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Wilmington Tour Boat Accident Lawyers

Enjoying a tour by boat, such as those provided by Oak Island Boat Tours, or taking a ride on the Bald Head Island Ferry, can be a great way to take in North Carolina’s scenery. But even the smallest mistake can make things take a wrong turn, and when they do, passengers may be harmed. When that is the case, there are times when the tour boat company or the operator of the tour boat may be held legally responsible to pay compensation for that harm.

Responsibilities of Tour Boat Operators

In any situation, a boat operator must ensure that he or she is doing everything possible to keep passengers safe at all times. For tour boats and other commercial boats, that responsibility is heightened because people have paid money to be on the boat.

As such, tour boat operators have certain responsibilities to their passengers. These include:

  • Making sure the boat is equipped with one appropriately sized personal flotation device for each person on board, when the vessel is less than 40 feet in length.
  • Commercial vessels longer than 26 feet in length, such as the Bald Head Island Ferry, must have at least one ring life buoy on board.
  • Class 2 vessels (those that are between 26 and 40 feet in length) must carry one B-11 fire extinguisher on board, or two B-1 extinguishers, unless they have a built-in extinguisher system that has been approved by local authorities.
  • Class 3 vessels (those that are longer than 40 feet in length) must carry three B-1 extinguishers, one B-1 extinguisher, and one B-11 fire extinguisher. Even when these vessels have an approved built-in extinguisher system, they must still carry two B-1 extinguishers and one B-11 extinguisher.
  • A vessel that is longer than 40 feet in length but less than 65.5 feet must have a sound-producing device that can be heard for one half-mile.
  • Any vessel that is traveling at night must have approved navigational lights displayed at all times between sunset and sunrise. When vessels less than 165 feet in length are anchored at night, they must have a white light that is visible all around them and it must be visible from two miles away.
  • The captain of a tour boat may not operate at unsafe speeds, even when there is no speed limit posted.

These precautions are put into place to keep everyone on the tour boat, including the crew, safe in the event of an emergency.

Procedures to Take After an Accident

Any boat operator, including a tour boat operator, has to follow certain procedures in the case of an accident. They include:

  • Stopping to provide assistance to injured individuals in order to minimize or prevent injury.
  • Providing the operator’s name, address, and number of the vessel in writing to any injured people or owners or damaged property.
  • Immediately notifying the Wildlife Resources Commission of all details as soon as possible after the accident. The Wildlife Resources Commission will provide tour boat operators with a written form that must be completed. These reports must be submitted within 48 days in cases of injury, death, or disappearance; or within 10 days for all other cases.

Grounds for Compensation After an Injury

When a passenger has been injured in a tour boat accident, the tour boat company or operator may be held responsible. This is especially true when some of the safety elements the tour company is responsible for are not present. So if there is a tour boat accident and the company did not provide enough life jackets for everyone, they could be held liable if someone drowns as a result of their negligence.

Knowing who may be liable becomes more complicated when the captain of a tour boat was negligent. For instance, if the captain was operating the boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the captain could be held personally liable for any injuries that occurred as a result of his negligence. But, if the captain had a history of boating under the influence, and the tour boat company continued to allow him to operate the boat, both the captain and the tour boat company could be held responsible.

Maritime Law in Tour Boat Accidents

North Carolina’s driving laws state that when an injured person was at all responsible for an accident, the accident falls under contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, injured people are not eligible for any compensation because they are partially to blame for the accident.

But tour boat accidents, like other boating accidents, usually fall under federal maritime law, which operates under the premise of comparative fault. Under comparative fault, the injured person will be assigned a percentage of blame, if any, and that percentage will be deducted from any compensation he or she is granted.

Unfortunately, North Carolina has seen too many tour boat accidents that have ended in injury or, in the most tragic cases, death. If you or someone you love has been injured in a tour boat accident, contact a North Carolina personal injury lawyer at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (866) 772-9960. There may be compensation available for your injuries, and we want to help you get it.

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