Who is liable for a dock or marina accident depends on two factors: who was responsible for keeping you safe on the dock or marina and who displayed negligence that contributed to the accident. A boating accident lawyer could help you identify this party, which may be a:
- Dock or marina owner
- Boat operator or owner
- Materials manufacturer
- Mechanic or maintenance team
How Property Owners Can Cause Dock Accidents
When you dock at a particular place, you expect that the dock’s owners and the owners of the other boats in that dock will exhibit careful, common-sense behavior. For instance:
- The owner of the marina should keep the entire place in good repair by maintaining clear, dry walkways; storing dangerous (e.g., flammable) materials safely, and removing rotting rope or wooden planks.
- The marina owner should also respond promptly to complaints of unsafe conditions.
- Boat owners and operators should follow the marina’s rules and avoid engaging in obviously dangerous behavior, such as drinking and driving.
Careless behaviors like those described above could easily lead to property damage and serious bodily injuries.
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Mechanical Issues and Marina Accidents
Suppose that there is no evidence of negligent behavior on the part of either the marina owner or any boat owner. Does that mean you cannot sue for compensation? Not necessarily.
Boat and dock owners rely on others, such as mechanics and manufacturers, to keep their property in good condition. For instance:
- Boat owners hire mechanics to look over their boats and address potential issues before they cause serious problems, such as mechanical failures.
- Similarly, marina owners will hire people to maintain their property and to deal with any safety hazards. They may purchase materials to rebuild or renovate certain dock features, believing that these materials are of high quality.
- When a person buys a boat or a piece of dock equipment, they trust that the manufacturer has done their due diligence, tested the product for safety, and used appropriate building materials.
A failure on the part of a manufacturer or mechanic could cause:
- A boat to break down
- A fire or explosion
- A dock to collapse
- A collision between boats or between a boat and the dock
When a maintenance team or manufacturer fails to do their job competently, the person who hired them could be just as caught off-guard as you were. In such a case, instead of suing the boat or dock owner, you could file your case against the mechanic or manufacturer.
It is not always easy to determine who is liable for a dock or marina accident, especially when multiple parties are involved (e.g. if both a dock owner and a manufacturer displayed negligence). A watercraft accident lawyer can investigate your accident until they have tracked down all of the at-fault parties.
Proving Liability for a Marina Accident
One of the first things to do after a boating accident is to start collecting evidence of your accident and its consequences. Why? A key part of your lawsuit involves proving the four elements of negligence. Evidence gathered in the immediate wake of the accident can help you and your law firm to do this.
The four elements of negligence are:
Duty of Care
Dock owners, boat operators, manufacturers, and mechanics all have one thing in common: a responsibility to do their jobs well enough that they do not cause harm to anyone else.
Breach of Duty
All of the actions already discussed—from driving drunk to not addressing mechanical issues promptly—constitute a breach of duty. Someone who should have known better chose to shirk their responsibilities, thus putting those around them at risk of injury.
Not every breach of duty results in an accident. It is your job, as the person bringing the lawsuit, to demonstrate a connection between the negligent act and your accident. A boat accident attorney can help you with this.
Similar to the issue of causation, not every accident results in compensable damages. You and your lawyer will have to find definitive proof that your physical, mental, and financial losses are directly tied to the accident that was caused by the liable party’s breach of duty.
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Holding Someone Liable for a Dock Accident
Once you and your lawyer have figured out the cause of your marina accident, it is time to take action to hold them accountable. You can do this by filing a lawsuit against them and asking their insurance company to pay you a fair settlement. This process involves:
- Determining how much money your case is worth based on your damages, which may include property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and reduced quality of life
- Sending them a demand letter, which should include a description of your injuries, how the liable party caused those injuries, and how much money you expect them to pay you
- Negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement that will allow you to cover all of your present and projected losses, then drawing up a settlement agreement for both sides to sign
- Taking the responsible party to court if it is not possible to recover a pretrial settlement for any reason
Suing for compensation can take some time, especially if the insurance company chooses not to cooperate. This is why hiring a personal injury law firm is such a good idea: they can manage your legal action for you. You would not have to worry about:
- Speaking directly to the liable party or their insurer by yourself
- Going to court or trying to negotiate with a powerful and knowledgeable insurance representative
- Taking time away from your recovery to deal with legal matters that you do not fully understand
Instead, your legal representative would take care of everything and keep you informed along the way.
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Were You in a Dock Accident?
Get in touch with Kaine Law today. It is very important that you find out who is liable for a dock or marina accident in a timely manner, or else you could lose the right to collect any compensation at all, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. Our boat accident lawyers are eager to help you.