There is a common expression that the two happiest days in the life of a boater are when a person buys a boat and the day it is sold. So far I’ve had 9 such days. I have to use an asterisk after 9. One wasn’t sold as it was demolished in a rear end accident on a rural highway.

Before taking a personal injury statement or deposition you need to research marine and motor vehicle records. You are checking for boat, motors and trailers through the Missouri Department of Revenue and personal property records from the Assessor of the county in which the subject resides. You need to conduct both inquiries. Allow enough time to have any records certified. Let’s look at the more common Missouri boating scenarios as it may apply to your claimant.

A jon boat is a flat bottom aluminum craft which can range in length from ten to twenty feet. That type of boat is typically used for fishing and for the hard-core outdoorsman who waterfowl hunts. If you have a plaintiff admitting to owning a boat, you need to determine the length, the approximate weight, the horsepower rating and how it is used. How the boat is transported is equally important.

Few claimants would admit to using an oar to row a small boat. That is fine. The alternative is to use an electric trolling motor and/or an outboard motor. A trolling motor is powered by a car size battery. Who is carrying forty pounds of battery back and forth to the boat?

If using a stern mounted trolling motor, maneuvering a boat is often done in an outstretched position. Your body is facing forward to see where you are going. At the same time one hand is on the tiller with that side of the body partially twisted. That would be significant if someone is claiming an injury to a body part from the waist up.

You need to know the size, year and make of an outboard motor if it is not attached by steering cables to the boat. Ask if this an electric or a manual start motor. If it is a manual start, think about what body strain is involved while twisting the upper torso in rope starting a motor from a seated position. On smaller motors, how is it being transported to and from the boat if it is not cabled to the transom? A 9.9 horsepower outboard motor is the most commonly used on jon boats. The motor will weigh between 74 and 111 pounds. The weight will vary by make and vintage so ask about both. You have a lot of weight to hand carry, which is of interest especially for someone with a lifting restriction.

On smaller boats with outboard motors a portable gas tank is used. That could be either a three or six gallon tank. 6 gallons of gas times 6.15 pounds per gallon, add the weight of the tank and someone is lifting forty pounds of metal and petro.

If the claimant admits to using a boat, how it is transported? Smaller boats might be hauled in the back of a pickup truck or hoisted onto a vehicle roof. Either way, there is a lot of aluminum and gear being lifted repeatedly. See if you can tie down the plaintiff in a deposition or statement if he/she ever fishes or boats alone. The more you can box the subject into doing either alone the better. Ask this before you get into the boat usage.

If a water craft is being hauled on a trailer this too requires work. The boat has to be winched forward onto the trailer for the return trip home. The heavier the boat the more strength and motion range is required. You have tie downs on the back of most boat trailers. Once more you are bending, stretching and applying force to secure the load. All this is done after a day of fishing, skiing, swimming or other physically demanding activity.

Boat rides on larger lakes can be a bone jarring experience. Depending on the boat and the size of the waves, you might have a pounding ride. That is not good for someone with a bad back or neck. Cover which bodies of water the subject frequents. A boat ride on the Lake of the Ozarks can be a walk on the wild side. Ask if they or a family member owns property, a timeshare or a membership on a lake or resort area. If they do, when was it purchased? Ideally this would be after the claim date.

Care and maintenance of a boat and trailer is mandatory. Periodically you have to check the trailer tires, grease the wheel bearings, move gear and climb about the craft. Boats don’t clean themselves. Once more someone has to bend, stoop and climb about a watercraft to properly care for it.

Find out the various usage of the boat. This can open the door to all types of activities. When was it bought? Was it after the claim date? Did the claimant upgrade to a larger, faster, newer or multi-purpose boat (i.e. a fish & ski)? Are there water skis in the family? Don’t forget to conduct a comprehensive social website search checking for public photos or posts about activity inconsistent with their reported injuries. That search should include the subject of the investigation and members of the household.

Be sure to ask if they or anyone in the family owns a personal watercraft like a wave runner. Sometimes a plaintiff doesn’t equate a personal watercraft as being a boat so ask enough questions. Even if you received a negative response ask if the subject has been on a personal watercraft since the claim date. Be sure to run the record searches on members of the household besides your claimant. We’ve had a number of cases where a marine record search found nothing on the claimant only to locate a boat or other big boy toys in the name of a spouse or significant other.

Prior to any deposition certified hunting and fishing permits should have been obtained. A databank search does not qualify as a proper search. These records are dated, missing crucial information and cannot be certified.

You want to know in advance if the plaintiff has a fishing license, a duck stamp, and hunting license all which could provide useful information on boating and strenuous activity. You can’t pull records if you don’t know they exist. This article lightly touches on the subject. If you need to fine-tune your questions regarding boats, motors and trailers, give me a call. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. ☺