Swell Ideas May Not Always Ride The Season's Tide

By Andrew Goode, Partner, Mellor Olsson

IT is my usual practice to be the Christmas Grinch and issue a warning to be vigilant over the Christmas break. 

A recent Qld case highlighted boating risks.

The plaintiff was snorkelling off Cape Moreton when he was run over by the defendant’s boat.

It was a fine and sunny day and the plaintiff snorkelled close to 8 to 12 anchored boats, while displaying a dive flag in a fishing rod holder on the frame of his canopy. He also had a plastic orange float 500 millimetres long by 200mm wide attached to his spear gun with 20 metres of line.

The judge said the accident occurred at a popular fishing and diving spot. He found the defendant’s boat was travelling at 13 miles per hour within 30m of another anchored boat which was in excess of the prescribed maximum speed under Qld regulations. He said the risk of harm to a driver in the water at a popular dive spot, and in the vicinity of anchored recreational vessels, was a risk the driver should have reasonably known, and the risk was not insignificant.

The judge found the defendant driver made a number of mistakes, including not knowing he was in the vicinity of a popular dive spot, not seeing the orange dive float of the plaintiff some distance away, and failing to comply with the regulations.

The plaintiff sustained serious injuries including fractures of the left 7th to 10th ribs, bruising to the heart, an injury to the right lung, internal injuries requiring an splenectomy, and the added complication of an embolic stroke.

He was left with substantial permanent residual injuries and was awarded $675,000.

Boating is a high-risk activity and you need to try to be very alert when driving.  When we have acted for victims, they have usually had very serious and life-changing injuries.

Beach fishing can carry risks and you need to be aware of the environment, and weather forecasts.

The other week I was at a remote surfing spot on the Far West Coast . My mate (‘Tom’) decided to go fishing late one afternoon on a long sandy beach. The swell was low and the sea very calm, so it was ideal for beach fishing - or so it seemed.

He headed off alone, parked his 4WD on the beach above the previous high tide mark, and waded into the sea up to his waist with his fishing rod.  Without warning, an 80 kilometre wind blew in, bringing with it a storm surge of water up to his shoulders. Tom turned to look at his 4WD only to find the sea had gone about 9m to 12m past his car.

As the sun started to go down, he furiously dug away in a desperate attempt to free his 4WD. Fortunately for Tom the cavalry arrived. A local returning from further down the beach helped pull his car out. Tom was looking at the loss of a pretty expensive 4WD.

And for the record, Tom didn’t get any fish!

Tom has fished that remote beach for many years but it shows that the unexpected can happen at any time.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

For more information contact: 

Andrew Goode, Partner 

Mellor Olsson 

08 8414 3411

agoode@mellorolsson.com.au

or visit www.mellorolsson.com.au

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