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South Lake Tahoe Boat Accident Lawyer


Boat accidents in South Lake Tahoe cause injuries and fatalities yearly because of negligent vessel operators and carelessness. The California Department of Boating and Waterways reports that the South Lake Tahoe Police Department conducted 96 search and rescue missions in 2020. Those missions involved 32 boating accidents, 15 deaths, and 177 cases where vessels required assistance.

Of the reported fatalities in South Lake Tahoe in 2020, 12 people drowned, one was killed when struck by a propeller, and two others died from being immersed in the cold water. Because weather conditions in South Lake Tahoe are unpredictable and water temperatures can drop as low as 44 degrees, unprepared boaters can become involved in dangerous situations, resulting in injuries or fatalities.

Filing for Compensation Following a Boating Accident

When you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, a South Lake Tahoe boat accident attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve and need to pay your medical bills, wages lost from the inability to work, and your pain and suffering. Call us today at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You have rights; we know how to protect them and get fair compensation.

What Is the Cause of the High Number of Injuries and Fatalities?

Rental Agencies in the South Lake Tahoe area offer safety briefs, but boats are often rented by novices with no experience handling a watercraft. The problem is that some have little experience and no boating education, which is necessary to stay safe. Only 47 documented vessel owners are registered at South Lake Tahoe, including recreational commercial fishing, passenger boats, etc. While other boat owners are not registered, the number of rentals is high and can increase the danger to others sharing the lake.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Boat Accident?

Most boat accidents are due to negligence or inattention by the vessel operator. Following are the leading reasons an accident involving a boat occurs:

  • Inattention and distraction: The number one reason for a boat accident is that the person steering is distracted or not paying attention. Because weather and water conditions can change without warning, paying attention to what you are doing as you would when driving a motor vehicle is essential.
  • Inexperience: Many people think that steering a boat is the same as driving a car, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who operate a boat need to know how to operate it, take a safety course, learn how to navigate, and study what to do in an emergency.
  • Speeding: Speeding is inappropriate on dry land and dangerous on the water. By speeding in a boat, the wake can disturb others on the water, cause a boating collision with another vessel, or even result in a boat rolling over.
  • Violating navigation rules: Just as traffic laws are enforced to provide safety to drivers, navigation rules help protect boaters. For example, having someone look out for other vessels, objects in the water, and other hazards is a part of good boating safety.
  • Drunk boating: Drinking too much alcohol and operating a boat can be arrested for DUI in California if your BAC level is 0.08 percent or higher, just as it can when driving a motor vehicle.
What Are Some Safety Tips to Remember When Boating?

There are some ways boaters can stay safe while out enjoying the water. The following tips may be helpful:

  • Taking a boat safety course is one of the best ways to prepare yourself and stay safe. The US Coast Guard offers boating safety courses either in classrooms or virtually.
  • Check the weather forecast. Weather prognosticators aren’t always correct but are right most of the time. If the weather forecast calls for high winds, rain, or stormy weather, it’s better to postpone boating until it clears. Even if the weather conditions are supposed to be perfect, keep an eye on the sky to watch for changing winds, a drop in temperature, and clouds that are darkening. That’s when you should probably head to shore.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the boat you are using, the lake’s layout, and boating regulations. All of these things are important to keep yourself and your passengers safe.
  • Use a checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything. Family members and friends are often excited about boating and forget some essential items they need. By making a checklist in advance, you should be well-prepared. Remember to bring a first aid kit, flashlight, audio distress signal, and enough life jackets for everyone because these marine safety supplies can make a difference when you’re in trouble.
  • If your boat has a cabin, get a carbon monoxide detector. Although carbon monoxide poisoning on a boat rarely happens, it isn’t worth the risk.
  • Take swimming lessons if you or your passengers don’t know how.
  • Don’t drink. Drinking alcohol while boating, especially if you are the operator, dramatically increases the risk of a severe boat accident.
  • If someone falls in the water when it’s cold, get them back on board or land as quickly as possible because of the risk of hypothermia.
  • Get your passengers to help by being lookouts. Keeping an eye out for other boat water hazards and helping to navigate can help you avoid potential problems.
Investigating a Recreational Boat Accident on South Lake Tahoe

Conducting a proper investigation and gathering evidence is critical to recovering damages in an accident. Our investigators are highly experienced in doing just that, including:

  • Contacting the Marine Unit of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, which handles boating emergencies in South Lake Tahoe, to review the Boating Accident Report (BAR).
  • Ensuring that county, state, and federal boating laws were followed.
  • Checking to see if the vessel was properly and regularly inspected.
  • Interviewing any witnesses to the accident.
  • Finding out if the vessel operator was previously cited for behaving dangerously or recklessly while out on the water or if previous incidents were noted.

In the following video presentation by attorney Ed Smith, learn how you can choose an injury lawyer to represent you:

South Lake Tahoe Boat Accident Lawyer

You have the right to claim compensation when you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a boat accident caused by negligence. Contact one of our South Lake Tahoe boat accident lawyers today to schedule a virtual or in-person meeting to review your case, answer your questions, and tell you what options are available to recover compensation. You can reach us for free and friendly advice at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400. Learn how our injury lawyers have assisted others by reviewing Verdicts and Settlements, which shows you how we put our clients first.

Editor’s Note: updated [cha 8.29.23] Photo attribution: Gerhard G. from Pixabay cd [1142] bw