June 4, 2020

Matthew Van Nostrand

Boating accidents are unfortunately quite common in the Okanagan. As the temperatures skyrocket, so do the number of boats on the lake, which increases the risk of an accident.

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, you may be wondering if it is possible to pursue compensation similar to a motor vehicle accident. As in so many areas of law, the answer is…it depends.

Right to compensation for injuries in a boating accident

There are many types of boating accidents that can cause personal injury, such as collisions with other boats, slip/falls on boats, and sinking boats. Your right to compensation depends on whether someone else was at fault for the accident. Sometimes accidents just happen, other times they could have been avoided through better care and attention, such as when a boat operator is impaired (through drugs or alcohol), driving recklessly, or failing to follow the ‘rules of the water’.

Laws governing the operation of boats

Similar to the ‘rules of the road’, there are laws that govern the operation of pleasure crafts in Canada. There are also various regulations, licensing and registration rules that must be followed by boat operators. The rules have evolved from maritime law, which goes back centuries, and sets out speed limits, right of way, and signaling requirements. Aside from the ‘rules of the water’, there is a standard of care expected of anyone operating a boat, to ensure they do not unreasonably endanger others.

It is important that the lawyer you hire is intimately familiar with the laws and regulations that govern boating in BC waters, as they are much different from motor vehicle laws and regulations, and the success or failure of your lawsuit very much depends on your lawyer being able to navigate the legal framework for you. For starters, the rules for how and when a claim can be brought for compensation in a boating accident is governed by a federal law (the Marine Liability Act) that limits the amount of compensation that can be awarded in a personal injury case. The Marine Liability Act also deals with apportioning liability and limitation periods.

What should you do if you’ve been injured in a boating accident?

First and foremost – seek medical attention for your injuries, being sure to carefully set out any symptoms you’ve experienced as a result of the accident, and then closely follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. Insurance companies will look at your clinical records to confirm your injuries – if the symptoms aren’t mentioned in the records, they won’t believe they are caused by the accident. Also, if you do not follow your doctor’s recommendations, the insurers will say that you’ve ‘failed to mitigate your damages’, meaning that you’ve failed to minimize your injuries by getting the right treatment.

The second thing you should do is call an experienced boating accident lawyer. It will be important to gather evidence as early as possible in order to prove your case, which may involve:

  • Securing photographs or video of the incident
  • Securing the damaged vessel
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Reviewing and archiving social media accounts
  • Obtaining the police report
  • Hiring a private investigator

The earlier you involve a lawyer, the better. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the viability of your claim, and will be proactive in taking the steps outlined above to ensure that your case can be proven in a court of law. Also, it is important that you speak with a lawyer before speaking with insurance adjusters, whose primary aim in many cases is to undermine your claim and deny you compensation.

If you have been injured in a boating accident or on the water, we can help. Our lawyers have experience dealing with these types of insurance claims. Contact us for a free consultation.

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