Boat Accident Lawyer in Chicago, Illinois
Unfortunately, with the number of boats and other watercraft, there are going to be irresponsible boaters. Accidents are bound to occur.
Each summer, thousands leave their Chicago homes for a day out on Lake Michigan or one of Illinois’ other bodies of water. Whether you are taking a pleasure cruise, fishing or wake boarding, the blue waters offer an escape from the mundane activities of daily life. Unfortunately, with the number of boats and other watercraft, there are going to be irresponsible boaters. Accidents are bound to occur. Alcohol, mechanical problems, inexperienced drivers, or failure to use life jackets can all contribute to the severity of an accident.
In 2017 alone, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) handled 80 boat accidents. This was the highest number of watercraft accidents in the state in five years. 48 people were injured in these boat crashes and 12 died.
The DNR report also revealed that 145 people were arrested that year for operating a boat while impaired. The agency further notes that most of the accidents involved operators who had “little or no classroom boating safety instruction” or were “cruising in a reckless manner”.
These numbers give us a snapshot of the dangerous boaters we may encounter on our waterways. If you or someone in your family has been seriously hurt by one of these boaters, call us at Willens Law Offices to talk with an experienced Chicago boating accident attorney who can help you understand your legal options to get compensated.
Boat Accidents are Different
Unlike cars, boats and personal watercraft do not come equipped with airbags or seatbelts. When another watercraft hits you, occupants of a boat may be thrown into the water. Drowning is real concern. There might be severe injuries or even death.
Some common injuries from watercraft accidents include traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spine injuries, hypothermia, and fractures. There is also the real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from the boat’s engine or generator. In many cases, these watercraft injuries have proven fatal.
Another unique aspect in a boat accident is the tricky insurance coverage. Though water vessels have to be registered, the State of Illinois does not require boat owners to have watercraft insurance. Further, water vessel insurance policies typically cover only motorized vessels, not paddleboats, kayaks, or canoes.
A boating accident lawyer in Chicago will tell you it’s possible that in a water crash, the boater’s home insurance policy would cover the injuries. Not all homeowner’s insurance includes this coverage, however, and not all boat operators have homeowner’s insurance.
As a result, victims in a boating accident often find it difficult to get reimbursed for their injuries. To be fully compensated, they need the legal know-how and experience of a Chicago boating accident lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been in a boating accident, then please call Willens Law Offices at (312) 957-4166 and talk to the firm’s founder, Matthew Willens, a boater himself or one of our other Chicago boating accident attorneys.
What Kind Of Watercraft Were You In?
Injurious accidents involving a watercraft may be compensable, regardless of the type or size of the water vessel. We’ve encountered legitimate cases involving these marine vessels and more:
- Personal watercrafts (Jet Skis, Wave Runners, and the like)
- Kayaks and canoes
- Fishing boats
- Sightseeing cruise vessels
How Did Your Illinois Boating Accident Happen?
In many years of practice, our Chicago boating accident lawyers have investigated various critical events in the water that result in serious injuries. Your boating accident was likely one of the following, or something similar:
- Collision with another watercraft
- Collision with a fixed object (like a rock, a pier, or land)
- Hitting a wave
- Hitting another vessel’s wake
- Catching fire
- Mechanical failure or breaking down
- Water leaking in
Accidents like these can often be traced back to someone’s negligence. These are some of the most common causes of negligent boating crashes and injuries:
- Unqualified or inexperienced operator. In Illinois, minors age 12 and above may operate a motorboat only if they have a Boating Education Certificate or if they are directly supervised by an adult.
- Inattentive operator. The boat operator or lookout must constantly monitor the boat and the surrounding environment for any sign of hazards.
- Intoxicated operator. Illinois law prohibits operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more can lead to a criminal conviction for a boat operator.
- When a boat runs at high speed, the operator has too little time to properly react to a hazard. The US Coast Guard urges boaters to match their speeds with the surrounding conditions. They particularly warn against excessive boating speeds at night.
- It is illegal in Illinois and in other states to load a water vessel beyond its recommended capacity. Unfortunately, overloading is still a factor in fatal boating accidents, according to a 2017 Coast Guard report.
- Poor vessel maintenance. It is crucial to ensure that a vessel is water-worthy before it is taken out into a lake, river, or sea. Some of the most devastating boat accidents involve malfunctioning engines, pumps, and safety equipment (navigation lights, fire extinguishers, and so on.).
- Violation of navigation rules. Just like there are rules of the road, there are procedures on how watercrafts should cross, give way, and overtake. Authorities also demarcate certain waters where recreational boating is restricted, largely due to dangerous waters.
- Recklessness of anyone aboard. There have been many incidents where passengers themselves have acted recklessly on personal watercrafts and yachts, such as by ignoring safety instructions or hindering operators.
- Lack of safety gear. Illinois watercrafts are required to have one personal flotation device (life jacket) for each person aboard, plus one throwable flotation device. Sadly, many people have died in water accidents because they had no life vests on.
If you suspect that something like these caused your boating injury, talk to us at Willens Law Offices right away. We are experienced in establishing the negligent causes of boating accidents. Let us help you make sense of your watercraft injury and understand your best legal options.
What To Do After A Watercraft Accident in Illinois?
It can be tough to think of what to do after a disaster in the water. Remember these steps that may save you and your loved ones from more severe injury, and which may help you claim compensation later on.
- Ensure that everyone is safe. Immediately check if you or anyone else needs medical attention. If you are hurt, call for professional help instead of dismissing your injury. Many injuries seem minor at first and only manifest more serious symptoms later.
- Document the scene. If you can, take photographs of the crash site and of your injuries. Collect the names, contact details, vessel identification, and insurance information of all boat operators involved. Vessel operators are required by law to give this information to those who are injured in the crash.
- Report the accident. If you were operating your vessel when the accident occurred, take note of the reporting requirement. Operators are mandated to report a boating accident if it resulted in a fatality, a missing person, an injured person, or property damage worth $2,000 or more. In Illinois, the written report must be filed with the DNR using this form.
Your boating accident report may be a valuable piece of evidence in your compensation claim. Keep your report factually accurate, avoiding opinions or apologies.
- Call a lawyer. You’ll want to safeguard your rights as soon as possible. Even if you are not considering legal action at this point, a boating accident lawyer in Chicago can help you investigate your accident, determine liability, and identify all legal avenues for you to get compensated.
What Compensation Can You Claim In A Boat Crash in Chicago?
An accident injury impacts not just your physical wellbeing but also your financial situation, your emotional wellness, and your immediate future. The law recognizes this, that’s why you may be compensated for various types of losses.
There are two types of compensation (legally called “damages”) in a personal injury or wrongful death case. Economic damages refer to losses that have a quantifiable dollar amount, while non-economic damages are less tangible but still compensable under the law.
Economic damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Therapy or rehabilitation costs
- Long-term costs
- Lost earnings
- Lost capacity to earn
Examples of non-economic damages are:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress.
If you have lost a loved one in a boating tragedy, there are some unique damages that you may claim as a close family member. Though these monetary payments cannot replace the life lost, they can help you get back on track after the accident. Wrongful death damages may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost consortium (marital companionship)
- Lost guidance and care
- Lost benefits.
To determine the maximum amount of damages you can claim, consult with a boating accident attorney in Chicago. Your lawyer should be experienced in the various rights and claims of boating accident victims, leaving no stone unturned in determining the full compensation you are entitled to.
Why Willens Law Offices as your Chicago Watercraft Accident Lawyers?
Effective representation and professional client treatment are two major reasons why Chicagoans trust Willens Law Offices.
Our firm’s effectiveness in injury cases is evident in our track record. For instance, we have obtained a $300,000 settlement for the family of a young boy who suffered a wrongful death in a boat crash. We also got a $147,500 settlement for a woman who fractured her ankle in a boating accident. These are only a couple of examples from our long list of successful cases.
Our hard-hitting legal representation is coupled with compassionate treatment for our clients. As a boating accident attorney in Chicago and avid boater himself Matthew Willens understands firsthand how distressing it can be to experience a water accident. We have seen how an injury can affect your finances, your work, and your quality of life. This is why we want you to get the compensation you deserve, without making it too stressful for you. Our entire team will be accessible to you throughout your case.
Willens Law Offices serves Chicago and surrounding areas. We are available 24/7. If you can’t come to us, we’ll arrange to come to you. Your consultation with us is free.