you can file a lawsuit against the boat operator who was responsible for your injuries.
As you saw above, many accidents occur when people are hit by passing boats. Those on jet skis and tubes are very vulnerable to the actions of boaters since they are exposed to the water. These fun activities can turn deadly in an instant if a passing boater is operating their craft recklessly.
In addition, when you are a rider on a boat, you can file a lawsuit against either the driver of your boat or the boat that your craft collided with, depending on whose actions caused the accident.
Are There Any Other Kind of Boating Accidents That Will Allow Me to File a Lawsuit?
Any accident that occurs on the water where there is any kind of motorized or flotation device involved can lead to a lawsuit when there is poor judgment involved.
An example of this is the many tour boats that make their way down the Chicago River or the fishing party boats that go out onto Lake Michigan. The operators of these boats owe a duty of care to their passengers to act as a reasonable boat operator would.
The boats that these operators take onto the water must be in proper working order and they must be fully equipped with the required passenger safety equipment.
The crewmembers must be fully trained to act in the event of an emergency. When a boat lacks proper equipment or the crew is not properly trained, the operator is the one who is responsible.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in an Illinois Boat Accident? Talk to Our Chicago Boating Accident Attorneys Now
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, we help you obtain your day in court in order to maximize the amount to which you are entitled after a boat accident on an Illinois lake, river or pond.
A Chicago boat accident lawyer from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers will help you present your case to the insurance company. If your claim cannot be settled, we can then help you try the case in court.
Our injury attorneys have extensive experience helping accident victims present their cases and call on experts in the field to put your strongest case forward.
During the age of covid-19, we are handling all consultations regarding boating accidents via phone or video conference. Contact us today for free consultation with a Chicago boat accident attorney.