Injured in a Pleasure Boat Accident in Louisiana?

Many people who live in Louisiana know that boating is both a fun and rewarding pastime. However, it can be hazardous. The waters are full of all types such as ski boats, jet skis, fishing boats, and more. Because of this, a pleasure boat accidents is not an uncommon occurrence.

A pleasure boat accident can, therefore, involve many different laws than those of a car crash or a products liability claim on the land. Specialized maritime laws – both Federal and Louisiana – often apply.

Applying Admiralty and Maritime Law to Pleasure Boats and Jet Skis

Louisiana has large numbers of recreational boaters and accidents that occur on various bodies of water. Sometimes, admiralty and maritime law applies to legal matters involving recreational boats and jet skis.
The general maritime law of the United States is now uniformly accepted as applicable to recreational boaters using the navigable waterways of Louisiana. Offshore Workers and those injured on the river are often handled in different categories. From jet skis to private fishing boats, to wrongful death cases at a marina, the admiralty law may apply. 
Admiralty law, as compared to land based law, is unique. It has its unique laws, regulations, standards, customs, actions and civil procedural rules. Also, many Louisiana recreational boating laws may supplement admiralty law. Often, admiralty law will provide a personal injury victim involved in a boating accident with more options – some good, some bad – than they may have under land-based or Louisiana law.

When Does Maritime Law apply to a Pleasure Boat Accident?

A personal injury claim involving a recreational boat falls within admiralty jurisdiction where the accident occurs on (1) navigable waters or a (2) recreational boat on navigable waters causes an injury suffered on land, and the tort has a nexus with traditional maritime activities. Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. The City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249 (1973); Sisson v. Ruby, 497 U.S. 358 (1990). This is the fundamental law of the United States as to when the maritime law applies to a maritime claim.

Navigable waters are all waters, including lakes, waterways, rivers, harbors, oceans, etc., which are being used by vessels or capable of being used in interstate or foreign commerce. The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. 557 (1871). If a body of water such as a lake can only be used for intrastate commerce (in Louisiana only), then it is not considered navigable.

Therefore, personal injuries to a pleasure boater that occur on a lake wholly within Louisiana will likely not have admiralty jurisdiction.

To satisfy the second part of the test for admiralty jurisdiction, a nexus or connection with the traditional maritime activity, the accident must have the “general character of the activity giving rise to the incident shows a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.” Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527 (1995).

As you can see, pleasure boat accidents involve the application of many United States Supreme Court decisions and are not to be taken lightly. The United States Coast Guard also prints statistics and data on pleasure boat accidents. Personal injury attorney Ed Kramer is admitted to practice before The United States Supreme Court, which is only offered through a nomination and admission process.

Persona Injury Attorney Ed Kramer

What are admiralty and maritime laws?

The maritime law of the United States consists of federal statutory law, and judge-made law. Under the general maritime law, a recreational boat and its owner and operator owe passengers a duty of care. They also have an obligation to warn them of any known dangers.

The duty of care requires the operator and owner to exercise good seamanship practices. Good seamanship practices vary. They depend on:

  • location of the accident
  • type of boat involved
  • water conditions
  • current
  • weather conditions
  • other vessel traffic
  • the activities of the ship at the time of the accident
  • and more.

Recreational or Pleasure Boat Accidents

A recreational boater may be liable for causing a personal injury if they violate the United States Coast Guard regulations relating to recreational boats 33 U.S.C. §§ 2001-2073. These rules govern how vessels are to navigate, actions required to avoid collisions, the types of lights that must be displayed by vessels, and the need for a lookout. The general maritime law consists of other numerous unique laws that are extremely different than the Louisiana State laws and statutes that apply to land-based actions.

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