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What Parts of Illinois Law Govern Personal Injury Claims Related to Boating Accidents?
Illinois cases related to boating accidents are governed by federal law, state law, and common law.
So how are Boat Accidents Governed in Illinois?
The main law governing boating accidents in Illinois is the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act (625 ILCS 45/). This sets out the requirements for boat operators, what to do in case of an accident, and other important terms. Below we have highlighted some of its important sections. The other significant law governing boating accidents is the Jones Act. This is a federal law and primarily covers accidents involving seaman and other workers at sea. Our description of the Jones Act follows information on the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act. It is important that as a boat owner you review these laws and call us immediately so that we can review how they apply to you.
Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act (625 ILCS 45/):
The purpose of this law is to "to promote safety for persons and property in and connected with the use, operation and equipment of vessels and to promote uniformity of laws relating thereto." 625 ILCS 45/1-1. It covers everything from authority to accidents. Here is a review of some of its most important sections:
DEFINITIONS. 625 ILCS 45/1-2. This section defines important terms in the boating landscape such as the following:
- "Vessel" or "Watercraft" means every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, except a seaplane on the water, air mattress or similar device, and boats used for concession rides in artificial bodies of water designed and used exclusively for such concessions.
- "Motorboat" means any vessel propelled by machinery, whether or not such machinery is the principal source of propulsion, but does not include a vessel which has a valid marine document issued by the Bureau of Customs of the United States Government or any Federal agency successor thereto.
- "Non-powered watercraft" means any canoe, kayak, kiteboard, paddleboard, float tube, or watercraft not propelled by sail, canvas, or machinery of any sort.
- "Sailboat" means any watercraft propelled by sail or canvas, including sailboards. For the purposes of this Act, any watercraft propelled by both sail or canvas and machinery of any sort shall be deemed a motorboat when being so propelled.
- "Airboat" means any boat (but not including airplanes or hydroplanes) propelled by machinery applying force against the air rather than the water as a means of propulsion.
- "Dealer" means any person who engages in the business of manufacturing, selling, or dealing in, on consignment or otherwise, any number of new watercraft, or 5 or more used watercraft of any make during the year, including any off-highway vehicle dealer or snowmobile dealer or a person licensed as a new or used vehicle dealer who also sells or deals in, on consignment or otherwise, any number of watercraft as defined in this Act.
- "Lifeboat" means a small boat kept on board a larger boat for use in emergency.
- "Owner" means a person, other than lien holder, having title to a motorboat. The term includes a person entitled to the use or possession of a motorboat subject to an interest in another person, reserved or created by agreement and securing payment of performance of an obligation, but the term excludes a lessee under a lease not intended as security.
- "Waters of this State" means any water within the jurisdiction of this State.
- "Person" means an individual, partnership, firm, corporation, association, or other entity.
- "Operate" means to navigate or otherwise use a motorboat or vessel.
- "Department" means the Department of Natural Resources.
- "Competent" means capable of assisting a skier in case of injury or accident.
- "Personal flotation device" or "PFD" means a device that is approved by the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, under Part 160 of Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
- "Recreational boat" means any vessel manufactured or used primarily for noncommercial use; or leased, rented or chartered to another for noncommercial use.
- "Personal watercraft" means a vessel that uses an inboard motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of motor power and that is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel, rather than the conventional manner of sitting or standing inside the vessel, and includes vessels that are similar in appearance and operation but are powered by an outboard or propeller drive motor.
- "Specialty prop-craft" means a vessel that is similar in appearance and operation to a personal watercraft but that is powered by an outboard or propeller driven motor.
- "Underway" applies to a vessel or watercraft at all times except when it is moored at a dock or anchorage area.
- "Use" applies to all vessels on the waters of this State, whether moored or underway.
- "Authority" 625 ILCS 45/2-1. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has full and complete jurisdiction over the waters of Illinois and the authority to enforce the provisions of this law.
- "Title and Registration". 625 ILCS 45/4-1. All boats must be registered and titled with few exceptions. Those exceptions include boats owned by the United States, boats owned by foreign countries temporarily in United States waters, certain non-powered watercraft, boats used as lifeboats for other baots, and some other exceptions. Boats must prominently display their Hull Identification Number and Registration number as defined in the statute.
- "Safety Equipment". 625 ILCS 45/3-1. This section outlines what boats of various sizes must have for proper operation including lights, flotation devices, engine systems, and other safety equipment.
- "Operation". 625 ILCS 45/5-1. This section outlines and defines the proper operation of common boat maneuvers and activities (such as passing, crossing, diving, water skiing, etc.) as well as unacceptable behavior (such as careless operation, reckless operation, overloading, interference, operating under the influence, etc.).
- "Accidents". 625 ILCS 45/6-1. This section identifies the responsibilities of relevant parties in the event of a boating accident. To the extent reasonable, vessel operators must render aid as well as their contact information to all persons injured in an accident. Also, if the incident results in more than $2,000 of damage, owners must file a report with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources within 5 days; additionally, if someone dies in a boating accident, owners must file a report within 48 of the incident. Finally, following 2013, all owners must submit to chemical testing if their boating accident results in a death or serious injury.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920
(P.L. 66-261, A.K.A. THE JONES ACT):
This federal law allows sailors to seek compensation from their employers for the negligence of the crew, captain, or owner. It was inspired by similar legislation related to railroad workers. Here is the key language found within the Jones Act:
"Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply..." 46 U.S.C. § 30104
- Here are a couple takeaways from this language and its supporting sections:
- They can bring actions for negligence or unseaworthiness.
- They are entitled to a jury trial.
- They can bring their case in state or federal court.
- Persons are defined as sailors and entitled to the privileges of the Jones Act if they spend more than 30% of their time working on a vessel in navigable waters. Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S.Ct. 2172 (1995)
How do Federal and State Laws Mesh With Each Other?
As you can see, Congress and various states such as Illinois have each passed laws related to boat accidents. By doing so, they have each expressed a concern for sailor and passenger safety across the waters of this country. Also, agencies are empowered to enact and enforce rules with respect to ship incidents. How do these different sets of rules and laws connect with each other? Well, federal law is supreme. Thus, whatever laws Congress passes trump whatever the states do if the two conflict on any point. Of course, states can always provide more benefits and protections but they cannot go lower than the floor provided by our national government. This same logic applies to the agencies that Congress authorizes. Also, in certain subject areas, Congress is said to preempt the states. This means that the states have no power to legislate in this field. One area where this might relate is on the topic of international waters or workers about vessels in passage.
Is There a Big Difference Between State and Federal Claims?
Yes, choosing between state and federal jurisdictions will have an extraordinary impact on your boat accident lawsuit. For instance, these two different legal spheres afford you different kinds of relief. Also, state and federal courts differ on the kinds of claims that they recognize. Finally, judges within these courtrooms differ widely on their legal philosophies. All of these things and more can have drastic consequences on the amount of your recovery. Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney before filing your lawsuit so that you maximize the amount of recovery that is available to you.
Want to Know More About Illinois Boat Accident Laws?
The web of laws surrounding Illinois boat accidents is intricate. It takes a lot of skill and experience to navigate them but that's exactly what our team at the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has. We can pursue your recovery with all of the resources, access, and zeal that you need on a contingency basis so that you don't pay a dime until your happy. Don't delay! Contact our offices and a member of the Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC will open your case today.
For additional information see the following pages:
- Can I Sue The Operator of a Boat If He Or She Caused An Injury to Me?
- How Can Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Help Me With An Illinois Boat Accident Case?
- How Long do I Have to File An Illinois Boating Lawsuit?
- What Are Some Statistics Regarding Recreational Boat Accidents?
- What Is Necessary in Order to Pursue a Products Liability Case Against a Boat Manufacturer?
- What Type of Financial Compensation Can I Recover For Injuries Sustained in An Illinois Boat Accident?
- Who Else Can Pursue An Illinois Boating Accident Lawsuit?