Most of Maryland's residents are within a short drive to the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, or the Atlantic Ocean. With so many waterways and the extensive coastline, it is no surprise that so many people like to spend time boating in Maryland. This includes boating around the bay on a summer weekend, heading out to the ocean on a chartered fishing boat, or taking an evening dinner cruise through the Inner Harbor. Unfortunately, just like taking a car out on the road, boats of all sizes can be involved in an accident. This can lead to serious injuries or even death for the pilot and passengers.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, thousands of people are injured or killed every year as the result of recreational boating accidents. In 2014, the Coast Guard counted over 4,000 accidents, resulting in over 600 deaths with thousands more injured. Boating accidents also caused almost $40 million dollars in property damage, which does not include the cost of medical bills, lost wages or pain and suffering for those injured.
Causes of Boat Accidents
There are many causes of boat accidents, including operator error, negligence of another boat operator, poor condition of the boat, and passenger negligence. The top five contributing factors in boat accidents include operator inattention, operator inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout, and alcohol.
Alcohol is the number 1 contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. According to Maryland's Natural Resource Police, almost half of all boating accidents are alcohol related. While many people like to go out on the water in the summertime and enjoy a few drinks, the effects of alcohol can be amplified by sun and wind exposure and dehydration. This can increase the likelihood of boat accidents and drowning.
The most common type of boating accident involves on vessel colliding with another. Boaters are supposed to follow specific rules about right of way, passing other boats, and boating speed. When one boat operator does not follow the rules or is not paying attention, they could be putting themselves, their passengers, and others in harms way.
Other types of boating accidents include collision with a fixed object and grounding. This includes crashing into a pier, dock, rocky wall, or running aground in shallow water. Flooding or swamping, causing a boat to capsize or sink is also a common type of boating accident. Other common accidents involve water skiing or wakeboarding.
In some boating accidents, the boat operator may have done nothing wrong. However, when the company that owns the watercraft may have negligently failed to keep the boat in safe operating condition. An unsafe boat on the open water can begin to take on water, lose steering, or lose power. The owners or individuals responsible for the upkeep of the boat may be held liable for their negligence.
Boat Accident Injuries
Boat accidents are inherently dangerous because they occur in the water. For example, if a bike rider is knocked off their bike, they may be able to sit there a minute and evaluate their injuries. If a boat passenger is knocked off the boat, they may be immediately facing danger if they cannot swim, their clothing makes it difficult to stay afloat, or they are too far away to swim to land or a safe place. This is why even minor boating accidents can easily lead to death by drowning.
The majority of deaths in boating accidents are the result of drowning. Most drownings involve individuals who were not wearing a life jacket, or personal flotation device (PFD). Under Maryland law, all recreational boats must carry one wearable life jacket for each person on board. All children under the age of 13 must wear an approved life jacket while on a recreational vessel under 21 feet long while on Maryland waters.
While some individuals may choose not to wear a PFD, many boat passengers may not be aware that they should wear a PFD, or the boat owner does not have enough life jackets for the number of boat passengers. Some boats may not have the right sized life vests for children. Even if a child has a life jacket, if they don't have the right size life jacket, they can still drown.
Boat Accident Lawyers
If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident, you should talk to an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney about getting compensation. If a loved one drowned in a boating accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your family's pain and suffering through a wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney will help guide you through the difficult process. You should not have to suffer due to someone else's negligence. Do not hesitate to call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.