A boat with a hole in its side resting at a pier, after an accident that sunk it.

People often associate Utah with its wide areas of desert, and boating isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering the state. Yet it does have many lakes and reservoirs, and local residents know there are opportunities to enjoy boating and other water activities. A day on the water can be relaxing and fun, but it can come to an abrupt end if you have a boating accident. If you or a loved one have been hurt in such an incident, you may need help recovering damages from the responsible party.

Why Do You Need a Salt Lake City Boat Accident Attorney?

Determining fault in a boating accident can be difficult. Sometimes these accidents happen in areas with no witnesses around. Some of the evidence may sink and might never be recovered. The injured person might not have seen what happened. But it is important to identify the party or parties who are at fault in your accident if you want to recover damages.

In many cases, you will need to deal with an insurance company sooner or later. While the insurance adjuster you speak with may seem friendly and helpful, their primary concern will always be saving the company money, which means paying as little as possible on claims like yours. It’s important to be aware that your call is probably being recorded, and the insurance company could use anything you say to justify denying your claim. We recommend speaking with an attorney before having a conversation with an insurance company.

Your lawyer will work hard to protect your interests. First, they will accurately calculate all your damages. This includes medical bills, lost income, permanent disability or disfigurement, pain and suffering, and other damages. You can’t count on the insurance company to give you full credit for these losses – in fact, we’ve seen many cases where the insurer vastly underestimated the value of a claim. When that happens, we negotiate with the insurance carrier for a more equitable settlement.

Who Is Liable for a Boat Accident?

Multiple parties might be liable in a boat accident, including:

  • The person driving the boat. If the boater was negligent in a way that caused the accident, they could be at fault. However, if they are not the boat owner and don’t have a lot of assets, it may be difficult to collect damages from them. Sometimes, the boat owner’s policy will cover other drivers, but not always, so your Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer will examine the policy to determine the best way forward. When boat insurance covers additional drivers, it does so only if they have the owner’s permission – if the boat was reported stolen, the insurance probably will not cover your injuries.
  • The boat’s owner. Sometimes the boat’s owner is also the driver who caused the accident. In other cases, the owner may have loaned the boat to a friend or allowed them to drive for a while, and the friend crashed the boat. Again, we’ll examine the owner’s boating insurance policy to see if the situation is covered. If it isn’t, the owner could be personally liable for allowing the other party to drive the boat.
  • Another boater. Sometimes, you or the person driving your boat did nothing wrong, but another boater collided with your watercraft, causing injuries. The responsible party should be liable in these cases, but they may claim that you or your driver were at fault instead. In these cases, it’s essential to have the help of an experienced attorney who can investigate the accident and compile evidence of what really happened.
  • Another passenger. Usually, passengers don’t cause major boating accidents, but there are occasionally cases where one passenger injures another. For example, one person may accidentally knock someone overboard, etc. 
  • The boat manufacturer or a component manufacturer. Sometimes a boating accident isn’t the fault of either driver but a malfunction on the boat itself. If a problem with the boat caused your crash, and it was due to a defect in the boat or one of its components, that manufacturer could be liable. However, the issue must be an inherent defect in the component itself. If the component failed because the boat owner failed to do typical maintenance or replace a worn-out part, the boat owner could be liable instead. It’s often challenging to determine the difference, but your attorney will consult experts as needed.
  • A third party. In some cases, if an intoxicated boater caused the crash, we may be able to seek compensation from an establishment that overserved the boater under Utah’s dram shop laws. However, this is only possible if we have evidence the establishment served someone who was under 21 or already visibly intoxicated.

As you can see, there are many potentially liable parties, and it can be hard to determine which are responsible for your accident. Your lawyer’s investigators will work to collect evidence and find out what really happened.

What Kind of Evidence Do You Need to Prove Fault in a Boating Accident?

It depends on the specifics of your accident, but here are some common ways we seek out evidence in these cases:

  • Talking to witnesses. If you have the names and contact information of everyone present, that will be helpful. If not, we will do our best to track down any potential witnesses, and sometimes we even find witnesses no one talked to before. In some situations, a witness can provide a new perspective on the accident that points us in another direction we hadn’t considered.
  • Searching for video. It’s often easier to find video of a car accident than a boating accident due to the number of doorbell and security cameras on the average street. Out on the water, there are fewer passive cameras that may capture a crash. However, sometimes we find that a passenger or even a bystander on shore recorded video that showed the boat collision, so we always ask around before assuming there is no video.
  • Other electronic evidence. Was your accident caused by someone who was distracted – for example, looking at their phone while driving the boat? We can request their phone records to show what they were doing when they were supposed to be focused on safely driving the boat. Some boats may also have a “black box” similar to those found in cars that contains a number of data points about the accident, such as how fast the boat was going and in what direction.

What If You Suffered an Injury on a Rental Boat?

There are several follow-up questions we ask clients in this situation. Did the rental include a driver for the boat, or were you driving it? Do you know or have an idea what caused the accident? If the rental company provided you with a boat driver and they were at fault for the crash, the rental company may be liable. If another boat crashed into yours and that boat’s driver was at fault, we can pursue a claim against the other driver.

Some people tell us the rental company can’t be liable because they signed a waiver or release, but this is not true in every situation. A waiver does not protect a company from liability if its negligence caused your injuries. Here are some examples:

  • If the boat rental included a driver, and that person drove recklessly and crashed into a pier, the rental company could still be liable as they have a responsibility to provide a relatively safe boating experience. 
  • Or, if you rented and drove the boat and it failed due to a mechanical issue the rental company should have fixed, the business could be liable. Again, the company still has a responsibility to rent you a reasonably safe boat. 
  • Another example would be if you had a boating accident for any reason and discovered there were not enough flotation devices on the boat for all your passengers or some of these devices were not usable. The rental company could be liable because they have a responsibility to provide you with the necessary safety equipment.

If you were injured on a rental boat and have concerns about a waiver or aren’t sure who is liable, please speak with a boat accident attorney immediately.

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in Utah?

If you are 18 or older, you can operate a motorized vessel, sailboat, or personal watercraft (PWC) without restrictions. Boaters younger than 18 must complete a boater education course before operating certain vessels. However, we encourage you to take a boater education course before driving a boat, regardless of your age. These courses teach you many ways to keep yourself and others safe on the water and may also reduce your insurance costs if you have your own boat.

Visit Our Salt Lake City Boat Accident Law Firm

Please contact the Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers at 801-810-9999 for a free consultation about your boat accident. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and lay out your options for seeking compensation. 

If we take your case, we’ll immediately begin working to gather evidence and build the strongest strategy possible to win or settle the case. We can also review any offer you’ve already received from the insurance company to ensure it’s fair. If it doesn’t cover all your damages, we’ll negotiate with the insurance company to fight for the settlement you deserve.

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Additional Questions?

We have helped many clients recover from injuries resulting from car accidents in West Valley, Salt Lake City, and the greater Utah area. We are here to help you recover after an accident. If you've been injured, don't hesitate to call Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We have recovered millions for our clients and we are ready to fight for you.

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