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Sacramento Boat Accident Lawyer

boatI'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento Boat Accident Lawyer. Over the years, I've successfully handled numerous lawsuits against the owners and operators of private boats and personal watercraft. 

If you, or a family member, have been seriously injured in a boat accident in the Sacramento area, I can help answer your questions and advise you on what steps you can take to protect your legal rights. Call me at 916.921.6400 or contact me online for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Watercraft and Boating Injuries

Water sports activities and boating are both adrenaline pumping and fraught with unique dangers. There is always the risk of drowning. When a boating or water-related accident occurs, a complete evaluation and investigation into the cause by an experienced boat accident lawyer in Sacramento is the best way to proceed.

Complex safety and legal issues may be involved. Similar to other types of accidents, legal and factual issues should be thoroughly investigated, considered, and resolved.

How a Lawyer Can Help with a Boating Accident Injury Claim

Personal injury claims arising out of a boating accident often include challenging technical and legal matters. Such cases should be handled by an experienced Sacramento boat accident lawyer to ensure negligent parties and entities are held financially accountable for boating-related injuries and damages. Some of the issues that should be considered in a boat accident claim include.

  • What was the specific activity being performed?
  • When and where was it being performed?
  • What were the circumstances of the accident?
  • Was it age-appropriate for the person involved?
  • Was the activity adequately supervised?
  • Was the activity private in nature, or was it business-related?
  • Was the activity part of a commercial rental business?
  • Were the boat operators trained in CPR?
  • Was safety equipment available?
  • Can medical personnel be immediately notified in case of injury?
  • Was there any special equipment being used?
  • Was the equipment properly maintained, or was it unsafe?
  • Was the equipment subject to any recalls or falls under defective product status?
  • Did the injured person sign a waiver or release of liability before participating in the activity?
  • Was he or she competent to do so?
  • How long did the injured person wait before pursuing his or her claim?
  • Were there any witnesses to the accident?
  • Were any photos or videos taken of the accident?
  • Did government authorities investigate the accident?
California - A Lot of Boating, A Lot of Boating Accidents

In California, boating and jet skiing are year-round activities, and approximately 1,000,000 California watercraft are registered.  As a result, the Golden State has a high rate of boating accidents compared to the rest of the country. Hundreds are injured in boat accidents every year.  Dozens sustain fatal injuries. An experienced California boating accident lawyer can help you or your family recover monetary compensation if you were injured while boating.

Types of Boating Accidents

The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith understands how traumatic a serious boating crash can be. Some of the types of California boating accidents with which we can help include:

  • Boating Under the Influence: Boating while drunk causes many crashes throughout the country, and California is no exception to that unfortunate fact.  If it is determined through evidence such as police reports, criminal charges, toxicology reports, and witness statements, we will assist you in recovering economic damages, which in some cases involving drunk boating, could include additional punitive damages.
  • Boating Accidents Caused by Speeding: Operating a boat at excessive speeds can make the vessel more difficult to control.  It also increases the likelihood of occupant injury or death in the event of a crash.  Accident reconstruction experts can provide evidence that excessive speed contributed to your injuries.
  • Equipment Problems: If negligent manufacturing or design of the boat or a boat part caused or contributed to the boating accident, our attorneys work with experts who can identify the responsible parties and testify as to the dangerous equipment that played in the crash.
  • Ejection from the Boat: Many times in a boating crash, passengers are ejected from the vessel.  This can result in devastating and disabling injuries, including but not limited to brain injuries, or broken bones.
  • Capsizing:  When a boat capsizes, it overturns in water.  Capsizing is one of the most common causes of boating injuries in California.  It can lead to severe and sometimes fatal injuries.  
  • Propeller Injuries: Propellers can cause significant lacerations and have even resulted in amputations.  Propellers can come into contact with the head and face, which can result in traumatic brain injuries, facial lacerations, and scarring of the face. Often propeller injuries are caused by negligence on the part of the boat operator.
  • Boating Regulations Violated: California has strict regulations as to who can operate watercraft and where, as well as laws about the safe operation of the watercraft itself.  Deviation from these regulations can result in injuries.  It is also against the law.
  • Boating Accidents - Other Causes:  Other common boating injury scenarios include crashes with other boats and slip-and-fall accidents on deck.  Negligence can still be a factor even if the boating operator was not breaking the law.  An experienced California boating accident lawyer can help you determine if there are grounds for an injury claim.  

In addition to boating accidents of all kinds, our office handles injury claims involving personal watercrafts such as jet skis and wave runners.  

Boating Accident Reports

California law requires that watercraft operators report boating accidents.  The reports must include names, contact information, and vessel registration numbers for all parties and watercraft that were involved in the accident, as well as anyone who provided assistance to an injured person.  Additionally, the boat owner or operator is required to complete a written report to the California Department of Boating and Waterways if the incident resulted in any of the following:

  • The disappearance or death of a person;
  • An injury that requires medical attention beyond first aid; or
  • More than $5000 in property damage to all vessels or other property involved.

When injuries or death are involved, the report must be filed within 48 hours of the incident.  If the incident resulted in property damage only, the report must be filed within 10 days of the accident.

California Boating Laws

State laws governing maintenance and operation of watercraft apply to owners and operators. California law prohibits the operation of watercraft negligently or recklessly that could endanger another person or his/her property.  Among other things, the law prohibits boating through an area used by swimmers.  It also prohibits the operation of a vessel erratically or in such a manner that requires the vessel to cut speed or abruptly swerve to avoid a collision. 

California law also has boating speed limits.  Operators are prohibited from traveling at an improper speed - meaning faster than prudent and reasonable based on traffic, visibility, weather conditions, or other hazards.  Passengers are prohibited from riding on the bow or gunwale, or anywhere else that presents a risk of falling overboard.  The law prohibits the operation of a boat with unsafe conditions, which includes having an inadequate supply of fire extinguishers or life jackets, having a fuel leak, not displaying navigation lights, excessive accumulation of water in the bilge, and inadequate ventilation.

Federal Boating Laws

In 1971, Congress passed the Federal Boat Safety Act, which gave the U.S. Coast Guard the duty of establishing safety equipment standards for watercraft. Federal law states that vessels must be equipped with Coast Guard approved safety devices, including flame arresters, visual distress signals, gas ventilation devices, fire extinguishers, and sound alert devices.  Federal law also gives specifics as to the life jackets or personal floatation devices that are required for every person aboard the vessel.

What Is a Boating Injury?

Injuries that occur with or on a boat are considered boating accidents. This type of accident can happen on a cruise ship, jet ski, ferry, or someone’s privately owned yacht. The general rule is that the boat operator and its owner have a duty to exercise care to prevent injuries to others.

Don't forget, non-motorized boating accidents occur as well. This includes sailing, canoeing, kayaking, rowboats, and inflatables such as rafting. Changing water or weather conditions, cold water, underwater debris can all point to disaster.  
Also, non-motorized vessels have reduced visibility due to a lower profile in the water.  This often makes them a target for larger, motorized boats.  

Besides interaction with motorized vessels, often, in a non-motorized boating accident, it is the result of an unsafe vessel, overcrowding, lack of life jackets, and lack of experience.

The following video features some of the top boating accidents and crashes.

Boat Accident Lawyers in Sacramento County, CA

I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento boat accident attorney. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury after a boating crash in Sacramento, you need an experienced lawyer to represent your best interests. Call our law firm at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our case history of verdicts and settlements and our client reviews on GoogleYelp, and AVVO.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 7.21.20]

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Client Reviews
"Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!" Alex & Dinah M.
"Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation." Beverly
"Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything." Annie T.
"Very professional. Great team, staff and service all around. Mr Smith was very honest, straight forward with his advice. He gives the word "attorney" an honest reputation. I will seek his council anytime, and would recommend him at the drop of a dime." Jeremy M.
"I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone." Shannon D.
"Edward Smith law offices provide competent, thorough, and personable help for victims of personal injury. When you first meet the staff you know you contacted the right office. This law office treats clients like people. I recommend this office to anyone seeking representation regarding personal injury." David M.