If you're one of the nearly 50 percent of Canadian adults who enjoy recreational boating each year, you may enjoy nothing more than a peaceful afternoon bobbing out on the water. However, sometimes these peaceful days can turn dark and choppy. If you've been injured in a boating accident due to another boater's negligence or recklessness, you may be wondering about your legal options. Read on to learn more about the steps you should take following a boating accident.
What are your legal options after suffering a boating accident?
If you've been injured in a collision with another driver -- or after colliding with debris released by another boat -- you have several options available to you. In most cases, the other boater's insurance should cover most of the damage to your boat and any medical expenses incurred (up to the insurance limits). If the other boater did not have insurance, your own insurance (or the insurance of the driver on whose boat you were traveling) should help pay some of your costs.
However, in many situations -- particularly if a large number of boaters are involved in an accident -- the insurance can hit its cap before all expenses have been paid. If the insurance settlement you've been offered is insufficient to help cover ongoing medical treatment or other expenses associated with this accident, you may want to decline the settlement and instead seek legal action in the form of a personal injury lawsuit.
It's important to note that the terms of most insurance settlements include a clause releasing all claims for the accident -- so once you accept the settlement offer, you're unable to later sue for injuries related to the accident. Because some injuries can take years to treat (or even fully identify the scope of treatment needed) you may want to seek legal advice before accepting a settlement to ensure that you're not releasing any potential legal claims without proper compensation.
When should you seek a personal injury lawsuit?
If you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, you should again contact an attorney to help determine the potential value of your claim and your best course of action when proceeding to court. In Ontario, you have up to 2 years to file a claim against the person who caused your injury, so although it is important to seek legal advice relatively quickly, you need not feel rushed to file before you've explored all options and begun to gather evidence to support your claim.
To succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, you'll need to show that the person responsible for your injuries owed you a certain duty of care (such as passing by your boat without colliding), that he or she breached this duty, and that the breach directly resulted in your injury or financial loss. This can be relatively simple or difficult to prove, depending upon the facts of your specific case. You'll want to gather evidence -- including witness statements and photos or videos, if available -- describing or showing the defendant's negligence or recklessness in colliding with your boat.
In some cases, the defendant's attorney may offer to settle the claim for an amount higher than the insurance settlement, but often lower than you're seeking through your lawsuit. In some situations, it may be worthwhile to accept this offer rather than go through the time, expense, and uncertainty of a trial. In other cases, you may be better off risking a trial for a much larger verdict than taking a guaranteed amount that may not be enough to fully compensate you for your losses.
For more information, contact an experienced law firm like Pressé Mason Barristers.