Connecticut Boating Accident Attorney

The U.S. Coast Guard counted over 4,000 boating accidents involving 636 deaths in 2022. When the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those reporting life jacket usage, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

The State of Connecticut is home to over 600 miles of coastline; nearly 6,000 miles of rivers, and 3,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Local boaters and tourists have a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the water.

Unfortunately, what starts out as a fun day on a lake or in the ocean can quickly turn into a traumatic experience if an accident occurs. While most boat operators pilot their crafts responsibly, accidents sometimes happen, particularly if you encounter a fellow boater who is reckless or negligent.

The Connecticut boating accident attorneys at Chaffin Luhana represent individuals who are injured in boating accidents. Call us today to schedule a complimentary consultation at 888-480-1123.

Boating Accidents in Connecticut

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were six fatal boating accidents in Connecticut in 2022, a slight decrease from the seven that occurred the year before. Most of those were drownings.

On July 10, 2022, firefighters responded to a serious boating accident on the Connecticut River. A 21-foot Yamaha jet boat lost control and crashed into the rocks along the shore, ejecting everyone on board. Seven people, including two children, were injured and hospitalized. An eighth person on the scene—a 60-year-old man—was pronounced dead at the scene.

Middletown Press later reported that the boat operator made a series of reckless decisions while driving the jet boat. A little over a year after the crash, the police charged him with second-degree manslaughter and other charges. He had allegedly consumed several drinks in the hours before the crash.

According to court documents, the boat operator and others on the boat failed to deflate and properly store an inflatable tube they had used prior to the crash. Instead, the boat operator tied the tow rope to the inflatable tube, and held the tow rope to prevent the inflatable tube from blowing away.

At one point, the tow rope began to slip from the boat operator’s hand. After the boat operator let the tow rope go, the remaining rope wrapped around his leg, causing him to be ripped from the captain’s chair toward the stern. That left the boat unmanned and still in gear with the throttle engaged. It slammed into the rocky shoreline and traveled at least 50 feet on land before coming to a stop.

These sorts of accidents can happen in a blink of an eye, and result in tragic outcomes. Those helpless passengers on board who end up hurt through no fault of their own often end up paying the price.

Causes of Boating Accidents

At Chaffin Luhana, we have experience litigating a wide variety of boating accidents. How we proceed with your case depends on the specifics of your case, especially the cause of the accident.

Operator Inexperience

Sometimes boat operators do not have the training or experience they need to operate a boat in a variety of circumstances. Those without the proper education may be more likely to ignore boat safety rules and navigation rules. They may also lack the skills to respond correctly to emergencies.

Connecticut Law requires a certificate of license to operate most motorboats, sailboats, and other personal watercraft. This helps reduce the number of inexperienced boating operators on the water. If an operator lacks one of these required documents and causes an accident, they may be held liable for the damages.

Operator Negligence

Sometimes an operator is experienced and holds the right licenses or certificates but makes a grave error due to negligence. Perhaps they were distracted while operating the craft, which can increase the risk of a crash. Maybe they failed to properly prepare the boat for operation or did not perform the necessary maintenance on the craft.

Boating Under the Influence

As in the accident detailed above, a boat operator may drink too much or consume illegal drugs while in charge of the boat. Just as it’s illegal to operate a car, truck, or motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is against the law to do so while operating a boat. Consuming these types of substances impacts reaction times and impairs judgment, putting everyone on board at risk.

Reckless Behavior

Speeding, taking chances, showing off, racing, and other reckless behaviors can increase the risk of an accident on the water. Boat operators are responsible for operating their boats safely and for making sure that their passengers are safe. Those who fail to attend to safety concerns may be held liable for damages that arise from an accident.

Ignoring Waterway Rules

Experienced boat operators know how to safely manage their boats around other watercraft, how to use navigation aids, and how to pay attention to waterway rules on whatever body of water they explore. Those who ignore the rules or who fail to abide by them because of ignorance or inexperience may cause an accident.

Dismissing the Weather

The weather can have a big impact on safety in the water. According to the National Weather Service, boaters can face many dangers related to changes in the weather. Strong winds can capsize a boat, and can also generate high waves that make it difficult to control the craft. Severe thunderstorms can turn calm waters into dark and rough seas very quickly. Cloud-to-water lightning strikes can cause disaster on a boat. Unwary boaters may be taken by surprise because a storm can come up quickly on the water, presenting serious dangers.

Coast Guard accident data shows that nearly three percent of all recreational boating accidents are directly related to severe weather conditions. Boat operators must pay careful attention to marine and weather forecasts while staying alert to any sudden changes.

Defective Machinery

The boat operator is responsible for performing regular maintenance on the boat. This helps ensure that it is safe for each excursion. Sometimes, though, there may be a defective motor or other part of the boat that doesn’t work as it should. Broken or damaged elements can lead to breakdowns, boat fires, sinking, and other dangerous incidents.

If it’s determined that a faulty boat or part of the boat was at least part of the reason for the accident, the company that manufactures that item may be held partially liable in a boat accident lawsuit.

Do You Need a Boating Accident Attorney?

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident in Connecticut, you owe it to yourself to consult with a Connecticut boating accident lawyer. You can try to manage the claim on your own, but these cases are often complex and can be confusing. Insurance companies are concerned mostly with their bottom lines and may offer you a settlement that is lower than what you need. Or they may deny your claim entirely.

A Connecticut boating accident attorney can provide access to experts and resources that you may not be able to get on your own. They also know about Connecticut law, and can thoroughly investigate your case to turn over any additional evidence you may need, helping you to build a strong case.

Hiring an attorney lets the insurance company know that you are serious about recovering the damages you are owed. Once you have an attorney on your side, they will negotiate your case for you, which often results in a higher payout than if you try to do it yourself.

Most Connecticut boating accident lawyers—including Chaffin Luhana—will provide you with a free initial consultation. Then they will work on a contingency basis, which means you owe nothing unless you win your case. You have little to lose and a lot to gain by looking into the option of representation.

Common Injuries from Boating Accidents in Connecticut

If you’re involved in a boating accident in Connecticut, you may find your life turned upside down because of your injuries. The Connecticut boat accident lawyers at Chaffin Luhana LLP have handled many cases where clients suffered significant losses in boating accidents.

Examples of boating accident injuries include:

  • Spinal injuries; paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Burn injuries
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Submersion injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations and soft tissue injuries
  • Hypothermia
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Drownings or near drowning
  • Wrongful death

If you have been in a boating accident and have suffered any of the injuries listed or any other type of injury, we are here to help you.

Who Is Liable In A Boating Accident?

In most boating accidents, it is either the operator of the boat or the operator of another watercraft who is at fault. Sometimes, there may be additional parties that are at least partly at fault. Determining liability is a key element in most boat accident claims. Your boating accident attorney can help you piece together the evidence to accurately determine who is liable for your damages.

Possible parties who may share in responsibility for the accident include:

  • The operator of the boat you were on.
  • The operator of another boat or personal watercraft, like a jet-ski.
  • The owner of the boat, if they allowed someone unqualified to operate it, or failed to perform the appropriate maintenance on the boat.
  • A rental company that owns and leases the boat.
  • The manufacturer of a defective boat or boat part.
  • A boat passenger who was acting recklessly and interfered with the operation of the boat.

To recover damages, you’ll need to be able to prove that the selected party was negligent in the accident. Typically, you will work with your lawyer to gather the evidence you need, then submit the claim to the negligent party’s insurance provider.

Steps to Follow After a Connecticut Boating Accident

A boating accident can be frightening, stressful, and disorienting. It’s easy to feel panic, but if you can stay calm, you may be able to avoid additional injuries while also helping those around you to do the same. Proceeding with a clear head can also help your case if you decide to file a claim later on.

1. Safety First

If you are the operator of the boat, stop it as soon as you can and ensure everyone’s safety. If you are a passenger, encourage the operator to do this, and check on those who are with you. If anyone fell overboard, work with other passengers to get them back into the vessel if you can.

If you or someone else is seriously injured, perform emergency first aid and notify the nearest law enforcement agency (i.e., the United States Coast Guard or nearby police department) having jurisdiction. Don’t leave the scene of the accident until law enforcement says it is safe to do so.

2. Report the Accident

Once everyone is accounted for, it is required by federal and Connecticut State law to report the accident if it resulted in any of the following:

  • A fatality
  • A missing person
  • An injury requiring more than first aid
  • Property damage of $500 or more
  • A destroyed vessel

The operator of the vessel must notify DEEP (Department of Energy & Environmental Protection) Emergency Dispatch at 860-424-3333 if a person dies or disappears. Then within 48 hours of the incident, the operator must submit a boating accident report form.

If the operator cannot call DEEP or make the report for whatever reason, the owner or survivor of the accident should do so. For forms or more information, contact the boating division at 860-434-8638 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

3. Collect Information

The next important step is to collect information about the accident and those involved. Ask for the name, address, contact information, and vessel identification of all boat operators involved. Boat operators are required to give this information to injured individuals and any owners of property who suffered damage. Give your statement to officials on the scene, and ask them for their contact points so you can get copies of their records.

If there were witnesses to the crash, try to obtain their names and contact information, as your attorney may want to talk to them later. Finally, if you can, take pictures of the accident scene and any resulting damage, including your own injuries. Make note of the accident location, the position of the watercraft involved, and your injuries and the injuries of others, if they occurred.

4. Document the Incident

While the accident is still fresh in your memory, document it. You can write or type what happened, or even use a voice recording. The important thing is to get down all the details while you can still remember them. Important things to include are the time, location, and weather conditions during the accident, the sequence of events that led up to it, the damage sustained by the watercraft, and any injuries you have.

5. See a Doctor Soon

If you are seriously injured, call for medical attention right away. Even if your injuries are minor, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you can. This will give you a written medical record from the accident that can help you with future injury claims.

It’s very common to go days after an accident without noticing an injury. Back and neck injuries, soft tissue injuries (strains and sprains), and even head injuries and trauma can take time to show up.

6. Call a Connecticut Boating Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible

Boating accidents can be complex and may involve multiple parties. An experienced Connecticut boating accident lawyer can help you with the process of filing your claim and getting the compensation you deserve.

The faster you obtain the services of an attorney, the better off you will be in preserving evidence for your case.

7. Don’t Sign Any Paperwork from The Insurance Company

When it comes to negotiating compensation, be aware that the insurance company is more concerned with their bottom line than they are with your welfare. Their representatives will want to settle your claim quickly and for as little as possible, to generate larger profits for their companies.

They may approach you early in the negotiations to sign paperwork or make a recorded statement that is not in your best interests. Decline to comply with these requests until after you speak to your attorney.

Tips for Choosing a Boating Accident Attorney in Connecticut

When it’s time to choose a boating accident attorney to represent you, it can be overwhelming. There are a lot of attorneys out there. Where do you start?

1. Look for Local Experience

Going with a local attorney is important, as this person will know the area and will have a thorough understanding of state and local laws that may affect your case. Look for someone with a lot of experience handling boating accident injury cases like yours, and who can easily navigate the complex legal landscape.

Make sure the attorney you choose has trial experience. Some attorneys focus exclusively on negotiating settlements and will not be prepared to go to court should it become necessary to do so. You want someone who has the resources to fight for your rights, no matter how far you need to go.

2. Check Their Reputation and Track Record

Check online reviews on the attorneys you’re considering. What do their clients have to say? Though every attorney will probably have a negative review or two, you want someone who, overall, has an excellent reputation among their clients and peers. Legal awards can also provide some insight into the attorney’s character.

3. Ask About Resources

To adequately investigate your case and represent you in negotiations, your attorney will need to have certain resources at hand. These include connections to accident reconstruction specialists, medical experts, and professional investigators. Ask questions about what resources your attorney has to build a strong case on your behalf.

4. Observe Communication

Effective communication is essential throughout the legal process. You need a law firm that responds to your needs, and individual attorneys who listen to your concerns and keep you updated on the progress of your case. You should also feel comfortable talking to your attorney and feel like the person is genuinely interested in your well-being.

5. Meet Face-to-Face

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential attorneys to 3-5 individuals/firms, make an appointment so you can meet each one face-to-face. Most boat accident attorneys will provide a free initial consultation, during which you can ask questions and observe how the attorney and their staff interact with you.

The Chaffin Luhana team has the resources, experience with complex cases, and passion to carefully investigate and zealously litigate and try your boat accident case.

What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana

Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:

Automobile Accident Victim

“It’s a shame that the insurance companies put you through this…I’m glad there are people like you out there because the insurance companies would walk all over victims otherwise.”

– Mark S., Personal Injury Client

Automobile Accident Victim

“[The firm has] done right [by] me. You did everything right. Informing me and keeping me up to date. You did a fine job. I appreciate you very much.”

– Roger J., Personal Injury Client

Automobile Accident Victim

“I didn’t know what to expect since I never needed an attorney before. You took care of everything and were there for me.”

– Vicki B., Personal Injury Client

Find more testimonials here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Compensation Can I Get After a Boating Accident in Connecticut?

If you or a loved one was seriously injured or died in a boating accident, you may be able to pursue compensation for any of the following:

Economic damages:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost income
  • Cost of vehicle repair
  • Property damage
  • Legal costs
  • Funeral and burial costs (in the case of wrongful death)
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

Non-economic damages:

  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium, etc.

Sometimes, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. These are assessed specifically to punish the negligent parties for their behavior, and to prevent them or any other entities from repeating that behavior. Insurance companies do not pay punitive damages. You must take your case to court to file for them.

What Fees or Costs Will I Need to Pay?

Chaffin Luhana operates on a contingency fee basis. That means you only pay us if we’re able to recover payment for you. In the unfortunate event that our lawyers cannot recover damages for you, you will owe us nothing.

During our initial consultation, our firm will help you understand our attorney fees and how they affect your potential recovery.

What If I Was Partly At Fault for the Boating Accident?

Sometimes, more than one person may be at fault in a boating accident. One boat may collide with another, for instance, with both operators sharing fault.

Connecticut follows a comparative negligence system in personal injury cases. That means you can still recover damages even if you were partially at fault. For instance, if you’re found to be 30 percent at fault, your recoverable damages would be reduced by that percentage. So if your total damages came to $100,000, you would receive $70,000.

You can still seek compensation as long as your responsibility does not exceed 51 50 percent. If it does, then you will be found mostly at fault and will no longer be eligible for compensation.

What Is the Average Boating Accident Settlement Amount?

Every boating accident case is unique, so it’s nearly impossible to come up with an “average” settlement amount. The value will depend on many factors, including:

  • The severity of damages—how badly you were injured
  • Your ability to go back to work (if applicable)
  • Your pain and suffering
  • The extent of the property damage
  • Who was at fault

How is Fault Determined in a Boating Accident?

Determining fault in a boating accident is clear-cut in some cases. If the boat operator was speeding at the time of the accident and crashed into another unsuspecting boat or another object, liability would likely be assigned to that one operator.

In other cases, however, one boat may crash into another, or something may go wrong with the boat itself. The insurance company will use the following evidence to determine fault:

  • Police/Coast Guard reports: These establish the basic facts of the accident, and may also shed light on whether anyone was acting negligently.
  • Visual evidence: Photos and videos from the scene can also help establish fault. Video evidence can show the accident taking place, while photos can show property damage and damage to other nearby objects.
  • Witness statements: Eyewitness accounts can provide additional details about the accident.
  • Maintenance records: Boat operators are required to regularly maintain their watercraft. They should have reports that show whether or not they kept up with their responsibilities.

How Are Boat Accident Investigations Conducted?

After a boating accident, various parties, including the insurance company and your boating accident attorney, will investigate the accident to determine what happened and who was at fault.

Steps in the accident investigation may include:

  • Initial assessment: This involves the initial response to the accident by the Coast Guard and other law-enforcement agencies. Their findings will be included in their reports.
  • Review of physical evidence: The parties will review all physical evidence, including the watercraft itself, maintenance logs, boating records, any other damaged property, the area where the accident took place, and any important materials on the boat.
  • Review of other evidence: Interviews with witnesses, boating experts, law enforcement officers, and others can be used as evidence in the case.

How Long Does a Boat Accident Lawsuit Take?

Several factors can affect how long your boat accident lawsuit will take. The general timeline to settle is typically a few months to a year, though if your case goes to trial, it could take a year or more to be resolved.

The factors that affect the timeline include:

  • The severity of your injuries: The worse your injuries are, the longer your case may take. First, you’ll need time to recover. Second, you’ll likely be asking for more money to manage your condition, and the insurance company may resist paying that amount in negotiations.
  • Who is liable: Cases in which one party is liable will likely settle more quickly than cases where there is shared liability.
  • Whether the case goes to trial: Going to trial takes longer than negotiating a settlement. But if the other parties refuse to grant you the compensation you deserve, going to court may be the best option for you. Your Connecticut boat accident attorney can help advise you.

Is There a Deadline for Filing a Boating Accident Lawsuit in Connecticut?

You have two years from the date of the collision to file a lawsuit arising from a boating accident in Connecticut. This is the statute of limitations as set by state law. If you try to file after that time has passed, your case will be dismissed.

This may seem like a long time, but it’s always best to act as fast as you can while the accident is still fresh. Over time, witnesses may forget what happened, or evidence may go missing.

There are some potential exceptions to this rule.

Your injury doesn’t show up until later. In general, you have two years from the date when your injury was first sustained to commence a lawsuit. However, if your doctor didn’t detect your injury during your first visit because it wasn’t presenting symptoms yet, you may have three years from the date of the accident to commence a lawsuit. Certain brain and spinal injuries, for example, may take time to make themselves known.

You have claims against the government. Sometimes, the negligent action or inaction from a government employee, official, or entity, may have had a part to play in the accident. In that case, you must file a claim much sooner—typically within three months. Check with your attorney for more information.

Your Trusted Boat Accident Lawyer in Connecticut

The boating accident attorneys at Chaffin Luhana serve those living in Connecticut. We are passionate advocates for plaintiffs who have suffered injuries in boat accidents and stand ready to help you pursue compensation to the fullest extent allowed under Connecticut law.

Call us today at 888-480-1123.