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San Diego Boating Accident Attorney

San Diego Boating Accident Attorney

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San Diego Boating Accident Attorney

California State Parks, Division of Boating and Waterways, reports that well over 50,000 boats are registered in San Diego County, representing more than seven percent of all the boats registered in the state. Each year, dozens of boating accidents occur in San Diego County, some of which result in injuries and fatalities.

With high boat traffic in San Diego Bay, if you enjoy boating in the area, you may one day experience a boating accident. If you have already experienced this unfortunate reality and suffered injuries in a San Diego boating accident, you may seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party.

The experienced boating accident lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys understand how severe injuries devastate boating accident victims and their families, and we are here to help. You should not have to deal with economic strife on top of the pain and stress of your injuries. Contact us online or call now for a free consultation to discuss the details of your boating accident, your injuries, the way they have impacted your life, and the best course of action given your circumstances.

Types of San Diego Boating Accidents

A boating accident can be caused by various events that lead to property damage to a boat, injuries, and/or fatalities.

According to California State Parks, the most common types of boating accidents in Southern California and San Diego include:

  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Capsizings
  • Flooding
  • Grounding
  • Fires
  • Falls overboard

Causes of San Diego Boating Accidents

Like the vast majority of traffic accidents, boating accidents are preventable. Specific causes vary, but on a broad level, most boating accidents occur because of negligence.

Specific factors that lead to boating accidents in San Diego and throughout California include:

  • Operator inexperience. California law specifies who must have a California Boater Card or the supervision of a licensed adult to legally operate a vessel with a motor of 15 or more horsepower. To obtain a California Boater Card, you must take a state-approved boater safety education course and pass an exam. However, a safety course is not a substitute for experience, and individuals who have not spent much time on the water can cause all types of boating accidents. Our San Diego personal injury lawyers routinely investigate to determine whether a boat operator had a valid license or proper supervision at the time of an accident, because lack of a license could serve as evidence of negligence.
  • Operator inattention. Distracted boat operators that are not paying attention to their duties are the number one cause of boating accidents in San Diego Bay and throughout Southern California. When operators aren’t watching what’s ahead, dangerous collisions with other vessels can occur. Sometimes, operators are chatting with passengers or using their cell phones. On larger boats, safe operators often appoint a lookout person, but that individual may also fail to prevent an accident. By the time an inattentive boat operator notices an obstacle ahead, it may be too late to avoid a collision.
  • Excessive speed. Operating a boat at an excessive speed is another common cause of boating accidents. Excessive speed makes it difficult for operators to keep control of their vessels. It also makes it difficult to react to water hazards and other vessels. Although excessive speed can lead to other kinds of boating accidents, it is commonly associated with collisions and capsizing, especially in inclement weather.
  • Machinery/equipment failure. Boat owners have a legal duty to keep their boats well-maintained to ensure that they are safe out on the water. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance make it less likely for a mechanical breakdown to occur on the water. Equipment failure at critical times can lead to collisions, fires, and other dangerous boating accidents. Mechanical breakdowns on a boat can also occur because of defective boats or defective boat parts. If a defective product leads to a boating accident and injuries, the product manufacturer and other parties in the boat or boat parts chain of distribution could face liability for damages.
  • Hazardous weather/rough water. In San Diego Bat, hazardous weather that creates rough water and less than optimal boating conditions can come on quickly. Although boat operators cannot control the weather, they can choose whether to go out on the water on a given day. Failure to plan or reach land before a dangerous storm rolls in may lead to capsizing. Rough water and high winds can also deplete fuel supply and leave boaters stranded to capsize or eventually run aground.

Types of Injuries That San Diego Boating Accident Victims Suffer

Boating accidents can lead to a wide range of injuries, depending on the specific type of accident. The most recent state data shows that boat collisions and boat fires are the most common boating accidents in San Diego Bay. Both of these types of accidents can lead to death.

Individuals who survive such accidents may experience one or more of the following injuries, depending on the circumstances of the accident:

  • Deep cuts and wounds that leave permanent scars
  • Fractures
  • Burns
  • Sprains, strains, and more serious soft-tissue injuries
  • Head traumas that lead to traumatic brain injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Neck and back injuries, including fractured vertebrae and slipped discs
  • Spinal cord injuries that lead to permanent paralysis in some or all of the body
  • Amputation
  • Dislocation
  • Hypothermia, shock, and drowning injuries

Locations of San Diego Boating Accidents

San Diego’s waterfront is bustling with commercial and leisure boat activity, all of which could serve as a setting for a boat accident that results in severe injuries.

Boating accidents occur in many situations and may involve many different types of boats, including:

  • Private boats. Many accidents occur on private boats, causing injury to boaters. Large vessels with staff can cause accidents, resulting in injuries when the boat owners do not properly maintain their boats. Alcohol can also play a large role in leading to boating accidents. Individuals who drink and operate a boat put others at risk for injury, but passengers who consume too much alcohol or use drugs are also at risk for falling overboard, especially in rough water outside the bay.
  • Personal watercraft. Operating a personal watercraft is a popular pastime in San Diego’s warm weather. Personal watercraft are small and fast, and many people operate them without proper training. Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult for other boats to spot these boats. If a larger vessel collides with a personal watercraft, the consequences are often fatal. Individuals who live through a collision face the likelihood of debilitating injuries.
  • Cruise ships. San Diego is not as big of a cruise port as Miami, but plenty of cruise liners and smaller cruise vessels travel in and out of San Diego Bay. Poor security, inadequate maintenance practices, and poorly trained personnel can all contribute to serious bodily harm. Each cruise line has different rules for reporting a claim, so if you suffered injuries when taking a cruise out of San Diego, you need to contact a San Diego boating accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
  • Marinas/docks. Boat owners and operators berth their vessels at marinas and docks in San Diego Bay and nearby coastal areas. Unsafe docks that are poorly built or maintained can lead to dangerous slip and fall accidents, drowning, and other injury-causing events. Boaters who are embarking, disembarking, or securing a vessel can also suffer injuries if another boat or object strikes them.

The Financial Impact of San Diego Boating Accident Injuries

Severe boating accident injuries can devastate victims and their families. On top of the physical pain associated with injuries and healing, boating accident victims and their families often face immense financial pressure after suffering injuries. In the worst cases, households face eviction, foreclosure, vehicle repossession, and/or bankruptcy. In some cases, families struggle to provide day-to-day needs. Examples of financial aspects of boating accident injuries that impact a household include:

Medical Bills

Severe boating accident injuries are costly to treat and lead to piles of medical bills for victims and their families. Treatment costs start to accumulate with an ambulance or helicopter ride to the hospital and an emergency room visit.

Other possible medical expenses include hospitalization, surgery, aftercare, prescription medications, and diagnostic tests, including X-rays and other lab tests. When severe injuries occur, medical treatment costs continue to accumulate.

In the worst situations, boating accident victims suffer permanent injuries. Some permanent injuries require ongoing treatment or additional surgeries. Furthermore, families might need to place their loved ones in a long-term nursing care facility if they cannot provide the needed care and treatment at home.

A victim’s health insurance might cover some initial treatment costs, but typically not everything. Also, only separate insurance policies pay for care in a long-term care facility, creating a massive economic burden for families.


Recovery and healing are a critical part of every boating accident injury. Rehabilitation includes a variety of therapies or treatments and is more involved with severe injuries. Physical therapy is almost always part of rehabilitation. It helps patients recover lost movement from orthopedic and soft tissue injuries.

Occupational therapy is part of rehabilitation for those who suffer permanent injuries. Occupational therapy helps patients cope with their injuries by learning alternate ways to do normal daily tasks. Speech and language therapy helps patients, especially those who have suffered brain injuries, learn or relearn how to communicate with others.

Suffering a severe boating accident injury is also an emotionally traumatic event. Victims might develop a fear of boats or water, depending on their situations. Sometimes, psychotherapy, counseling, or other mental health services are also a part of a rehabilitation program. These costly therapies create additional expenses for boating accident victims.

Lost Wages and Benefits

Boating accident victims who provided a significant portion of a household income may have to miss weeks or months of work if they suffer severe injuries. It’s possible to qualify for temporary disability payments, but they only cover a portion of lost wages, leaving a significant income gap for a household.

Individuals who cannot work because of their injuries may have to use all of their paid time off and typically have to pay higher insurance rates to maintain their health insurance coverage.

In the worst boating accidents, individuals may suffer permanent injuries that prevent the injured individuals from returning to work. When a member of a household can never work again, financial insecurity becomes commonplace. Like temporary disability, permanent disability payments only pay up to a maximum amount and never completely replace lost income. Family members who have to care for a loved one also face professional consequences; they might need to quit their job or reduce their hours, adding more financial burden to the situation.

Outside Help

Many boating accident victims contributed to maintaining their households before suffering injuries. In many cases, family members can chip in to perform tasks that the victim once completed. However, some victims and/or their families must rely on expensive outside help. This is especially true when other family members work outside the home or when the boating accident victim lives alone.

Examples of the things that a family might need to hire outside help for include:

  • Yard service and lawn care
  • Handyman
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Grocery shopping and cooking
  • Childcare and tutors

San Diego Boating Accident FAQs

If you or a loved one has recently sustained injuries in a San Diego boating accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you might feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, or a combination. Dealing with severe injuries and all of the stress that comes with them can leave accident victims and their families uncertain about the next steps. Take advantage of Gomez Trial Attorneys’ free case evaluation to learn how we can help.

Whether the boating accident occurred mere hours ago or months ago, the following answers to frequently asked questions about boating accidents in San Diego may help provide you with some preliminary information until you have the opportunity to meet with an attorney.

Do I have to report a San Diego boating accident?

The California State Parks, Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), requires you to file a written accident report within 24 hours when the accident results in:

  • Fatalities, disappearance, or injuries that require more than first aid
  • More than $500 of property damage
  • The complete loss of a vessel

You have 10 days to file the report if someone died more than 24 hours after the accident, if the accident only resulted in property damage, or resulted in the loss of a vessel. It’s best for the boat owner or operator to file a report.  Others in the accident can file on the injured individual’s behalf if he or she is physically unable or otherwise incapacitated.

Is the boat owner automatically liable for injuries from a San Diego boating accident?

No. A boat owner is one of the many parties that you might name as a defendant in a lawsuit seeking compensation for your boating accident injuries.

Depending on the exact circumstances of the accident, one or more of the following parties may face liability for damages:

  • Boat operator. Individuals who act negligently while operating a boat could face liability for damages from an accident. Negligent behaviors include inattentive operation, consuming alcohol or drugs, and operating the boat beyond a safe speed.
  • Passengers. Boat passengers may face responsibility for an accident if their negligence led to an accident. Examples include a passenger who interferes with the safe operation of a vessel or causes another to fall overboard.
  • Boat/boat part manufacturer. If a defective boat or defective boat part causes mechanical issues that lead to a boating accident, the company that designed and built the boat or part could face partial or full liability for damages.
  • Boat owner. Whether an individual or business, boat owners have a responsibility to properly maintain their boats. Failure to perform proper maintenance or properly train those who work on yachts or larger boats opens the owner up to liability. Additionally, when you file an insurance claim for injuries related to a boat accident, the owner typically carries the insurance coverage. Even if the boat owner was not directly negligent, the owner could face liability by nature of holding the liability insurance policy for the boat.

What is the statute of limitations to recover damages after suffering San Diego boating accident injuries?

Boating accidents are complex cases. Depending on the circumstances of your boating accident, different statutes of limitations could apply. Boating accidents could fall under federal, state, and/or local law, depending on the accident location. If your injuries occurred under federal jurisdiction, you have three years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.

If your injuries occurred onshore or in waters governed by California, you only have two years to bring a lawsuit. Additionally, if the liable party is a government entity, you only have six months to file an administrative claim. If you’ve sustained injuries in a San Diego boat accident, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to preserve your rights.

An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you which laws apply to your situation. If you miss the deadline, you risk losing the chance to seek compensation for your injuries.

What protections do I have if I sustained injuries in a San Diego boating accident while working?

Unlike other employees who suffer on-the-job injuries, the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) does not typically cover crew members and other employees related to a vessel’s operation. However, federal law does provide other protections for injured crew members and harbor workers to recover compensation for their injuries.

Below we provide a broad overview of three main federal laws that could apply to your situation:

  • Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, seamen who sustain injuries while working have the right to sue their employers for negligence, if their vessels were unseaworthy. A representative on behalf of the employee can also bring a claim in the event of death. The entire vessel need not be unsafe; accidents can occur because the employee does not have the proper gear or equipment for the job. The owner has a duty to keep everything in working order. Failure opens the vessel’s owner to liability and protects employees from hazardous conditions beyond their control.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) also protects maritime employees who suffer accidental injuries or death while working. Protected workers include longshoremen, ship repairmen, shipbuilders, and ship-breakers—any worker who contributes to the vessel’s function. If the injury occurs in or over navigable waters, the employer is liable for damages under the LHWCA. You may also hold vessel owners liable if they knew about the hazard that led to injuries. The law is specific about the covered injuries and the amount of compensation that a worker or surviving family members may receive, so contact an attorney as soon as possible. Claims under LHWCA have strict reporting requirements beginning with notifying an employer of injury or death within 30 days.
  • Death on the High Seas Act. The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is a federal law that permits eligible survivors to file a lawsuit if their loved one died on the high seas because of intentional harm, negligence, or disrepair. Under DOHSA and other federal maritime laws, waters beyond three nautical miles of the coast are considered high seas. Surviving family members can seek compensation for damages that have resulted from the death of their loved one.

What Damages Can I Recover After Suffering Injuries in a San Diego Boating Accident?

If you sue the boat owner or other responsible party to seek damages related to your injuries, you may receive compensation for various losses related to your injuries.

If you reach a settlement or the court rules in your favor, you could receive compensation for:

  • Medical expenses, including emergency response teams, helicopter or ambulance ride to the hospital, emergency room treatment, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, surgery, prescription medication, and doctor visits
  • Estimated future medical treatment costs when a boating accident causes a permanent injury that requires ongoing care or treatment
  • Rehabilitation expenses for special treatments that help boating accident victims cope with the physical and emotional challenges that come with severe injuries
  • Costs for assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and artificial limbs
  • Lost wages for time away from work due to injuries and hospitalization
  • Lost earning capacity when a boating accident causes a catastrophic injury that prevents someone from returning to work or seeking future employment
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Loss of consortium, if applicable
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Punitive damages in cases involving willful harm or gross negligence

Will my San Diego boating accident case go to trial?

Litigation is costly, making settlement and alternative dispute resolutions, like mediation, attractive for both sides. Everyone involved has the motivation to avoid going to trial; however, the complexities of boat accident cases are not always conducive to settlement or mediation. Your attorney will review your case and give you an idea of what challenges might prevent a settlement and your likelihood of going to trial. Until you have the chance to meet with a lawyer, you should prepare for the possibility that you will have to go to court and have your attorney advocate for you in front of a court.

Do I need to hire an attorney to seek compensation for my San Diego boating accident injuries?

You can file an insurance claim against the boat owner’s policy without an attorney, but you risk not recovering maximum compensation for your boating accident injuries. Lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the complicated laws associated with boating accidents in San Diego and understand how to apply the law to your claim, giving you the best chances of receiving compensation for your injuries. Additionally, insurance carriers often take claimants who have representation more seriously and avoid engaging in predatory tactics to deny and devalue a claim.

Attorney John Gomez


Personal Injury Attorney, John Gomez

Should I talk to the insurance company before contacting a San Diego boating accident lawyer?

When dealing with the severe injuries and high-stakes claims often associated with boating accidents, it’s almost always in your best interest to hold off talking to the insurance company until after you have consulted with an attorney. Insurance adjusters’ main goal when getting a claimant’s statement is to find a way to deny or devalue a claim. If you talk to an adjuster before consulting with a lawyer, you risk saying something that the adjuster can use against you.

Additionally, adjusters like to trick or bully people into giving recorded statements. Your attorney can handle most communications and guide you on what you should and should not say when you need to speak with the insurance company. This protects your claim and gives you the best chance of receiving the maximum compensation for your injuries.

How much compensation should I expect to receive for my San Diego boating accident injuries?

We cannot give you a set amount of money that you might receive for your claim. Each accident injury case has unique facts and circumstances that add to or detract from the value of a claim. If you have a viable claim and the court rules in your favor, you may qualify to receive thousands or millions. If you settle, you might choose to accept less than the full value of your claim.  However, Gomez Trial Attorneys cannot guarantee any value for recovery.

When you consult an experienced boating accident lawyer from Gomez Trial Attorneys, we will evaluate your claim and determine your economic and non-economic losses to determine an accurate value. However, the other side will always think that our number is too high. We can give you a ballpark estimate of what you might expect, but there are still no guarantees. As a general rule, more severe injuries lead to greater losses and thus more compensation.

Do I have to pay upfront for a San Diego boating accident lawyer?

No—not when you hire us. Our San Diego boating accident lawyers offer free consultations and take new clients on a contingent fee basis. You can share your story, ask questions, and learn more about what is to come during an initial consultation. This also gives your potential lawyer a chance to review your claim and determine your eligibility to seek compensation for damages.

If the attorney you meet with recommends taking legal action, and you choose to retain that attorney, you will not have to pay out-of-pocket. A contingent fee agreement permits your lawyer to deduct attorney fees and other legal costs from any money that you receive for your injuries in the form of a settlement or court awarded damages.  If there is no recovery, then you don’t owe any attorney fees.

If you suffered boating accident injuries in the San Diego area, the skilled legal team at Gomez Trial Attorneys can help you hold the at-fault parties accountable for their negligence. Contact us today online for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys After a San Diego Boating Accident

Boating accidents are traumatic events that negatively impact multiple areas of victims’ lives. Recovering maximum compensation for your injuries can prove challenging because of how complex boating accident cases often are.

The legal team at Gomez Trial Attorneys has extensive experience representing clients in and around San Diego who have suffered severe injuries in boating accidents. You do not have to fight for compensation alone; let one of our skilled lawyers handle your case while you focus on healing and recovery.

Contact us online or by calling 866-TRIAL LAW (866 874-2552) for a free case evaluation to tell us your story, discuss your injuries, and determine your eligibility to pursue a claim.

Injured in an accident? Get a real trial lawyer. Get Gomez.

Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101

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“This is the best law firm in San Diego for a reason. I was lucky to have my case picked up by the Gomez Trial Attorneys after I was struck by a car while crossing the street. This was an unexplainably painful time in my life, and, as a 22 year old college student, I did not know what to do. I met Max Halpern, who is the lawyer that represented my case, a week later. Even though I did not know at the time, I could not have been in better hands.

I kept on with my studies, daily life, and physical and mental recovery as Max silently worked hard at my case. All though out my experience, Max kept in constant contact, updating and informing me of everything I needed to know. then one day it was over and Max had won big.

I do not know if it is appropriate to share details of a settlement but I will say that this team took the ugliest, hardest, most painful experience of my life and turned it into something boundlessly positive.

I believe my life is better now for having been represented by Gomez Trial Attorneys and I will walk away from this chapter of my life forever grateful. These people are the living definition of excellence.”

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