A Manufacturer May Be Liable for the Boat Explosion on Lake Lanier

During a Mother’s Day trip to Lake Lanier, the Coleman family’s boat exploded and went up in flames. Their dog was killed, and teenage brother and sister Gunner and Taylor had to be airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital, along with one adult bystander. Parents Steve and Annie and youngest brother Ryder were also on the boat and injured in the blast, Annie severely enough to require hospital care as well.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources says that the explosion occurred at the gas docks at the Port of Indecision, but notes nothing unusual about the refueling stop or the conditions at the docks.

The Blast Could Well Have Been Caused by a Design Flaw

According to Gunner Coleman, the explosion is being investigated by both the insurance company and Lake Lanier officials, but neither have been able to determine the cause of the explosion, only that the boat’s gas tank ruptured. He also says that the boat passed a safety inspection before use.

As strange and sudden as this accident seems, it might actually be part of a larger problem with safety standards for recreational boats. In 2019, the most recent year of data published by the Coast Guard, there were 139 fuel-related recreational boat explosions in the U.S.

One of the most common reasons for gas explosions on boats is a buildup of gas fumes in the bilge. This can happen because of leaky ventilation hoses or problems with vent placement, or because users have not been informed of how to safely prepare the boat for fueling.

There are many possible explanations for a boat explosion like this one, but the bottom line is that well-designed boats don’t explode under normal usage for no reason. If the boat was poorly designed, the manufacturer may be liable for the family’s injuries. If it was well designed but built from faulty parts, the manufacturer of those individual parts may be liable instead, or as well. The inspector who declared the boat safe may also share liability.

Quick Evidence Preservation Is Crucial After a Boat Explosion

Documentation should always be one of the first steps after any serious accident, second only to protecting and caring for the people on the scene. This process starts with simple things like photographing the damage and gathering contact information from witnesses. However, as the investigation continues, it’s important for survivors to have an expert involved who’s on their side, and who will ensure that any evidence relevant to them will be found and preserved correctly.

In order to protect their financial and medical future, it’s in any accident survivor’s best interest to obtain qualified legal counsel as soon as possible.

Currently, the Coleman family is receiving assistance via a Go Fund Me campaign. While it’s absolutely understandable for loved ones to want to help out with immediate needs in times of tragedy, survivors of negligence shouldn’t have to rely exclusively on donations to get back on their feet. For one thing, the caring individuals who make these donations can rarely afford to completely cover extensive medical care, such as the multiple surgeries and physical therapy the Coleman teens will require, let alone make up for the pain of the injuries, or the time lost to recovery.

Arguably even more importantly, however, placing the entire financial burden of a tragedy on the victims, their friends and family, and generous strangers lets negligent companies off the hook for the harm they cause. It removes the financial incentive to build safer boats and other products, leaving other families at risk in the future.

If you are a member of the Coleman family injured in the Mother’s Day explosion, or if you have also been injured on Lake Lanier or by a malfunctioning boat in Georgia, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn about your options for pursuing fair and complete compensation.

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