Charleston, SC River Water Sports Injury Lawyers
Accident Attorneys for Injuries on Shem Creek and Folly Creek
The City of Charleston sits at the mouth of several large rivers, including the Ashley, Cooper, Wando, and Stono, making Charleston a great place for all types of river water sports. However, all water sports pose inherent dangers that
Rivers Near Charleston
Charleston is located on the Atlantic Ocean. Charleston Harbor has countless rivers and creeks that flow into the harbor. However, there are also several large rivers that flow into Charleston Harbor, including:
Ashley River – The Ashley River originates to the northwest of Charleston, in Dorchester County, traveling approximately 30 miles before combining with Wappoo Creek and then flowing into Charleston Harbor.
Cooper River – The Cooper River originates in Lake Moultrie, due north of Charleston. The river travels for about 25 miles before joining the Wando River, where it flows into Charleston Harbor.
Stono River – The Stono River originates as an offshoot of the Wadmalaw River to the west of Charleston. The Stono then travels north and east before heading south and joining the Kiawah River, where it dumps into the Atlantic Ocean at Bird Key Stono Heritage Preserve. Unlike the Ashely and Cooper Rivers, the Stono River doesn’t feed into the Charleston Harbor; however, it is still a popular choice for river sports enthusiasts.
Are River Sports Dangerous?
River sports are inherently dangerous due to the ever-present risk of drowning. Even when taking the necessary precaution, sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and riding jet skis and WaveRunners are very dangerous. For example, in 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that there were 5,265 boating accidents resulting in 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. Of these, 22 percent involved personal watercraft, such as jet skis and WaveRunners.
Paddleboards, while far less dangerous than personal watercraft, still present risks to users.
According to a recent survey, 17 percent of paddle boarders report experiencing an injury over the past 12 months. Most paddleboard injuries are not related to drowning but instead are the result of the rider falling onto the hard surface of the board. For example, arm, hand, wrist, foot, and knee injuries were the most common.
Kayaking and canoeing injuries are less common but tend to be more severe. For example, there is an estimated injury every 2.1 days for every 100,000 days on the water and a fatality every 2.6 days per 100,000 days on the water.
Boating accidents are by far the most common among all river activities. For example, there were nearly 5,500 boating accidents in 2021, according to the United States Coast Guard. These accidents resulted in 658 deaths and more than 2,640 injuries.
Causes of Sports Injuries on Shem Creek and Folly Creek
Given the various risks involved in water sports, there are a few different ways in which someone engaged in river sports can get hurt. To a large degree, the type and extent of a possible injury depend on the sport. However, as a general rule, the following are all common causes of river sports injuries:
With few exceptions, heavy winds can increase the dangers associated with most river sports. Primarily, winds create two types of dangers. First, water conditions get choppy and harder to navigate when there is heavy wind. And second, strong winds can cause small craft, such as kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, to drift either into the path of an oncoming boat or into a pylon or other hazard.
The tide refers to the rise and fall of the sea. Tides are affected by the special relationship between the Earth and the moon, changing from high to low tide approximately every 12 hours and 25 minutes. Anyone interested in river sports should be familiar with the tide tables any day they are on the water; otherwise, changing tides can result in the water being much shallower than expected. This not only can result in participants getting stranded when the tide goes out but can also increase the risk of serious injury or death if someone falls from a watercraft into the water, hitting their head on a submerged rock or another hard object, or running aground or into an oyster bed.
Oysters are a popular food in South Carolina, and although historically, oyster farming hasn’t been a major industry, the number of oysters harvested in South Carolina is growing rapidly, with an estimated 1.2 million oysters harvested each year. Oysters grow in large beds on the bottom of rivers, lakes, inlets, and other bodies of fresh and saltwater. Oyster beds can be dangerous, however, as their sharp shells can cause severe lacerations to anyone who steps or falls on them.
Other than swimming, river sports all require equipment, whether it’s a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, paddles, or life vest. While this equipment should be inspected before it leaves the manufacturer, as well as any time before it’s put into use, busy river sports outfitters may not conduct the necessary inspection to ensure that equipment is safe and functioning properly. Defective or poorly maintained equipment can increase the risk of serious injury or death. For example, a previous renter of a canoe may have collided with a rock, resulting in a small hole in the vessel or a non-functioning rudder
User Inexperience, Error, and Poor Judgment
By far, one of the most common causes of river sports injuries relates to user error. Those who engage in river sports should take the time to familiarize themselves with what they’ll be doing and how to stay safe. For example, people have died because they decided not to wear a life vest, thinking that if they fell in the water, they could just grab onto the paddle board or canoe. However, if you become unconscious for any reason, a life vest can save your life. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard estimates that nearly 85 percent of boating-related drowning deaths involved victims who were not wearing a life jacket. Inexperience and recklessness can also put water sports enthusiasts at greater risk of injury. For example, paddle boarding has become very common, which may give some people the idea that it’s a safe and easy activity. However, this isn’t the case, as many people find controlling a paddle board to be very difficult, especially during windy and tidal conditions.
Alcohol and water don’t mix. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70 percent of water-related deaths and about 20 percent of water-related injuries sustained during recreational activity involve alcohol. Consuming alcohol doesn’t only impact the person who is drinking, however, as impaired boaters also put their passengers and anyone else on the water at serious risk for injuries.
Boat Traffic & Wake Rules
Those familiar with non-motorized water sports understand the challenges of participating in these activities in the vicinity of power boats and other motorized craft. Engines on watercraft create a wake, which is a reaction caused by the force created by a propeller spinning or jet engine discharging air. Wakes vary in size but often reach several feet high, making them incredibly dangerous for those on paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and even jet skis. For example, a wake can cause a rider to fall off their board or can even prevent other boaters from seeing them. Adding to the dangers, there is no uniform system of “no wake” rules in effect, meaning some lakes and rivers have enforced no-wake zones while others do not.
The Effect of Organized Sports Waivers in River Sports
When you sign up to rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or any other equipment, the company you’re renting from will almost certainly ask you to sign a waiver. In this context, a waiver is a type of contract intended to limit the liability of the rental agency. Generally, waivers are enforceable. Thus, if you sign a waiver and get hurt while using the company’s equipment, you may not be able to sue.
However, waivers are not always enforceable, and even when they are, certain injuries may fall outside the scope of the waiver. Of course, most waivers are phrased in a way that gives renters the idea that the company cannot be sued under any circumstances. However, a waiver can usually only cover those risks that are inherent in the activity, and they do not cover situations where the rental company was negligent, or the rented equipment was defective. Moreover, a waiver presented by a rental company has no effect on a victim’s ability to pursue a claim against another negligent person or company, for example, if you were hit by a boater who was under the influence of alcohol.
Types of Injuries Caused by Charleston River Sports Accidents
The following are common injuries from river sports accidents such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and river rafting:
- Non-fatal drowning
- Sprains and strains
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Ankle injuries
- Broken bones
What Is the Statute of Limitations to File a Lawsuit After a Water Sports Injury?
Under South Carolina law, anyone injured as a result of a river sports accident must file a claim within three years of the accident. However, there may be a situation in which the accident victim signed a waiver that reduces the amount of time they have to file. Consulting with an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible ensures that you will not miss your window to pursue compensation after an accident.
What to Do After a Jet Ski Accident in Charleston
When you signed up to participate in a river sport, an injury wasn’t on your mind. Thus, it’s completely normal for you not to know what to do after an accident. Below is a list of things you can do to ensure you receive the necessary medical treatment and preserve your right to file a claim for compensation against the responsible party.
Report the Accident
Depending on where you were injured, you should report the accident to the local police department, sheriff’s department, or the U.S. Coast Guard.
Seek Medical Attention
After reporting the incident, be sure to obtain prompt medical attention, even if your symptoms don’t initially seem serious. Often, seemingly minor injuries are actually quite serious, but the body’s release of adrenaline masks the pain and other symptoms. Thus, it may not be until a day or two later that you realize you’ve been seriously hurt.
Before leaving the area where you were injured, try to obtain any information you can, such as witnesses’ contact information, the name of the company you rented equipment from, and where exactly the accident happened. If you have access to a smartphone, you can also use it to take pictures of the scene to document what occurred.
Be Careful Discussing the Accident with Insurance Companies
After an accident, one or more insurance companies may reach out to you to discuss the accident and your injuries. While you should speak with the insurance company, avoid taking the blame for anything, as this can be used against you later. Instead, provide them with the need-to-know facts, answering their questions without elaborating.
Reach Out to an Experienced Charleston Water Sports Injury Lawyer
When you’re ready, the next step is to contact an experienced injury lawyer to discuss your options. Even if you signed a waiver or feel that you are partially to blame, it is still important to consult with an attorney because there may be circumstances that you are unaware of that may mean another person or company was responsible for the accident.
Were You Recently Hurt in a Charleston Water Sports Accident?
If you or a loved one was recently hurt while on one of Charleston’s many rivers, creeks, or tributaries, reach out to the Steinberg Law Firm for immediate assistance. At the Steinberg Law Firm, we have stood alongside accident victims for over 95 years, helping them recover the compensation they need, deserve, and are entitled to. We take an individualized approach to every case we handle, ensuring that we answer your questions and prioritize what’s most important to you. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call the Steinberg Law Firm at 843-720-2800. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.
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