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Legal liability of dive buddy

Discussion in 'Diving Litigation' started by jimmy71, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. jimmy71

    jimmy71 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    395
    24
    0
    Hey all,

    I have been doing some reading and thinking lately and came across this Scuba Diving Buddies: Rights, Obligations, and Liabilities by Phyllis G. Coleman :: SSRN The paper looks like a law students addressing the courts decisions on legal liability with buddies. The decisions seem to be inconsistent. I know from medical malpractice, fault and payments are more based on bad outcomes then actual neglect.

    My buddy is there for emergencies. If I intend to use my buddy in an emergency it is MY responsibility to stay near him (and vise versa). It is not my job to manage my buddies air and/or decompression status, as this is a basic expectation of all divers regardless of experience. The idea of a dead insta-buddies pissed off family suing me for them screwing up makes me sick.

    I will say that I voice these expectations to anyone assigned to dive with me at the start and state that I will not be offended if they ask for someone else, but I can see that this will not hold up in court. With many boats insisting on a buddy regardless of certification level, they are forcing me into a contract and the obligations associated with it. :(

    I would love to hear some opinions.

    Jimmy

    PS- I know I am not a nice person and a reallllllllllly crappy buddy. I just believe in self responsibility. If I die or get hurt, I just want to make sure it is from my own actions.
     
    Jim Lapenta and oly5050user like this.
  2. RickyF

    RickyF Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Oahu
    611
    187
    43
    Very provacative subject. It's impossible to ever tell what a jury may decide based on the circumstances and how good the lawyer is. We are a sue happy, assume no personal responsibility nation that is fueled by excessive awards for something like the "coffee was too hot"! It almost makes you want to be a "solo" diver.
     
    cascas and k ellis like this.
  3. jimmy71

    jimmy71 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    395
    24
    0
    Yeah, I am now looking at getting my solo card. I never bothered as I felt my Tech certs pretty much covered it. I also never believed that any charter woudl accept the idea or allow Solo divers regardless of cert card. Just because you are trained for Deco does not mean you can do it on a rec charter without getting yelled at and not let back on/down.

    I am looking to see how many charters accept a solo card. What about in the Va beach area? I am moving there shortly and this is the area I care about.

    I have been on a bunch of charters where people are bunched together. I remember on one the guy added to my group saying " it just means we go into the water and come out of the water around the same time. It means nothing underwater" and I fully agreed with him. From my reading it sound by agreeing to the DM that we were buddies, I accepted some responsibility for him. I am wondering If I get my solo card, can I refuse a buddy and still dive? I also do not think I will now accept a buddy being added to my already chosen group (making three divers). Sad that this is what it comes to.

    jimmy

    I am glad that you see the dilemma that I do.
     
  4. John John

    John John Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Florida
    4
    0
    0
    I agree that you should not be legally responsible for your insta-buddy, but you need to look out for them. You need to look out for everyone you see. Do you want to think that a diver could still be alive if you did something simple. People enter the panic cycle over stupid things like a bite piece coming off the second stage touching getting stung by something. Should you be allowed to solo dive yes, I think that anyone with redundant gear should be allow.

    You dive with a buddy more for the their air if yours wont work, other than that they are just a risk.
     
  5. jimmy71

    jimmy71 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    395
    24
    0
    While I agree that you everyone should help out and the goal of the boat should be that everyone enjoys themselves and comes back alive safe and sound, I do like like the idea of that being my LEGAL responsibility. I did not realize that I was entering into a duty contract with an instabuddy.

    My current frequent dive site has something for all levels of divers. There is a flat area at 30-60 ft and a wall that continues down to 330. The boat just parks itself there and what you choose to do underwater is your business. If someone wants to dive with me, My standard lecture is to tell them my dive plan. If they wish to follow me, that is their choose, but I have no intentions of monitoring or guiding them. Also, they can not call my dive as WE are not a team.

    You have to imagine the other side of this. If my insta buddy tries to touch my gear, we are going to have problems. It is more likely that they turn my valves off then me forgetting to turn them on. Also I do not like people to try to dictate or lead my dive who have no place/position to do so. If you are not the operator or DM who I am paying to lead my dive, you have no obligation to me and frankly, should stay out of my dive.

    "You dive with a buddy more for the their air if yours wont work, other than that they are just a risk." <---- This is very true (minus some caveats) and can be solved with a pony/redundancy.

    jimmy
    WOW I really sound like an a$$hole when i read my own posts...............................
     
  6. RickyF

    RickyF Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Oahu
    611
    187
    43
    Jimmy,
    Here in Virginia Beach, there is really not a whole lot of options for dive boats. One of the local LDS's has a dive boat but it's main function is for training students for the open water courses at the tower reef which is about 15 miles off the coast. Viz is normally pretty bad. The triangle wrecks are 35 miles, but very few commercial dive boats go there reguarly as the water is 60 degrees even in late summer and the viz is not the best, but the spear fishing is good!. Most trips are set up between friends when one of them has a boat, which is what I do. A lot of divers in this area go to Hatteras or Moorhead City to dive the wrecks and for the most part buddies are required. I try to hook up with a few friends and make the trip. We carry a redundent air supply and maintain a loose buddy profile.
     
  7. VooDooGasMan

    VooDooGasMan Solo Diver

    2,014
    213
    0
    Wookie mentioned he lets a diver go solo upon a solo cert.
     
  8. danvolker

    danvolker Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Lake Worth, Florida, United States
    5,884
    3,007
    0
    Nothing forces you onto any boat. If I add my opinion regarding why buddy diving behavior is much better, all it will accomplish is to start another religious battle on SB.... However, I will say that in places like Palm Beach, where there is both easy beginner diving, and serious advanced to technical diving...there are boats that let divers dive solo. Spearfisherman have been diving solo here for 50 years, with little change to this in sight, even though many of us evolved this into DIRish Spearfishing :)
    All you have to do is to call the boat captain, and ask him/her there rules on this....
    I can tell you some of the boats that allow well skilled divers to dive solo in Palm Beach..and I think for most, this was based more on the newcomer doing one dive with a DM or crew member in a group with him, so the captain could get a read on an obvious level of competence or incompetence...most captains I know like this better than a card which does not guarantee much. For tech diving most now will need the tech card cert, due more to insurance than what many of these cards actually mean.

    As much as I am a DIR proponent, I really do not have any concerns about a skilled diver diving solo on advanced recreational level dives. This would be your choice, and it does not effect me or my buddies in any way. The only time I will cop an attitude, is when someone says they will be another diver's buddy, and then dissapears, or pays no attention to the buddy underwater. This behavior should be seen as endangering the buddy expecting a buddy..... Your position-that you dont want to be forced to be a buddy is not a neglect issue in any way..
    You wont have a problem with this in Palm Beach :)
     
  9. t-mac

    t-mac BKK Divers

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: VA, USA
    551
    160
    43
    As if we need another reason to worry about instabuddies. Frankly, none of the suggestions will fully shield you. In the end, the purpose of a buddy is to help you out in a pinch -- everyone knows that. That is the job/duty of a buddy. If something happens there is always room to argue about whether it was done properly or at all. Signing a release isn't going to help -- what would it say, "I agree to be your buddy, but if I don't actually act as your buddy, you can't hold me responsible?" That's nonsensical. Negligent dive buddy insurance? First of all, I don't know where you would get it and second it just creates and incentive to sue because there's now a pot of money sitting there. Choose buddies wisely?! Will someone please explain how to do this? What if there are only two unpaired people on the boat? Unfortunately, the only reliable way I see to avoid this is to bring a trusted buddy with you, which is what I always do. I guess the good news is that accidents are rare and buddy lawsuits are even more rare, but I sure wouldn't want to be the one with the crosshairs on me.
     
    furby076 likes this.
  10. danvolker

    danvolker Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Lake Worth, Florida, United States
    5,884
    3,007
    0
    One thing I have always said, is that our buddy choices are our most important gear choices....way more important than whether I have scubapro or DiveRite or US Divers or even Halcyon :)
    If you agree, then you spend the time to develop dive buddies, cultivating the buddy relationship, and keeping your buddies jazzed about diving--particularly when you have a big deal trip you want them on with you!
     
    TSandM, RickyF and t-mac like this.

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