Boating accidents are common on Nevada’s Lake Mead, which has been ranked the deadliest national park in the U.S.1 Depending on the situation, the injured party may be able to bring negligence or strict liability claims for:
- doctor’s bills,
- lost wages,
- lost earning capacity,
- pain and suffering,
- wrongful death and/or
- punitive damages (if the wrongdoer maliciously caused the accident)
Even if the injured party was partially to blame for the boating accident, he/she can still recover damages under Nevada’s comparative negligence law if he/she was less than 51% at fault. And most lawsuits settle favorably out of court without having to go to trial.
In this article, our Nevada personal injury attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about boating accidents in Lake Mead in Nevada, including possible claims, guilty parties, and financial rewards.
- 1. What are the Nevada boating accident laws?
- 2. What damages can I get in Nevada?
- 3. Whom can I sue?
- 4. What if the guilty party injured me on purpose?
- 5. What if I was partially at fault?
- 6. When can I sue?
Nevada’s boating accident laws allow you to sue the parties who caused the boating accident based on their negligence. In order to prove that the defendant committed negligence in a Nevada court, the victim would need to prove four elements:
- The defendant(s) owed the plaintiff (victim) a duty of care;
- The defendant(s) breached this duty;
- This breach caused the plaintiff’s injury; and
- This injury resulted in damages.2
To illustrate these four elements of negligence, let us take a common scenario that occurs on Lake Mead:
Example: Tom is driving his speedboat on Lake Mead in perfect weather conditions while drinking a six-pack of beer. Tom gets drunk and loses control of the boat. He collides into a marina, causing a fisherman to fall into the lake and break both his legs. The fisherman has to miss two months of work and attend several months of rehab for his legs.
Here, the fisherman has a solid cause of action against Tom for negligence: Tom (like all boat operators) had a duty of care to navigate his watercraft safely. Tom breached this duty by driving under the influence of alcohol and colliding into the marina. Tom’s collision caused the fisherman to fall and break his legs. And this serious injury resulted in such damages as medical bills and lost wages. (Tom could also face criminal charges for boating under the influence, or BUI.)
1.1. Boating accident causes
There are many causes that may contribute to a boating accident on Lake Mead:
- Alcohol use (as discussed above);
- Distracted operation of the vessel;
- The boat driver was inexperienced;
- The boat driver did not keep a proper lookout;
- Exceeding appropriate motorboat speeds;
- Defective personal watercraft or maritime equipment; and
- Violating other boating regulations
Note that if the accident involved a defective boat, the injured party may be able to bring claims against the manufacturer. Possible claims could include not only negligence but also strict liability, breach of implied warranties and failure to warn.3
1.2. Boating accident injuries
Just as with cars, boats can crash, roll over, and get stranded. And as with car accidents, boat accidents can cause devastating injuries:
A boat that collides or capsizes can cause the victim(s) to suffer fractures, sprains, contusions, maiming, lacerations, and disfigurement, especially if the propeller was involved. If the victim falls into the water, he/she can sustain respiratory injuries, brain injuries, or even drown. And if a fuel or electrical fire breaks out, the victim may get burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.
If someone’s negligence caused a boating accident in the state of Nevada, the injured party may be entitled to “compensatory damages” for:
- medical bills for medical treatments and medications,
- lost wages,
- lost earning capacity,
- property damage,
- pain and suffering, and/or
- wrongful death
Note that there is usually no damage cap on the amount that plaintiffs may recover for medical bills and lost wages. An exception is if the negligent party was a government employee acting within the scope of his/her employment, in which case the cap is $100,000.4
Possible defendants in a Nevada boating accident case include:
- The person physically operating the boat, if he/she was being negligent;
- The people directing or helping the operator of the boat, if they were being negligent;
- The National Park Service, if they were negligent in keeping the premises safe;
- The manufacturer of the boat, if the boat malfunctioned or was defective; and
- The company who maintained the boat, if they were negligent in the upkeep and maintenance
A Nevada accident lawyer can help victims determine which parties to file a lawsuit against.
Nevada law punishes deliberate actions differently than negligent actions. If a defendant purposely causes a boating accident in Nevada, the court may grant punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Generally under state law, punitive damages are capped at:
- $300,000 (if the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff is less than $100,000), or
- Three times (3) the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff if the amount of compensatory damages is $100,000 or more.
Note punitive damages are not capped if the case involves a manufacturer, distributor or seller of a defective product, or an insurer who acts in bad faith regarding its obligations to provide insurance coverage.5
If the Nevada court determines that the plaintiff is less than 51% at fault for the boating accident, he/she should be able to recover damages. However, the damages will be in proportion to the amount that he/she is at fault. For example…
If a boater is 25% at fault for a boating accident that caused him/her $100,000 in damages, the court would award the boater 25% less than the total damages. Hence, the boater would receive $75,000.6
The statute of limitations in Nevada to bring an injury case is usually two (2) years after the injury occurs.7
Were you injured while out at Lake Mead? Then contact our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys to discuss your situation for free. We may be able to negotiate a large financial settlement without having to go to trial.
Our legal team knows how hard it can be to move on after a boating accident. Even if you are not positive that you have a valid personal injury claim, we are happy to listen and discuss your options. There is nothing to lose because we get paid nothing unless you win. We create attorney-client relationships throughout the state, from Lake Tahoe to the Colorado River.
- “Lake Mead called America’s deadliest park” by Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal (March 7, 2017 ).
- See, e.g. DeBoer v. Sr. Bridges of Sparks Fam. Hosp., (2012) 128 Nev. Adv. Op. 38, 282 P.3d 727.
- Valentine v. Pioneer Chlor Alkali, (1993) 109 Nev. 1107, 864 P.2d 295, 297; see also Metal-Matic v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, (1966) 82 Nev. 263, 415 P.2d 617; see also Lewis v. Sea Ray Boats, Inc., (2003) 119 Nev. 100, 65 P.3d 245.
- NRS 41.035.
- NRS 42.005.
- NRS 41.141.
- NRS 11.190.