Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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BuoyThere are many maritime regulations in place across the United States that aim to improve safety for boaters. However, just because there are maritime laws in place, doesn’t mean they are always abided. In our last blog, we discussed the importance of waterway markers and how they serve a purpose in protecting boaters from harm. But although these markers can assist in navigation and help prevent accidents in open waters, they can also create a danger for watercraft users and passengers.

Because of this, there is a chance that a fatal North Carolina boating accident could have been caused by inappropriately installed or improperly maintained markers. Let’s take a look at how these aids to navigation can create a perilous situation for boaters.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn our last blog, our firm reported a weekend boating accident in North Carolina that claimed the life of a 17-year-old teen and left a man in his 30s critically injured. Though authorities have yet to comment on what caused the crash, what we do know thus far is that the victims were riding in a 14-foot jon boat when the vessel crashed into a channel marker piling. There are many times when an accident involving a watercraft results from the craft’s operator’s own negligence in abiding by proper maritime safety laws, and other times when factors that cannot be controlled (such as inclement weather) are to blame. However, there are times in which the very laws and tactics that are put in place to prevent boating accidents in open waters are what actually cause the accidents themselves.

Accident reports show that the victims struck a waterway marker piling, but could the actual markers have been what contributed to the crash in the first place? There’s a very real chance that they could have. Let’s explore the possibilities.

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jon boatSummer is in full swing, which means that boating season is in full swing also. Oceans, lakes and other waterways are becoming increasingly congested with vessels and watercrafts, which means boaters should be exercising even greater caution than usual to stay safe. This is especially true for those who prefer to sail along narrow channels. Even when abiding by proper speed regulations, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Some may be caused by unforeseen circumstances, such as sudden changes in weather, while others are attributed to faulty equipment, operator distraction or intoxication. However, a recent boating accident in North Carolina has left us to wonder whether another factor could be to blame.

A Leland teenager was killed this weekend after a 14-foot jon boat he was riding in struck a channel marker piling near Blue Water Point Marina. The accident, which happened on Saturday at around 4:30 pm, also left a man in his 30s critically injured.

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July 4th is often an exciting time for family and friends to get together to enjoy good times and fireworks. The view from onboard a boat can be quite spectacular, even when a person just wants to star gaze. But as your boating accident lawyer knows, even in the midst of all the beauty in the sky, tragedy can occur. That appears to have been the case this past 4th of July.

According to a recent news article, the 4th of July ended tragically for a number of family members and friends. The story noted that a 32-foot Contender that was carrying one young man’s twin sister and her friends ended up T-boning a 36-foot Carrera that held a family of eight. The crash caused the passengers in the Carrera to fall out and even knocked some individuals unconscious. Ultimately, a third boat was also caught up in the collision. Four people died as a result of the crash and three individuals were critically hurt. Accident investigators noted that the accident ranked as one of the deadliest recreational boating accidents in South Florida, and they commented that they have added alcohol as a potential contributing factor in the accident.

The events that took place that day were devastating for so many families. But the incident stands as yet another reminder of the need for boating safety and the importance for individuals to know the rules of the water.

The Boating Rules in Florida

A well-versed boating accident lawyer is aware that Florida has a number of laws and rules with respect to boating. For instance, individuals should be aware of who is permitted to operate a vessel in the state. If a vessel (including personal watercrafts) is powered by a motor that is 10 horsepower or higher, any individual born on or after January 1 of 1988 who operates the vessel must have taken and completed a boater education class that has been approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (or they must have passed an equivalency test).

Those who are required to complete the class or take the test must carry a picture identification card and a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued boating safety education ID card. As of October 1, 2011, the rules also allow for an individual to carry his or her course completion certificate that shows successful course completion in the alternative, along with a photo ID. Additionally, no person under age 14 is allowed to operate any personal watercraft in Florida on any occasion, even if he or she has a boating safety education ID card, and no one under 18 years of age will be allowed to rent or lease a personal watercraft.

Boaters should also note that it is illegal to operate a vessel at an improper speed that is greater than the posted speed. Additionally, it is illegal to operate vessels in a careless manner such that the operator fails to prevent the endangerment of one’s life, limbs or property. Also, boaters are not permitted to operate vessels beyond the maximum horsepower or load, nor are they permitted to allow individuals to ride on a raised deck, bow or gunwale of a vessel where there is a chance that the person may fall overboard.

Perhaps most importantly, the same or similar rules apply to boating as they do to vehicles as it relates to drinking alcohol. Put simply, you cannot and should drink and operate a vessel. Alcohol is the greatest danger at sea, and despite the fact that drinking and boating is very common, there are far fewer Boating under the influence arrests as there are Driving under the influence.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a boating accident, contact a skilled boating accident lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. right away.

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American flagOur maritime lawyers would like to take this moment to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. Independence Day is an incredible holiday. After all, it celebrates the birth of our nation. Many of us will enjoy the holiday at home, while some of us may go out and enjoy the great outdoors. And naturally, since the holiday falls during summertime, some of the most popular activities on the 4th of July involve the water, including boating, water skiing, parasailing and kayaking.

Water activities are a lot of fun, especially on a holiday like the 4th, when beaches and lakes are packed with people of all ages enjoying the day with their loved ones. Of course, many will be enjoying alcohol and fireworks as well. Unfortunately, when you combine heavy marine traffic, drinking and fireworks, sometimes things can get out of hand. It’s important to keep safety in mind while celebrating, especially if your plans involve water sports and activities.

Statistics show that more boating accidents occur on Independence Day than any other holiday. Waterways are going to be extremely crowded, and it can be tempting to overcrowd vessels. Each state has specific maritime laws that govern water activities, including how fast vessels and Jet Skis can be operated, the minimum age of operators, how many people can ride on a boat or watercraft, etc. There are also laws regarding alcohol consumption, which can lead to boaters and watercraft operators getting charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI).

Some people may not be aware of the fact that there are laws that govern alcohol consumption on waterways, just as there are regulations for consuming alcohol while operating a motor vehicle on land. Through not all state laws impose strict laws as far as punishment for those found guilty of BUI, it’s important to refrain from any alcohol consumption if you are planning on operating a watercraft or vessel.

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Coast Guard searches for boating accident victimsIn our last blog installment, we discussed a fatal boating accident that took place in the Cal-Sag Channel, near Palos Hills, Illinois on Friday night. According to police, a 19-foot pleasure craft collided with a 66-foot commercial towing barge at around 11 pm last Friday night, causing the pleasure craft to capsize. The bodies of two victims, Jeremy Muzika and Viengsavanh Bielarz, have already been recovered, but police initially believed there may have been others that were still missing as of Saturday. We have yet to learn whether or not any other victims were recovered, but as of now, only two fatalities have been recorded, and the victims had both been riding in the pleasure craft. No word on whether anyone on the barge sustained injuries.

Though investigators are still searching for answers as to the nature of the accident, there are several factors that could have contributed to the terrible crash, many of which stem from negligence.

According to one of the victims’ brothers, Greg Bielarz, the group had a tendency to “go out boating every week.” Bielarz added that the group was aware of the frequent presence of barges and noted that “things happen.” This is a rather odd thing to say given the fact that his brother (who may have also been the owner of the vessel) and his brother’s wife were on the boat.

Officials are not releasing the names of the missing boaters as of yet, but continue to hope for the best with the search.

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Coast Guard searches for boating accident victimsOur boating accident attorneys are saddened to hear of a disturbing incident that occurred near Palos Hills, Illinois on Friday night. As of today, three people are believed to be missing and two were killed after their boat capsized in the Cal-Sag Channel.

According to Coast Guard reports, the 19-foot vessel collided with a 66-foot commercial towing barge at around 11 pm Friday night. Someone near the accident scene reportedly heard a loud noise and alerted police, and authorities rushed to the scene to determine what happened. Though investigators found the wreckage, none of the victims were seen initially.

Police report there were at least three people on the pleasure craft, but believed there may have been two others onboard. The search was conducted for five people.

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Boat propellerWhat began as a selfless act to help a struggling group of boaters turned tragic for one South Florida man this weekend. Ernesto Hernandez, only 23 years old, was killed on Sunday while trying to aid local Miami celebrity DJ Laz, whose vessel became stuck on a sandbar on Nixon Island. According to police, Hernandez, a bodyguard, was one of three people who tried to help push the 40-foot pleasure boat back out to sea when he was fatally struck by the vessel’s propellers.

Jorge Pino, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), explained Hernandez sustained severe injuries to his entire torso. The victim was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital via helicopter, but later died from his wounds.

Authorities are investigating the boating accident but we have yet to learn whether negligence was involved in the tragedy. If so, criminal charges could be filed, especially if anyone operating the vessel was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We don’t know yet who the owner of the vessel is, but what we do know is that DJ Laz, whose real name is Lazaro Mendez, was in control of the boat at some point. Though everyone at the scene of the accident should have been issued a breath or blood test to determine if anyone was intoxicated, it appears as though this critical step was not taken.

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water activitiesThere are many factors that can result in an accident at sea. Some are caused by an inexperienced captain and crew, while others result from unfavorable conditions. Below are some of the most common factors contributing to maritime accidents throughout the world, including cruise ship, cargo vessel and pleasure craft accidents:

Inexperience

No matter what state you live in, there are strict maritime laws that govern pleasure craft activities. In addition to those laws, there are international maritime regulations that oversee the operation of cruise and cargo ships to ensure not only the safety of those onboard the vessels, but the safety of anyone else in the vicinity. From the smallest boat to the largest passenger ship in the world, one of the main rules everyone must abide by when manning the helm is the fact that a minimum amount of experience is required. There can be both age limits and experience restrictions when it comes to operating vessels in open water. Inexperience has resulted in many accidents at sea, mostly due to the fact that if a pilot or crew member does not have the sufficient expertise in responding to emergency situations, such as inclement weather or a collision, they will not understand how to maneuver out of the emergency. Yet, these types of accidents continue to occur. Continue reading →

questionA boat and a cruise ship went out to sea…sounds like the beginning of a silly joke, but we assure you, humorous is far from how we would describe a recent accident involving a boat and a cruise ship.  According to reports, three sailors were out at sea in Swedish waters last week when their boat collided with a Viking Line cruise ship. Tiny boat versus 1,800 plus passenger ship? This has disaster written all over it.   But while this maritime accident could have turned out much worse, miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.

News sources say the mariners were sailing in the Stockholm archipelago around midday on Saturday when their boat collided with the Viking ship, which was en route to Finland. Though the boat sunk after crashing with the Viking ship, the sailors were lucky to escape this perilous accident relatively unscathed – and even luckier to have been rescued right away. Locals from the island of Marö, just 200 meters away from the accident scene, witnessed the collision and immediately sailed out to assist the victims. Emergency crews were also quick to respond.

The trio, two men and a woman, were rescued from the frigid waters and brought back to the island, where they were given dry clothes and treated for shock. They were then transported to a local hospital for further treatment, but from what our firm has heard, no one sustained any serious injuries. For that matter, we don’t know if the victims even suffered any injuries at all. This is an extremely rare occurrence, especially considering the fact that even what would appear to be minor boating accidents often result in debilitating – if not fatal – injuries.  Perhaps even more remarkably,  the boaters didn’t even appear to have been wearing life jackets.

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