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Many people boat on Lake Michigan, the Mississippi River, or in Illinois’ smaller lakes and rivers. But an enjoyable hobby can become a disaster in seconds. When you’re injured in a boating accident that someone else’s causes, talk with an attorney about pursuing compensation. Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. can guide you through the insurance claim process or litigation when it’s necessary. Our goal is to win you a fair settlement as soon as possible. To learn more, contact us through our online form or call (312) 236-2900 to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago boating accident lawyer.
Who Can Operate a Boat in Illinois?
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1998, can operate a powered vessel with a 10 horsepower (hp) motor or higher only if they have a Boating Safety Certificate accepted by the Department of Natural Resources. Adolescents between 12 and 18 years old can operate a motorized vessel with 10 hp or more only if they complete a boating safety course and possess a Boating Safety Certificate. Or, they must be under the direct control of a parent, guardian, or adult appointed by their parent or guardian. The adult must have a valid Boating Safety Certificate to supervise a minor operating a boat.
Children under 10 years old cannot operate a motorized vessel, including personal watercraft (PWC). Children who are 10 and 11 years old can operate a powered vessel with more than 10 hp only if they’re accompanied by a parent, guardian, or adult designated by a parent or guardian.
If you are injured in a boating accident, your lawyer will investigate who was operating the vessel, their age, and whether they had a valid Boating Safety Certificate. If we discover the operator of the boat wasn’t qualified to be in control, this is evidence of negligence. We can use this to fight for you to receive compensation.
Types of Boating Accidents
- Commercial Boat Accidents: Some accidents involve commercial boats, including shipping, fishing, and oil vessels. Other commercial boats include chartered boats, party boats, and cruises.
- Yacht Accidents: There are many large yachts on Lake Michigan, both personally owned and rented, which might or might not be operated by a professional.
- Pontoon Boat Accidents: Pontoon boats deal with many accidents each year, including drownings, run-over accidents, and propeller accidents.
- Colliding with Fixed Objects: A boat might collide with an object, like a dock. Depending on the depth of the water, a boat that isn’t properly navigated could collide with rocks or reefs that are well-documented.
- Grounding: A negligent operator might run the boat into the shoreline.
- Colliding with Other Vessels: Two or more boats might collide if an operator isn’t adhering to the rules of the water. Boats also might collide with a PWC.
- Capsizing: Negligent operation of the boat can cause it to capsize or sink.
- Person Overboard/Drowning: A person might be thrown overboard because of the operation of the boat, improper instruction on how to behave on the boat, or inadequate supervision.
- Collision with Person/Run-over Accidents: A boat can collide and badly injury or kill a water skier, snorkeler, or swimmer.
- Propeller Accidents: Some of the most serious run-over accidents involve a person being struck by a moving propeller.
- Slip and Falls: A slip and fall on a boat can lead to serious injuries or a fall overboard.
Common Causes of Boat Accidents
- Lack of experience/training: Inexperienced boaters might not have the knowledge and skills they need to avoid accidents or emergencies.
- Lack of proper supervision: When a young or inexperienced person is in control of the vessel, an experienced adult should be on hand to supervise. In some cases, this is required by law.
- Operator inattention: Even the most experienced boaters can get too comfortable and fail to pay close attention to the weather, water, other vessels, and people on the water.
- Inattention and getting distracted often lead to avoidable accidents.
- Speeding: Boaters might operate their vessel faster than is allowed in the area or is safe for the conditions.
- Recklessness: Some operators try to show off. Their reckless speed and maneuvers can lead to serious collisions, capsizing, and persons overboard.
- Violating a navigational rule: A boat operator might violate a rule for navigating the water.
- Intoxication (Boating under the influence): Operators might drink alcohol or imbibe drugs while in control of the vessel. This is not only negligent; it’s illegal. It’s known as a BUI, similar to a DUI.
- Mechanical failure: A system or part on the boat might fail due to a defect or negligent maintenance.
- Operating in hazardous waters: Some areas are known to be hazardous waters, and small vessels or inexperienced operators should avoid them.
- Weather: Difficult weather and water conditions can lead to an accident. Operators are responsible for checking weather conditions before they head out and while they’re on the water.
Most Powered Boats Must Be Registered in Illinois
Vessels must have an Illinois Certificate of Number, expiration decals, and a Certificate of Title to operate legally. The operator must have the Certificate of Number on board and ready for inspection if the vessel is stopped by law enforcement. There are exceptions for unpowered vessels, like canoes, and some other vessels. Registration is valid for three years and expires on September 30 at the end of the three years.
Certain Safety Equipment is Required in Illinois
Every vessel must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable personal flotation device (life jacket) for each person on board. All vessels that are 16 ft or longer, except canoes and kayaks, also much have a USCG-approved throwable device.
If the vessel has an internal combustion engine, it has to have a USCG-approved fire extinguisher onboard. Also, all powerboats fueled with gas must have a USCG-approved backfire flame arrestor on each carburetor.
Vessels on Lake Michigan must have USCG-approved visual distress signals. If the vessels operate between sunset and sunrise, they must have night signals.
After a serious boating accident causes you injuries, we’ll investigate whether the vessel had all of the required safety features and equipment. A lack of safety equipment might be a sign of negligence. It also might have contributed directly to your accident and injuries.
Were You Hurt in a Boating Accident in Illinois?
If you were injured in a boat accident, talk with a Chicago injury attorney from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. as soon as possible. We’ll thoroughly investigate the accident, including who owns and is responsible for the vessel, who was operating the vessel at the time, and what caused the accident. We’ll get to the bottom of what happened and identify who is liable for your injuries. Then, we’ll pursue compensation for your injuries through an insurance claim or lawsuit.
To schedule your free initial consultation, use our online form, or call (312) 236-2900.