Like most people in South Carolina, I love being out on the water. However, a great day on a boat can quickly turn dangerous when other operators choose to act recklessly, boat under the influence, or disregard the rules of the water.
If you have been injured or affected by a boating accident in Columbia or anywhere in South Carolina there are steps you can take to hold negligent boaters accountable. Below, I cover the basics of working with a boating accident lawyer to take legal action. Additionally, if you have further questions or want to speak with an attorney now, we are here to help. You may contact us by calling (803) 790-2800, submitting our contact form, or starting a live chat below.
Types of Recreational Boating Accidents in South Carolina
Boating related injuries are often preventable. While boats are generally safe, inexperienced or intoxicated operators are not. To that end, some of the most common reasons for injury or death on our waterways include:
- Collisions with a structure or another boat
- Passengers or operators falling overboard, particularly without life vests
- Fires and explosions onboard
When safety precautions are not taken and someone has been hurt on the water, the question becomes, “Who is going to take responsibility?” Liability insurance is usually available to boaters, which means that the insurer will bear the financial burden when someone has been hurt, killed, or suffered damaged property on the water. This kind of insurance is similar to auto insurance – and too often the tactics are similar as well.
Standing Up to the Insurance Company
Whether it’s coverage for a home, automobile, or recreational boat, the one thing that all insurance companies have in common is this: they don’t make money by paying out claims. Insurance companies often fight tooth and nail to use every exclusion, trick, or excuse to avoid paying the full amount on a claim.
You may need the services of a South Carolina boat accident attorney to help you fight the insurance giants and receive the compensation the law says you’re owed.
Recoverable Damages After a Boating Accident
Boating accidents around Columbia, Charleston, the Upstate and elsewhere, often result in catastrophic injuries. The legal term for any type of harm or loss resulting from someone else’s wrongdoing is “damages.” In a South Carolina boating accident, those damages often include:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (if the at fault person was reckless/boating under the influence)
Seeking Compensation After a Boat Crash
Due to the catastrophic nature of most boat collisions, a common issue is often the lack of sufficient insurance coverage to pay for all your losses. While the boat that contributed to your injury may have liability coverage, it may not be enough to “make you whole” financially. In addition to liability coverage, you may be able to seek recovery from additional insurance policies such as:
- Underinsured coverage – If it is included in your boating insurance policy, or the policy covering the boat you were on at the time of the accident, you may be able to obtain “underinsured” coverage funds. Underinsured policies are used when the at fault person has boating insurance, but not have enough to fully cover all your damages. For example, if you had $200,000 in medical bills, but the at fault boater only had a $100,000 policy, you could seek recovery from an underinsured policy to help make up the difference.
- Uninsured coverage - If the other boater has no insurance, you can file a claim against the uninsured boat policy covering the vessel you were on when the incident occurred to recover compensation for your damages.
- Homeowner’s insurance – Some homeowner’s insurance policies allow you to file a claim for boating accidents. A South Carolina boat injury attorney can help you determine if the at fault person has a homeowner’s insurance policy that you can draw from to help cover your damages.
Filing a Negligence Suit For a Boating Accident in South Carolina
In order to get fair compensation after a boating accident, you may have to file a lawsuit. The hope is always that an insurance company will settle your case without need of litigation, but that isn’t always the case. In a legal setting, we must prove the at fault boat operator was negligent. The basis of any negligence lawsuit is that the accused person did not act with a reasonable amount of care, and that his or her action (or inaction) caused an accident that resulted in damage or injury. An example of negligence might be when someone does not follow accepted boating laws or practices, such as:
- Failure to maintain a lookout for hazards or other dangerous conditions that could result in an accident
- Failure to yield right-of-way according to maritime rules
- Failure to possess or maintain adequate safety equipment or flotation devices
- Failure to obey no-wake zones and idle-speed-only rules
- Operating recklessly and without regard to safety, including boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Speak with a Columbia Boating Accident Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
The number one tip for protecting your legal rights after this type of accident is to contact an experienced South Carolina boating accident lawyer – even for a free consultation. Don’t give a statement to insurance companies or speak to adjusters until you’ve consulted with an attorney. Remember, insurance companies are not in the business of paying out claims, and if they can spin your words to reduce the amount of your claim, they will.
Dealing with boating injury claims and insurance companies is a skill that’s only developed through experience. When you’ve been in an accident on the water, you need to find an injury attorney that you can trust to properly apply the law and level the playing field against the insurance companies.
At the Law Office of Kenneth Berger, we have the experienced team you need. We are ready to protect your legal rights while treating you as a member of our own family. With offices in Columbia, SC and Myrtle Beach, SC, we are able to serve people across our state who have been hurt through no fault of their own on the water. Call us today at 803-790-2800 to receive a free consultation, or use our live chat box and our legal team will reach out and begin answering your questions.