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On July 19, 2018, a duck boat sank in Table Rock Lake in Missouri during a storm. Seventeen people died in the incident, including nine members of one family. Several of the other thirty-one passengers needed emergency treatment. The responsible company, Ride the Ducks, offered to pay the medical bills and funeral costs for the victims of the accident.

Duck boats are vehicles built for operating on both land and water. Because of this, they are not as maneuverable as vehicles designed for only water or land operation. It’s likely that, due to the canopy installed on the Ride the Ducks boat, the passengers were unable to make a safe escape from the vehicle as it sank, though the details of the incident are still under investigation.

The tragic accident reminds us that, though we go on vacation for a relaxing getaway, there’s always a chance that someone may suffer injury or death. When these incidents occur, who can be held liable?

Determining Liability for Duck Boat Accidents

As with any other accident, determining liability depends on the details of the incident. Negligence is one of the most common causes for any accident, and it’s also where liability most often stems from. When people or companies fail to take reasonable action in a situation, it paves the way for injury and damages.

Concerning duck boats, many people have been citing the dangers of their use for years. As mentioned, the lessened mobility of these vehicles and their design create many blind spots on the vehicles. In fact, the Ride the Ducks boat company has been involved in three previous fatal incidents, one on water and two on land. The design opens up many possibilities for accidents.

Are Duck Boats Worth the Risk?

Besides the novelty of taking a trip in a vehicle that can operate on both land and water, these incidents beg the question of whether duck boats are worth it at all. The National Transportation Safety Board has even acknowledged the likelihood of further accidents in these vehicles. Some law firms have petitioned against the vehicles’ use altogether.

Since there are so many potential risks with operating duck boats, just running a company like Ride the Ducks may almost constitute negligent behavior. However, that’s not the only area where Ride the Ducks may have been negligent. Steven Paul, a mechanical inspector who had done work on the duck boats, noted that he had reported several issues with them in August 2017.

The reports included information about the boat’s design flaws and safety issues. This included that the boat’s engines and pumps were both susceptible to failure in bad weather. If water made its way into the exhaust system, the pump would be unable to move water, allowing the hull to become waterlogged.

What Is the Liability of Ride the Ducks?

As the duck boat sunk during a storm, there’s a chance that this mechanical failure may have contributed to the accident. If this were the case, then Ride the Ducks would be liable for the incident, if they didn’t take steps to correct these design flaws. Improper maintenance is one of the factors that would make a company liable in accidents with other types of vehicles and would apply in this case.

However, it will take a completed investigation to know exactly what caused the duck boat to sink in July. Ride the Ducks’ move to pay for medical and funeral expenses incurred by the incident serves as a first step, but they may be legally responsible for other forms of compensation as well.

Moving forward, this latest duck boat incident may be the tipping point needed to meet the demand to discontinue use of these vehicles, or at least regulate their operation more strictly. Time will tell the full consequences of this terrible accident.


To learn more about what we do at Long & Long and how our attorneys may be able to help you after an accident, give our office a call at 251-432-2277 or fill out our free case evaluation form today!

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