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Tacoma Boat Accident Attorneys

Representing Victims of Serious Boating Accidents, Collisions, and Drownings

Perfectly situated beside Commencement Bay, Tacoma is an excellent launching off point for boat owners looking to enjoy the sun and waters of Puget Sound. But as much fun as boating is along the surrounding inlets and bays, operators and owners can often act irresponsibly. Whether it is illegally operating a bota while intoxicated, forgetting to purchase important safety equipment, or failing to fix a maintenance issue, boat owners can be held liable if they cause a serious accident or drowning.

If you were injured by a negligent boat owner, you should immediately contact Pendergast Law, to discuss your legal options. Our Tacoma boat accident attorneys have extensive experience representing clients after serious accidents and can explain to you your rights in a personal injury claim. Given the costs of your medical bills and the extent of your injuries, you may be able to recover compensation that allows you to recover comfortably. To determine if you are eligible for compensation, contact our office at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860 to schedule a free consultation.

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Common Types of Boating Accidents in Puget Sound

Boaters should always be aware of the inherent dangers when heading out on the water. In addition to the possibility of getting caught in serious weather conditions, it is not uncommon to encounter reckless or negligent boat owners. With all the fun that comes with boating, many operators choose to speed or make dangerous maneuvers, oftentimes putting occupants, other boaters, and swimmers at risk of suffering serious injuries.

If a boat owner or operator acts negligently out on Puget Sound, they could cause:

  • Collisions with other boats
  • Collisions with fixed objects, such as rocks or buoys
  • Collisions with swimmers
  • The boat to run aground
  • Drownings if a boater is thrown overboard
  • Carbon dioxide poisoning from exhaust fumes
  • Boat fires
  • The boat to capsize, or rollover

These accidents are rarely ever minor, especially after a collision or drowning. Boaters could suffer traumatic spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, and even die from drowning. Oftentimes, the injuries are the result of a negligent boat owner or operator who violated the Washington state laws.

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Washington State Boating Rules and Regulations

Boat operators and owners are responsible for making sure their vessels are safe to operate, that everyone aboard is aware of any safety issues, and providing life-saving equipment. Sadly, many are not as experienced as they appear and may forget to purchase safety equipment or inspect old equipment that is out of use.

Common tools that boat owners are required to have aboard their boats in the state of Washington include:

  • U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone on board
  • Sounding devices like horns or whistles
  • A navigation light to see in fog, rain, or in lowlight, such as duck or dawn
  • Visual distress signals like flares
  • Throwable flotation devices
  • Type B-1 fire extinguisher

In addition to this safety equipment, operators should have minimal survival equipment in the case of an emergency, which can include:

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Knife
  • Two forms of communication – cell phones, radios, signal flares, and distress signals
  • Bailing system
  • Anchors and ropes
  • Navigation equipment – binoculars, compasses, maps, charts, GPS, and tide books
  • Oars/paddles
  • Sun protection
  • Rescue equipment – throw bags, lifting tackle, strobe lights
  • Extra clothes in a dry bag in case a boater is at risk of suffering hypothermia
  • Ditch bags
  • Water and snacks to prevent dehydration and starvation

The Washing State Parks Department has a complete boater’s checklist to remind boat operators of the exact equipment they are required to have on board at all times and their individual uses. If an operator did not have important safety equipment on board when you were injured, leading to you suffering additional trauma, they could be held liable for violating Washington state law and contributing to your injuries.

But, of course, boaters can also be held liable for directly causing your injuries, such as through operator negligence. Common ways that boat operators cause serious injuries to boaters and swimmers include:

  • Speeding in a “no wake zone”
  • Operating a boat while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • Failing to follow navigation guidelines
  • Reckless operation, such as sharp turns or moving the vessel near swimmers
  • Failing to maintain distance from other boats, swimmers, docks, and objects

In the state of Washington, these are not simple guidelines, but actual laws. If a boat operator acted in a negligent manner, then they could be found liable for any injuries under RCW 79A.60.030, which includes acting in a manner that will likely cause injuries to other people. Based on these laws, if a boater did cause your injuries, then you could file a claim again them to recover compensation.

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Legal Options After an Accident

Unlike cars, boats do not legally have to have liability insurance; however, if a boat owner wishes to enter or dock at a marina, then the marina can require that they purchase liability insurance to cover anyone they injure in an accident. Given the possibility of serious injuries and property damage to other vessels, boats can have sizable insurance policies for accident victims to file against.

But, in order to file a claim against a boat owner’s insurance policy, you must first demonstrate why they are liable for your injuries. This includes following the proper procedures for a personal injury claim, which includes proving that:

  1. The boat owner or operator owed you a duty of care;
  2. The boat owner or operator acted negligently and broke that duty of care;
  3. By breaking their duty of care, the boat owner or operator injured you or caused the death of a loved one; and
  4. That injury led to damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

In general, all boat owners and operators have a duty of care to everyone around them, including occupants of their boats, other boaters, swimmers, dock workers, and anyone on the water or shore near them. If they acted negligently, such as speeding excessively, and caused your injuries, then you would be eligible to file a claim under Washington state law.

However, there is a time limit for a claim. This is referred to as the statute of limitations, and in Washington, it is three years from the date of your injury. If you fail to file a claim by this deadline, you could be barred from receiving compensation for your injuries altogether. Your best option after a boat accident in Tacoma is to contact an experienced attorney who can investigate your accident, collect evidence, calculate the costs of your injuries, and negotiate with the insurance company.

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Contact Pendergast Law

Boating accidents are rarely ever minor, often involving a large amount of property damage and traumatic injuries. Victims could be left out of work for weeks to months as they recover, or be completely disabled and unable to continue with their career. This can lead to a mountain of medical debt with no way to get out from under it. However, if your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence, then you are well within your right to file a claim and should immediately talk to a Tacoma personal injury attorney.

At Pendergast Law, our attorneys have more than 40 years of experience representing accident victims throughout Tacoma and thoroughly understand how to file a successful personal injury claim. We can review the details of your injuries, speak to your doctors, collect witness statements, and work to get you the compensation you need to recover. To get the best legal aid in Tacoma, contact our office at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860 and schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney.

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