FOLSOM WATER SPORT ACCIDENT LAWYER
I’m Ed Smith, a Folsom Personal Injury Lawyer. It may be a few months before people in the rest of the country head out to lakes and rivers for some fun on the water, but Californians are blessed with some of the best weather in the country. Many take to the ocean, to rivers, and/or to lakes on the weekend to unwind with friends and family. Water sports like boating, jet skiing, water skiing and tubing are all popular throughout the country. As a Folsom water sport accident lawyer, and personal injury attorney for over three decades, I’ve helped countless victims recover compensation for injuries caused by the negligence of others.
Does the Doctrine of the Assumption of Risk Bar Recovery in Water Sports Accidents?
When a person is injured by another while both are participating in a water sport, can the injured person recover compensation for those injuries?
The “Knee-Jerk” Answer – Absolutely No Recovery… Right?
If you were to pose this question to a newly-minted lawyer or one without experience in handling water sports accidents, that lawyer’s knee-jerk reaction would be to say that you are likely not entitled to compensation. This is because of a doctrine known as “assumption of risk,” a doctrine that is applicable in land-based sports and water-based sports. The “assumption of risk” doctrine operates like this: if you are voluntarily participating in a sport with known risks and hazards and you are injured by another, you may not recover any compensation for your injury if it is of the type one might expect to encounter in that sport or activity. If you play hockey on the weekends and during a match you are hit in the face with a wayward stick, the assumption of risk doctrine would prevent you from recovering compensation. So this principle would obviously apply to a water-based sport injury, right? Not so fast.
Federal Maritime Law Does Not Recognize the Assumption of Risk Doctrine
Depending on where your boating or water-based sport injury occurred – specifically if it occurred in “navigable waters” as that term is defined by statute – your injury case may be governed by federal maritime law, not state law. This is significant, because federal maritime law does not recognize the “assumption of risk” doctrine. In other words, if you were injured while boating or engaging in certain activities on “navigable waters,” you may in fact be entitled to recover compensation – even if the “assumption of risk” doctrine would otherwise preclude you from recovering anything.
Determining whether federal maritime law applies is a challenging task. An experienced maritime injury lawyer will be interested in the precise location where your injury occurred as well as the nature of your sport or activity as this will determine whether federal maritime law applies.
Assumption of Risk Does Not Preclude Recovery for Unanticipated Injuries
If federal maritime law does not apply, you may still be able to avoid the “assumption of risk” doctrine by showing that your injury was of a type not normally anticipated by participants in your sport or activity. To use an (extreme) example, if you are tubing you are taking a risk that you will fall out of the inner tube as it is being towed and be injured. If this is in fact how you are injured, “assumption of risk” would apply and prevent you from recovering damages. But if the operator of the boat that is towing you is drunk and tows you into an active shipping lane where you strike a commercial vessel, this would be the sort of unanticipated injury that would allow you to get around the “assumption of risk” doctrine.
Folsom Water Sport Accident Lawyer
If your or a loved one has been injured in a boating or water sport accident caused by another’s negligent or reckless behavior, contact me for a free consultation. I’m Ed Smith, a Folsom Personal Injury Lawyer since 1982. Call me anytime at 916-921-6400 or toll free at 800-404-5400.
Photo Attribution: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain images]