Enjoying yourself on one of Illinois’ beautiful lakes is a great way to spend a summer day. During the warmer months, Macon County boat owners and their passengers frequently take to beautiful Lake Decatur to enjoy an afternoon of boating, sailing, jet skiing, or fishing. However, this day of fun and relaxation can turn suddenly into a tragedy if a boating accident occurs, severely injuring friends and family.
Once everyone is safe and their initial medical needs addressed, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney in the area. A Decatur boat accident lawyer can help you secure fair compensation for the harm you and your loved ones suffered.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Decatur
Any number of circumstances can contribute to wrecking a vessel, but the most common causes of boating accidents include:
- Collisions with other watercraft. This may be caused by the boat operator speeding, driving while distracted, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Accidents caused by inexperienced boat operators.
- Collisions while docking a boat.
- Accidents involving propellors or boat motors.
- Collisions with unseen or invisible underwater hazards.
- Other boats or watercraft colliding with the boat you are operating, or in which you are a passenger. Again, this may be the result of another boat operator ignoring posted speed limits or safety regulations, lacking experience with the boat or watercraft, or operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In addition, the US Coast Guard reports that nearly 3/4 of all boating related deaths each year are caused by drowning. Any type of incident that sends a boater into the water – engine failure, collision, or the vessel capsizing, for example – can sadly result in drowning.
When a boat operator causes a crash while engaging in any of these negligent activities, they could be held financially responsible for any resulting damages. Attorneys with boat wreck experience in the area could help the injured parties prove their cases and collect appropriate compensation from the negligent boater.
Laws Designed to Minimize Watercraft Wrecks
All boaters have the responsibility to prevent accidents. To encourage safe boating practice, Illinois requires all boaters to comply with the provisions of the Boat Registration and Safety Act.
This act establishes traffic rules for boaters, for instance, 625 Illinois Compiled Statutes 45/5-13 explains how vessels should safely cross, pass, and overtake one another. Sections 625 ILCS 45/5-1 to 5-7 & 45/5-12 prohibit the following dangerous behaviors:
- Careless or reckless driving
- Interfering with the navigation of other vessels
- Operating in a restricted area (i.e., swimming, fishing, etc.)
- Creating a wake in a “no wake” zone
As with driving a car, operating watercraft while drinking or using drugs may be illegal under 625 ILCS 45/5-16. If the operator’s blood alcohol level is 0.08 percent or more, they may be guilty of operating under the influence. If arrested by authorities for suspicion of such impairments, individuals must submit to confirmatory testing.
In the unfortunate event of a crash, both Illinois and the Federal government impose reporting requirements if someone dies or is missing, requires first-aid, or there is property damage over $2,000. Failure to meet these boating requirements could be used as evidence of negligently causing an accident by a Decatur attorney.
Decatur Boat Safety
Anyone who operates a boat in Illinois must know and adhere to the existing state laws and boating safety regulations. These include: making sure everyone on the boat is wearing a personal floatation device at all times, following posted speed limits, obeying no-wake zone markers, using appropriate on-board lighting when required, carrying the proper safety equipment on the boat at all times, and never driving in a reckless or hazardous fashion. In addition, the legal blood-alcohol limit is the same for driving a boat as it is for operating a motor vehicle on the road. All too often, a day on the water is accompanied by alcohol consumption and, just like when a drunk driver is behind the wheel of an automobile, the consequences of operating a boat while intoxicated can be catastrophic.
What Damages Can Be Recovered by Injured Boaters?
Parties injured in a watercraft collision may pursue economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Illinois does not cap the amount they may receive, and their recovery may include, among other things, medical bills, physical therapy, lost wages, emotional distress, pain, and suffering.
Plaintiffs may find their awards adjusted if they played a role in causing their injuries. Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning a claimant’s recovery depends on their percentage of fault. For example, if they are 20 percent to blame, they will receive 80 percent of the judgment awarded. This calculation applies so long as the claimant does not bear most of the responsibility for the harm done. If 51 percent or more of the fault lies with the injured party, 735 ILCS 5/2-1116 bars any recovery.
By entrusting their case to a knowledgeable boat collision attorney in Decatur, the injured party may establish sufficient evidence to avoid drastic, if any, reduction in their damages award.
Call a Decatur Boat Accident Attorney Right Away
Being in an accident was not how you expected your day on the lake to end, and now you may need help rectifying what happened that day. A Decatur boat accident lawyer may be your answer. Our experienced team has the knowledge and skills to help you navigate the process of settling your case for a fair amount or proceeding to trial, if necessary. To discuss your options, contact us today for a free consultation.