Savannah Boating Accidents and Injuries

Because we are fortunate to live in a state with plenty of coastline and several large, man-made lakes, many Georgians enjoy recreational boating. The Georgia Coast, sometimes known as the "Coastal Empire" is replete with beautiful savannahs and wetlands and is known for its outstanding fishing. However, while most boaters take care to be safe and responsible, there is a minority of people who operate their craft recklessly.

When cruising along and having a good time with friends, it can be easy to forget that the boat you are driving is actually a very dangerous machine if mishandled. This is not a problem for skilled boaters who are careful and observant, the addition of nightfall and alcohol can turn an enjoyable boating excursion into an accident waiting to happen.

What Laws Apply to Boating Accidents in Savannah?

First, it is important to know that different rules apply to boating on the high seas vs. inland boating on lakes. At sea, 33 USC 1601 et al is in effect as the international regulations for preventing collisions at sea. The United State Coast Guard has jurisdiction on open waters, while on inland bodies, the Department of Natural Resources is supreme.

Lookout Rule

At all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing to avoid collisions.

Safe Speed

Proceed at a speed low enough to be able to take evasive action to avoid a crash Factors to be considered in deciding what is safe:

  • visibility
  • traffic
  • agility of the vessel
  • draft
  • wind and current
Risk of Collision

At all times be calculating if a risk of collision exists and if you are unsure, then a risk of collision shall be deemed to exist.

How to Avoid Collision

Any change in speed and heading shall be large enough so that other boats can take notice.

Narrow Channel Rule

When traveling in a narrow channel stay to the outer limit of the channel on your starboard side.

This is only a sampling of the rules of high seas navigation and the entire compendium can be review here. In our cases, we retain a boating expert to provide testimony to the jury about the nature and applicability of boating law.

Ordinary Reasonable Care Applies to Boats Too

It is important to understand that, in terms of the requirement to exercise “ordinary care”, boating is treated the same as driving under the law. Additionally, boaters must operate according to boating rules of navigation and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Regulations.

Department of Natural Resources Requirements

Perhaps most importantly, boaters are not allowed to do anything that could endanger the safety of persons or property, including the following actions:

  1. Attempting to jump the wake of another vessel, sometimes referred to as “buzzing”
  2. Not keeping an adequate distance between your boat and other boats, or between a skier you are towing and other objects
  3. Letting someone sit on the side of your boat without a proper safety rail
  4. Exceeding appropriate speed
  5. Traveling too fast when leaving a channel or cove where you could hit an oncoming boat
  6. Having a BAC of 1.0 or higher when operating your boat

People who break any of these rules are charged with a misdemeanor, lose the right to operate a boat, and are fined $1,000. If a child under 14 is onboard while the boater is under the influence, the penalties are even higher.

Experienced boaters know that there are other “classic” rules and procedures determining the correct way to travel, but most people are not familiar with these and instead just drive a boat like a car, on the right side of a waterway.

How to cross in front of another boat?

When boat needs to cross another boat, the vessel on the right (“starboard” in sailing language) has the right of way. The other vessel, which is called the “give way” boat, must avoid a collision by adjusting course or speed.

What to Do When Meeting Head-On

When boats are traveling straight toward one another, they must both steer to the right in order to avoid colliding.

In addition to this, there are other rules and customs outlining what a boater should do when traveling through narrow passageways, such as blowing a horn once to make your presence known to other boaters.

How are boating accidents handled by insurance companies?

In both injury and wrongful death cases where a boater is at fault, the boater’s insurance policy severely limits the victim’s options. Most boaters are not wealthy people, so there is a good chance that the policy will not cover the objective amount that a victim’s claim is worth. In a case involving severe injury or death, it is not uncommon for the claim’s value to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the responsible party does not have that much insurance, however, the victim has little chance of receiving a settlement that large. It is also important to note that in boating injury cases the victim cannot make claims on the responsible person’s car or home insurance policies.

When there has been a serious boating accident, it is not uncommon to have more than one claimant on the responsible party’s insurance policy. In this kind of situation, all of the victims try to reach the insurance company as quickly as possible, in order to receive as much as possible of the total policy. If this sounds like what you are going through, your lawyer should seek out any boating riders on the responsible party’s homeowner’s insurance, in addition to any umbrella policies he or she may have.

Chubb Insurance sometimes provides its high-end homeowners with boat policies that go beyond their clients’ boat-specific insurance. However, it is also important to note that some policies do not include coverage involving boats of more than 50 horsepower. Given the complexity of boating insurance policies, it is important for your lawyer to act carefully and quickly. Because boat injury cases often involve additional maritime insurance laws that are case-specific, hiring an experienced and adept lawyer as early as possible will help you reach the outcome you deserve.