In Tennessee, spring and summer time are celebrated because they provide an opportunity to be outside and to do outdoor activities. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with the Tennessee-North Carolina border, attract people from all over the world to partake in hiking, canoeing and whitewater rafting. These activities can be great adventures and can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately they can also sometimes turn deadly.
Our Knoxville injury lawyers know that the warmer weather season significantly increases the number of people coming to Tennessee to canoe or raft. Unfortunately, both visitors and locals are in danger of getting hurt when they are out on the water, unless appropriate safety precautions are taken.
Accident at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tragically, on March 12, 2013, the News Observer indicated that a casualty had already occurred this year as a result of canoeing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The death involved a 65-year-old man visiting from Bridgenorth, Ontario. The man was with a group of fellow Canadians, all of whom were enthusiasts of white water rafting and who had come to visit Little River for an outdoor canoeing excursion.
Unfortunately, while running the Little River, the 65-year-old man's canoe overturned. As a result, he was swept downstream and was unable to get out of the water or back into his canoe. For approximately 30 minutes, he was trapped under the surface.
His fellow canoeists tried to rescue him, working to pull him out of the water and to give him CPR. Emergency personnel were contacted and came to the scene, finding the older man with a heartbeat and breathing at the time. The older man was put into an ambulance and taken to a hospital, but unfortunately he died as a result of the accident.
Who is Responsible When an Accident Happens?
This tragic canoeing accident raises many important questions, especially as people start to plan their spring and summer trips and consider going whitewater rafting or canoeing.
One of the biggest and most important issues is the extent of responsibility that the whitewater rafting or canoeing company has to visitors. For example, a company may set up whitewater rafting or canoeing excursions or may simply provide canoes or rafts for rental. In any case, once a company is involved, they have some duty to their guests or patrons to look out for their safety.
Canoeing and whitewater rafting companies will usually have customers sign a liability release absolving them of liability in the event of injury. Even when a liability release is in place, however, this does not mean that victims of accidents cannot sue whitewater rafting or canoeing companies. Liability releases only help the company to avoid being responsible for customary and expected risks; releases don't absolve them of all liability.
If a canoeing or white water rafting company is unreasonably negligent or careless in their acts or policies, then they can generally be held legally liable, even with a signed liability release. For example, a company that rents a canoe or allows a whitewater rafting excursion when they know the weather is bad and conditions are dangerous, or a company that uses equipment that is not properly maintained, can be held legally responsible for any damages caused by their actions.
The injured victim will need to show that the company was responsible in some way that is not covered by any liability release. If he or she succeeds, the victim can obtain compensation including payment of medical bills and lost income as well as damages for pain and suffering and other loss.