Just Like Drivers, Boat Operators Have a Duty Not to Endanger Others

Boating is rarely approached with the full caution and respect it deserves. Whereas most land vehicles carry associations with work and chores, boats are more likely to play a recreational role in the lives of the people who use them. Many people also overestimate the power of water to absorb shock and act as a safety net.

These factors can combine to foster a dangerous carelessness during boat use. Even people who would never consider driving a car while impaired or distracted often feel falsely safe drinking and letting their guard down at the helm of a recreational watercraft.

The hard truth is that boats can be as deadly as any vehicle of similar mass and power. Whether boat operators realize it or not, they are responsible for controlling their vehicles to minimize the risk of injuries and death. Reckless use of a boat is a form of negligence and just cause for both criminal charges and a civil suit.

The Main Suspect in the Tobesofkee Boating Homicide Has Turned Himself In

Last summer, a cigarette boat (a long, narrow type of racing boat) struck a pontoon boat on Lake Tobesofkee. The collision killed one person on the pontoon boat, 22-year-old Will Childs, and injured six of his companions.

The suspected operator of the cigarette boat, 57-year-old Eric Head, remained at large until December 1st, when he returned to Georgia from a business trip and turned himself in at Hartsfield-Jackson. He is now charged with boating under the influence, reckless operation, and homicide by vessel. Two of his associates have also been charged for lying to investigators and hindering Head’s apprehension.

Even though Head will now be facing consequences for his recklessness under criminal law, and hopefully not endangering anyone else in the foreseeable future, this process is, by nature, not designed to address the needs of the bereaved. Childs is leaving behind parents, siblings, extended family and friends, a burgeoning career in restaurant management, and altogether a life that was just getting started. These effects of the accident will not be addressed in criminal court.

Wrongful Death Suits Are Separate from Criminal Charges

Civil and criminal law operate separately, and both processes can take place at the same time to address the same events. While criminal proceedings focus on punishing and deterring crime, civil law focuses on making victims whole — or as close as humanly possible.

If the Childs family is like most, they’re still trying to catch up with Will’s final expenses, to say nothing of the immeasurable lost happiness that he could have had over the course of his lifetime, or brought to theirs. Their losses, both the financial and the priceless, deserve acknowledgement and compensation.

One of the main obstacles to collecting compensation from negligent individuals — as opposed to organizations — is the question of whether the individual will ever be able to pay their victims a worthwhile settlement. However, in the case of vehicle accidents, the actual payment obligation usually falls to the individual’s insurance company, which gets paid to serve this exact purpose. Unlike auto insurance, boat insurance is not mandatory in Georgia, but many boat owners do carry it. It’s certainly worth finding out whether Eric Head is one of them.

If you are Jeannie or Mike Childs, or anyone else who has been injured or lost a loved one due to someone else’s boating negligence, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn about your options.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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