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According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, over 200 boating accidents occurred in 2020, including 10 fatalities. These statistics put the importance of boater safety into perspective; however, people must acknowledge that accident risks typically include personal and external actions. Many crashes include multiple operators, so hiring a boat accident attorney is beneficial, especially if possible negligence or injuries are involved.

Reasons To Hire a Boat Accident Attorney

Should I hire a boat accident attorney after a boat accident?

Many boating accidents result from inadequate safety measures or operator negligence. Some common causes include:

  • Operating a vessel under the influence
  • Excessive speeding
  • Negligent boat maintenance
  • Distracted boating
  • Disregard of Arizona boating laws

Whatever the causes of the accident, an attorney can help affected parties sort through the aftermath and seek restitution. Unfortunately, too many people avoid hiring a lawyer, meaning they often receive inadequate settlements, if they receive any offers.

While there are many reasons to hire or consult an attorney following a boating accident, some are more pressing than others. A boat operator or other accident victim may want to hire a boat accident attorney in at least five cases.

1. Personal Injuries

A boat accident attorney can help you deal with injuries after an accident.

If a person sustains injuries during an accident, they should seek restitution, especially when those injuries are severe. Examples of severe injuries include:

A person should seek restitution because of medical and professional expenses, including surgeries, rehabilitation and lost wages. If the injured party does not seek legal help or sue within a specific window, they may lose all compensation possibilities, which may drain their savings and fall into debt.

A Phoenix injury lawyer can help accident victims avoid financial pitfalls so they receive the compensation and medical treatment they need and deserve. An experienced boat accident attorney understands Arizona boating laws and is familiar with common and severe accident injuries.

2. Insurance Issues

Arizona does not require boat insurance. Without insurance, a liable boat owner may not have the means to compensate an accident victim for injuries or property damage. However, a lack of means does not displace liability.

Accident victims still need financial help for recovery. True, an uninsured boater may not have the money to compensate an injured party all at once, but attorneys can help make payment arrangements.

A non-liable party deserves help. It is not right for a negligent party to get off scot-free. An experienced attorney can help an accident victim work through the filing and negotiation processes to ensure they receive the financial and medical help they need following an accident.

An boat accident attorney likely knows about state and federal aid programs that can help relieve some financial burdens after an accident. They can also help victims understand their insurance policies, including uninsured boater coverage.

3. Negligence Issues

Obeying Arizona boater laws and safety practices does not guarantee an accident-free boating experience, but it reduces the risks. Ignoring the laws and safety standards increases the likelihood of accidents and injuries.

Negligence is one of the leading causes of boating accidents. When a person is the victim of a negligent operator, they have a right to sue and receive compensation.

State authorities may find an operator negligent if they were speeding through wake zones or distracted by their cell phone, for example. Negligence is the worst kind of error because it puts people’s lives at risk.

A boater has the responsibility to operate their vessel reasonably and safely. When they dismiss their responsibility, accident victims have a right to hire an experienced boat accident attorney.

4. Maintenance Causes

A boat owner is responsible for maintaining their vessel through professional inspections and safety checks.

An owner who does not adhere to maintenance schedules risks the failure of essential systems, which can interfere with boating traffic and potentially cause accidents and injuries. For example, a poorly maintained engine can cause the boat to stall in busy waters, resulting in a collision.

If maintenance issues result in an accident or injuries, the owner and operator of the vessel are likely liable for damages. An accident, in this case, may not include another boat. For example, a passenger can file a claim against the owner and their insurance if a boat catches fire because of faulty wiring. Because of the intricacies of boating and negligence laws in Arizona, a victim should seek legal help from a licensed boat accident attorney.

5. Unfair Settlement Offers

Insurance companies are not friends with claimants. While insurance agents or adjusters might seem approachable and friendly, it is best for accident victims or claimants to avoid direct communication without an attorney present.

Insurance companies are for-profit entities, meaning they are in the business of making money. Paying out for claims is a loss, and it is something insurers want to avoid.

It is common practice for insurance company representatives to call, visit and interview prospective claimants and their families. The insurance company wants to find flaws in a victim’s story. Flaws represent opportunities to undermine a claim, allowing for smaller settlements.

An experienced boat accident attorney understands the games insurance agents play. They also understand the importance of sticking to the concrete details of a story. Even considering filing a claim, all accident victims should consult a licensed and seasoned attorney to avoid lowball settlement offers.

How To Respond After a Boating Accident

The immediate aftermath of a boating accident is chaos. Panic, screaming, anger and shock are all common responses to a collision. However, logic and reasoning will help accident victims in the long run despite the chaos.

The minutes following an accident can determine the future outcome of insurance settlements or civil cases. An accident survivor must keep their wits about them to record and document all the pertinent details of the incident and ensure the safety of themselves and others. Most experts agree there are five things every boating accident survivor should do in the aftermath of a crash.

1. Assess the Situation

Before hiring a boat accident attorney, an accident victim needs to survive the incident. Every victim should take a breath in the immediate seconds following the wreck to assess the situation, their injuries and the injuries of others.

A person needs to determine whether it is safe for them to move. They should check for blood or visible injuries. If they can move, they should assess the injuries of their passengers.

If everyone is OK, the next step is to find a safe place to wait for authorities. If the vessel is sinking, it is best to use life rafts or vests and get into the water if it is calm. However, if either boat is safe, it is best to transition to that boat.

A boat accident attorney and other professionals argue that remaining in the boat or making it to dry land is the safest play. Still, if staying in place is not advisable, leaving the boat and weighing your options is better.

2. Contact Authorities

Contacting authorities is an important step after a boat accident.

When everyone, including the boat, is out of harm’s way, capable survivors should contact the authorities. Contacting 911 should be enough to get the Coast Guard to the accident location.

All parties should remain in the area to give their statements to the authorities once they arrive. The Coast Guard or other rescue teams will arrive on the scene and get everyone off the affected vessels to safety. Once safe, investigators will discuss the incident with everyone involved.

Fleeing the accident is not advisable. Any person who leaves the scene of an accident can face criminal charges.

Witness statements and firsthand accounts are invaluable tools for a boat accident attorney. The information helps the attorney and their team piece together the event, which can help corroborate a victim’s story and injuries.

3. Gather Contact Information

One thing that each boat operator should do is request the contact information of the other operators involved. To file a claim, accident survivors will need the following:

  • Boat operator names, phone numbers and addresses
  • Passenger and witness contact information
  • Vessel registration and identification number
  • Operator insurance information and policy numbers

While the contact information of passengers and witnesses is not essential to file a claim, the information helps when building a case. An experienced attorney will use witness statements to aid in their investigation.

If an accident victim wants a more thorough breakdown of the information that would best help a boat accident attorney, they can contact a local law office. Local law firms are familiar with Arizona state laws and can provide the most accurate information for a future claimant.

4. Document the Scene

Having adequate documentation of the scene such as photographs can be helpful when speaking with a boat accident attorney.

Once accident survivors have all the contact information they need and have given their statements to local authorities, they can document the scene. Victims do not need fancy equipment to take pictures or video of the wreckage — a standard smartphone will work. Most mobile phones can take photos and record videos.

A person should focus on documenting the entire scene, including property damage and injuries. They should focus on all vessels involved. Some people will attempt to make more money from an incident by contributing extra damages to the accident. Pictures and video help a boat accident attorney avoid fraudulent claims or countersuits.

5. Visit a Doctor

Finally, an accident victim should visit the hospital. A person can deny emergency service on the scene, but a physician needs to look for potentially hidden injuries, such as whiplash or those disguised by adrenaline. Some accident injuries can take time to manifest, and it is crucial accident survivors have a record of seeking medical treatment.

When going to a doctor following a boating accident, a victim should let the physician know the reason for the visit. Doctors and other medical professionals will note the reason in their records. A boat accident attorney can use medical records as evidence to support a claim.

How To Stay Safe During Boating Season

Boating is an activity with expected risks. Anyone taking part in the activity understands or should understand its risk.

Because the state of Arizona understands the potential threat of personal injury and property damage, it encourages citizens to sail safely. The state and other governmental bodies and agencies suggest that people take five steps to reduce accident risks and injuries.

1. Wear Proper Equipment

Wearing proper equipment can help keep you safe during a boat accident.

A life jacket or wearable personal floatation device is essential. Every boat owner and operator should ensure there are enough PFDs aboard for every passenger and crew member.

If an owner or operator does not provide enough PFDs for everyone on the vessel, a court may find them negligent or liable for passenger-sustained injuries. A boat accident attorney can help boat owners understand their liability risks involving safety equipment.

2. Stock Safety Tools

Beyond PFDs, a boat owner should have essential safety tools onboard. Tools include inflatable life rafts, fire extinguishers, flares and other floatation devices.

3. Understand the Law

No one should get behind the wheel of a boat or watercraft if they do not understand Arizona law. Knowing the rules allows operators to make reasoned and responsible decisions when on the water. If they are unfamiliar with specific boater safety laws, they should consult an attorney.

4. Take Classes

Arizona does not require boater education. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators recommends taking classes for safety and insurance savings. Taking classes and becoming certified can also allow a person to boat in states requiring licensing. However, suppose a person wants to file an accident claim in Arizona for negligence. In that case, the sole reason cannot be a lack of formal coursework, according to a professional boat accident attorney.

5. Know the Weather

Finally, people often underestimate the importance of knowing the weather when out on the water. Storms are usually worse over open water. High winds, violent waves and other unfavorable conditions increase the likelihood of accidents. Any operator planning a day out on the water should check and triple-check the forecast, including wind speed.

How To Hire a Boat Accident Attorney

Hiring a boat accident attorney is not challenging. An accident victim only needs to contact Sargon Law Group and discover the help they need for assessing their claim and gaining the compensation they deserve.