Recovering Damages in a Missouri Boating Accident

With around nine state parks offering ramps, there are plenty of places to launch a boat in Missouri. When the weather is nice, you should expect to see drivers towing their boats to the nearest landing. While boating is generally considered a safe recreational activity, accidents on the water can happen.

In fact, 159 boating accidents in Missouri were reported in 2021 alone. Unfortunately, these accidents also resulted in 28 fatalities. While no one plans to be involved in a boating accident, it’s still a good idea to know how to recover damages.

Common Causes of Boat Accidents

The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for tracking boating accident statistics. Over the last few years, the primary factors contributing to Missouri boating accidents are:

  • An operator not paying attention
  • Inexperienced boat operator
  • Not looking out for water hazards
  • Speeding on lakes and other waterways
  • Machinery failure

Other common causes of boating accidents include the use of alcohol, boating too close to another craft, and even water conditions. For example, if the water is choppy or there are strong currents it can make steering the boat difficult.

Missouri Boating Laws on the Water

The state of Missouri has strict laws regarding boating on the water. While the list is extensive, some of the highlights address the following issues:

  • Reckless operation: Some examples of reckless operations include boating in restricted waters and operating a boat while you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This can include prescription medications if the side effects prevent you from safely operating a watercraft. Reckless boating can also apply to chasing wildlife, even if you only want to take a picture.
  • Overloading a boat: You can’t load more than the boat’s recommended number of passengers. If you’re not sure how many people your boat can safely hold, check with the manufacturer or U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Riding on the deck, bow, or gunwale: Yes, your passengers may want to climb up on the bow to get a better view of the water, however, this behavior is illegal. The only exception is if your boat has railings that effectively prevent passengers from falling overboard. Even then it’s still not a good idea to allow passengers to climb around on your boat.
  • Speeding: Some lakes and waterways have posted speed limits. You must stay at or below the speed limit at all times.

Another Missouri law all boaters should be aware of is you can’t operate a boat over 30 mph one hour before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset. In other words, you can’t go above 30 mph at night.

Reporting a Boating Accident

You must follow a few steps if you’re involved in a boating accident in Missouri. If you skip any of the required steps, you may find yourself facing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol handles all boating accidents in the state, this is the agency you contact to report an incident. Dialing 9-1-1 is enough to get you in touch with the right authorities. Be ready to give your name, address, driver’s license number, and your boat’s vehicle registration number.

If there aren’t any injuries and any property damage is less than $500, you can wait to file an accident report. However, you must file an immediate report if there are any injuries, fatalities, or damages exceeding $500, there aren’t any exceptions to this law.

You’re also legally required to render aid if injuries are present. However, this only applies if it’s safe for you to reach the injured party. If conditions are unsafe, the law requires you to wait at the accident scene until help arrives.

Steps for Recovering Damages After a Boating Accident

To receive compensation for your damages after a boating accident, you must establish negligence. In simple terms, you need to prove someone else is at fault for the accident. This means showing the at-fault party’s actions are the primary contributing cause of the accident.

You need to show the individual owes you a duty of care, breached their duty, and this breach is the cause of the accident. You also need to prove your damages are the direct result of the accident.

An example is if a boat operator is speeding and hits your kayak. The operator’s decision to speed is a breach of the duty of care. If the boat operator wasn’t speeding, they would’ve been able to avoid hitting your kayak. If the boat hadn’t hit your kayak, you wouldn’t have suffered injuries.

Remember, this is only an example. Every boating accident claim is different, but everyone must prove negligence.

How Comparative Negligence Laws Can Impact Your Accident Claim

Missouri is a comparative negligence state. This means more than one party can be responsible for an accident. If you’re also found to be partially responsible for a boating accident, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t file a claim.

However, your settlement amount will be reduced by a percentage of your blame. If you’re assigned 40% of the blame for the accident, your damage award will be reduced by the same percentage.

Who’s Liable in a Boating Accident

Before you can move forward with an accident claim, you must name the liable party. Sometimes, the party responsible for the boating accident isn’t the operator. Passengers on the boat can be held liable. An example is if a passenger starts a fight with the boat’s operator. The passenger’s actions distracted the operator, ultimately allowing the boat to hit your kayak.

Sometimes, the boat’s manufacturer is the party named in your injury claim. This usually applies if the manufacturer installed a defective product.

Did you know you may also be able to hold a bar or restaurant liable in a boating accident case? If the boat’s operator is intoxicated, the restaurant or bar serving the alcohol may be liable for your damages.

Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Boating Accident

If you’re involved in a boating accident, Missouri laws can be confusing, especially when determining liability. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your boating accident to protect your legal rights.

An attorney can help clarify the legal complexities, gather necessary evidence, and advocate on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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