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Michigan Boat Accident Attorney

At Buchanan Firm, our aggressive Michigan boat accident lawyers tenaciously fight for the compensation you deserve. Because of our strong reputation and diligent work ethic, in many situations, there is not much of a fight. We quickly obtain a favorable pretrial settlement. If the case progresses further, however, we never sell you short and keep fighting until the final bell.

Michigan is a popular destination for outdoor tourists. To encourage such visits, state law does not require boaters over 21 to have licenses. So, many of the boaters on the state’s waterways have almost no experience operating a watercraft. If an experienced or inexperienced boater hits you, contact our Grand Rapids injury lawyers for immediate assistance.

What Causes Boat Accidents in Michigan?

As mentioned, many boaters, or even most boaters, have had no training whatsoever. These operators know nothing about the unwritten watercraft operational rules. Additionally, most powered watercraft are hard to control, especially if the water is even a little choppy. Furthermore, unlike cars, boats have no brakes and they do not quickly stop.

To complicate matters even further, many boaters are dangerously distracted. Because they are unfamiliar with operational rules, they may not know how to look out for other boaters. This inexperience makes inattention even worse. Distracted boating comes in many forms:

  • Manual (taking one’s hand off the wheel)
  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the water)
  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off boating)

In addition to device distraction, other kinds of distracted operating include talking to passengers and eating or drinking.

Most people use cars to get from one place to another, but most people go out on the water for recreational purposes. So, many boaters drink while boating. Alcohol is a depressant that clouds judgment and impairs motor skills. Both these cognitive functions must be at a high level to safely operate a boat or other heavy machinery.

Liability Issues in Michigan

When these negligent boaters cause collisions, the victims may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. To learn more about recoverable damages in your unique case, speak with a qualified boat accident attorney.

Legally, boaters are negligent when they violate the standard of care. In Michigan, most boaters have a duty of reasonable care. They must operate with caution and also keep an eye on passengers. Since most boat passengers do not wear life jackets, unintentional drowning often causes more injuries than boat collisions.

If the tortfeasor’s (negligent operator’s) conduct fell below the standard of care, and the victim/plaintiff suffered injury, the tortfeasor may be legally responsible for damages.

Emergency responders rarely issue citations to boaters in these cases. But if they do, the boater may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Boat accidents sometimes involve third party liability as well. According to the negligent entrustment doctrine, boat owners who allow incompetent operators to use their property may be liable for damages.

These claims are extremely complex in Michigan. As mentioned above, most Michigan boaters do not have licenses. Vehicle operators without licenses are incompetent as a matter of law, but since the state does not require a boat operator license, victim/plaintiffs probably need to introduce additional evidence of incompetency. That evidence could be a prior at-fault boating collision.

Additionally, if the tortfeasor rented a boat from a commercial establishment, the Graves Amendment might apply. This federal law excuses negligent entrustment if the vehicle owner was in the trade or business of renting vehicles and the owner or agent was not independently negligent in the transaction. Both of these elements have precise legal meanings.

Contact an Aggressive Boating Accident Lawyer

Boating accidents often involve complex legal questions. For a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in Grand Rapids, contact Buchanan Firm. You have a limited amount of time to act, but our Michigan personal injury lawyers can help.