Maryland offers an amazing number of navigable waterways, from the Chesapeake Bay to our many harbors to the network of rivers, creeks lakes, etc. It’s estimated that there are over a quarter of a million boats in the state, some 200,000 of which are registered under the state boating laws. In one way or another, boating contributes to both the culture of the state and—in a big way—to our economy.
But people being people, that many boats mean a considerable number of accidents. Some are minor and cause only damage to the boat; others cause injuries of varying severity and a few result in death. Recovering compensation for these injuries and deaths requires identifying the cause of the accident, identifying the person(s) legally responsible, and constructing an airtight chain of evidence to establish both.
The very nature of recreational boating encourages drinking and, these days, use of various drugs. The combination of mental impairment slowed reflexes, and powerful boats is an invitation to accidents. Simply being out on the water for a long time in hot sunny weather can take a toll on mental alertness, with the same result.
And, of course, although people engage in recreational boating to “get away from things,” popular boating areas inevitably end up crowded, and the more crowded it is, the louder it gets. Between roaring motors, the thump of hulls against the water, people yelling and singing, and music playing at high volume, it can be very difficult to hear warnings or the sound of other people and watercraft that need to be avoided.
Our state has extensive regulations for boats and boating. All mechanically propelled vessels have to be registered either with the state or the federal government. State registered vehicles must display their registration number, a requirement that simplifies the process of identifying vessels involved in accidents.
The Maryland Natural Resource Police enforce the State Boat Act on all waterways and have the authority to enforce all other state laws, as well.
There are extensive regulations covering equipment required to be on boats, some of which vary by the size of the boat, and some of which vary by the nature of the body of water where the boat is operating. These rules address life jackets, distress signals, lights, audible warning devices, and more.
Once an accident occurs, the operator of any vessel involved must:
Accidents must be reported to the Department of Natural Resources. If there was a death (or disappearance) of someone, or if a person needed medical attention more serious than first aid, the report has to be filed within 48 hours. Otherwise, the report must be filed within 10 days.
Both the Coast Guard and the state of Maryland impose penalties for actions that are so negligent that lives or property are endangered. Any behavior that would subject a vessel operator to these penalties is very good evidence that the operator is also legally responsible for any injuries in an accident caused by that behavior. Examples of actions that the Department of Natural Resources considers negligent boat operation include:
Establishing that a particular boat operator should be held responsible for the consequences of a boat accident requires proof that the operator did something that the law will recognize as inappropriate—“negligent”—that a reasonable person would not have done. That can be a complicated process, beginning with establishing exactly what did happen. Actions that make an accident more likely include speeding, drinking, eating while driving the boat, and countless similar actions. These may be perfectly normal in most circumstances, but take on a different hue when they diminish a boat operator’s attention, judgment, and physical response times. Any evidence that the operator was violating the boating regulations at the time of the accident goes a long way to establishing negligence.
If the vessel itself was defective and that caused the accident, the vessel manufacturer, seller, or person who repaired it may be liable.
If you have been injured in a boat accident, or have a relative who was injured or killed in one, get the recovery process started as soon as possible. It’s crucial to preserve all the evidence of the accident, obtain detailed witness statements, and do a comprehensive comparison of the evidence and statements to the accident report. Call the Baltimore accident attorney G. Randolph Rice today to get started. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, there is no fee until you recover the compensation you are owed.