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. If you’ve been hurt in a boat accident, speak with our boating accident attorney Randolph Rice today at (410) 694-7291, free consultations and no fee unless we win your case.
Aspects of Boating that Tend to Cause Boat Accidents
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.
Maryland Boating Laws
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.
Boating Accident Reports
Once an accident occurs, the operator of any vessel involved must:
- Assist as needed
- Provide proper identification that must include the vessel operator’s name and address
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.
Boat Actions Deemed Reckless or Negligent
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:
- Traveling at excessive speed for the conditions, such as near other boats or in inherently dangerous waters
- Operating the boat while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Operating the boat an area designated for swimming
Establishing Liability for Boating Accidents
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.
Boating Safety Tips
Boating has become an increasingly popular activity all throughout the United States. In fact, more than ninety percent of all Americans live within easy driving distance of a navigable body of water – therefore, more and more are taking up boating, particularly during the long summer months. Boating can be the ideal way to relax and enjoy a nice summer day, as well as a great way to spend quality time with family as well as friends.
But no matter how much you love boating, it is important to follow safety guidelines and practices as thoroughly as you possible can, as making a mistake while boating can lead to serious consequences. Fortunately, these consequences can most always be avoided if safety guidelines are followed. Below the reader will find a list of boating safety tips, though this list is by no means exhaustive and is not a substitute for the proper training required to responsibly navigate and control a boat out on open water.
Take a Boating Safety Course
One of the best things that a new boater can do is take a boating safety course. A safety boating course is instrumental in helping a novice to feel comfortable while out on the water, something that is key for safety.
After all, in the event of emergency, it is important to maintain your calm as much as possible. As a novice boater, it is easy for minor problems to seem more complicated than they actually are. Fortunately, taking a boating course can help those problems (and problems will eventually arise, though they will likely be minor) seem much more feasible.
There are a few things that any typical boating safety course will help the novice boater be prepared for. First is minor injuries. A minor injury can often be treated with the use of a first aid kit, something that should always be on board the vessel in case it is ever needed.
Boating safety will also teach the novice boater how to prevent a catastrophe or accident by boating responsibly, which often means limiting alcohol consumption and watching weather patterns before going out onto the water.
Create Your Ideal Pre-Departure Checklist and Stick to It as Much as Possible
Creating a pre-departure checklist and not leaving the harbor until everything has been crossed off is a great way to ensure that you’ll have all of the supplies that you could possibly need while you’re out on the water. This pre-departure checklist should always include a first aid kit as well as water and even just a small quantity of food. Every emergency should be prepared for, no matter how likely it is of it actually occurring.
Boat Responsibly and Be as Careful as Possible
The allure of partying on a boat is certainly strong, there’s no doubt about it. There’s nothing like being out on the water on a beautiful summer day, sitting out in the sun with the smell of the ocean and the feel of the waves underneath you. Drinking a beer or a glass of wine can add to the joy of these moments considerably, but it’s important to do so responsibly and with the reasonable limitations in place.
This is because of the same reasons that drinking on land can be dangerous – it impairs your judgement and opens up the door for accidents and catastrophe, as it also impedes your motor skills.
Boating while drunk can be just as dangerous as driving a car after you’ve been drinking considerably, especially if there are a number of other boats in the area that you’re boating in as well. Drinking while boating can also lead to a number of accidents, such as falling into the water, that, while sometimes minor, often have the potential to be fatal.
Cultivate Your Survival Skills
Though it is certainly unlikely that you will end up stranded at sea in a lifeboat or treading water, it is not an unheard of situation. Thus, it is crucial that you are prepared for any number of emergency situations and know how to keep yourself alive in the event of one.
Take, for example, hypothermia. If you’ve ever seen Titanic, you know that hypothermia kills. However, you don’t need to end up like Jack – not if you take the proper precautions and know what to do if you are ever faced with the possibility of long stretches of time in dangerously cold water.
It’s important to know the health risks that hypothermia can pose, and how hypothermia can develop in the first place. For instance, did you know that hypothermia can even develop during summer months? Believe it or not, it’s possible, and it’s because water temperatures are often much lower than the external temperatures of the air. This leads us to our next point.
Prevent Your Need for Your Survival Skills
This pretty much says it all. If you thoroughly educate yourself on the potential dangers of boating, you will be much less likely to succumb to them in the end. For instance, if you know that hypothermia can occur even in summer months due to the temperature of water, you can avoid spending long amounts of time in many bodies of water or going into the water at all.
Take Your Guests into Consideration
Many people enjoy recreational boating because it is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family. However, it is important to be aware that even if you yourself are a skilled sailor, your guests may not be. In these cases, you must be more than prepared to take the lead in a crisis situation.
It is also up to you to ensure safe boating practices. This means that all guests must be wearing safety vests that fit them properly. For a guest that has a larger waistline for whatever reason (from obesity to pregnancy) than what your life jackets can accommodate, a larger life vest should be sought out before any boating takes place.
It is also important to be extra cautious of safety if there are children aboard, yours or a guest’s. Children who cannot understand the potential dangers that boating can potentially pose should always be closely supervised and should always, always be wearing a flotation device.
Have the Proper Safety Equipment on Board at All Times
As has been mentioned many times before earlier in this article, safety is key. One important component of boating safety is making sure that you have the right equipment, from life jackets to lifeboats (if you boat is of the larger variety) to the aforementioned first aid kit and perhaps even a defibrillator, a tool that’s becoming more and more commonly carried on the typical boat.
These tools among others can help to save lives in the event of an emergency – and an emergency can happen to anyone, even the most fastidious and cautious of recreational boaters.
Have a Safety Check Conducted
Having a safety inspection of your boat is one surefire way to ensure that you don’t leave behind any essential part of your safety kit, as well as ensuring that your boat is in good condition and is not in need of any repairs that could lead to catastrophe out on the open water.
Fortunately, these safety inspections are often provided for free by branches of the United States Coast Guard, who send a specialist in boating safety to inspect the boat. A number of checklists and safety guidelines are also available for free on the website of the United States Coast Card and should be regularly consulted by all who partake in recreational boating practices.
Be Aware of All Inclement Weather Conditions and Possibilities
Weather should never be overlooked when it comes to boating and, above all, it should always be taken seriously. Weather conditions like hurricanes and severe thunderstorms can cause immense problems and can even lead to catastrophes if not avoided as much as possible.
However, if you do get stuck on your boat in an instance of bad weather, it is important that you be prepared to navigate it. From high winds to high swells of waves, there are a number of conditions that make navigating a boat particularly difficult.
Fortunately, if you are properly trained and have the necessary skills, you will most likely be able to get out of the situation that you have found yourself in as safely as possible. Being knowledgeable about how to handle these such conditions is crucial, as bad weather can roll in faster than you may realize.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Guests
This article has already discussed the importance of a thorough first aid plan and first aid kit (and potentially defibrillator) in the case of a medical emergency. But not all medical problems that can result at sea can be qualified as a medical emergency.
Still, it is important to take care of these problems swiftly and diligently to keep yourself and your guests as happy and as comfortable as possible. Provide the necessary food, beverages, and accommodations to keep whoever is on your boat as comfortable and as content as they can possible be. The list continues as follows.
Unfortunately, wearing sunscreen while boating is something that far too many think to do. After all, with so many things to remember, it can be a simple thing to forget about SPF. But more likely than not, you’ll be directly in the sun’s rays for the majority of the boating trip. This means that, without the consistent reapplication of sunscreen, you’ll find yourself highly susceptible to burns of varying degrees. Though a sunburn may not seem all that serious, the author of this article assures you that it can be.
Sun burns can even be classified as three degree burns if the exposure to direct sunlight was intense enough, and can have an extensive recovery process. Sunburns are also a type of sun damage that has been shown to lead to an increased risk of skin cancer in all people. Therefore, sunscreen is key, particularly on boating outings in which children are attending, as their skin is often far more delicate and susceptible to damage.
Prepare for Seasickness
Even if you yourself are not susceptible to seasickness, it is likely that at some point you will have a guest who is. The seasick guest is likely to feel terrible, but it is important that you are considerate as well as accommodating. Provide them with a comfortable place to sit or lie down (if there is the room) and offer them water and dry foods, like crackers or even bread. Having these foods on hand can help in cases of sea sickness, as they are known for their ability to settle the stomach.
Also make sure that the seasick guest has a safe place to vomit, such as a trash bag or a trash can, in order not to upset any of the other guests or contaminate the boat.
Consistently Maintain Your Boat
Even if you buy your boat brand new, you will need to keep up with the recommended maintenance schedule. For instance, you should have your boat taken a look at and repairs conducted (if necessary) as soon as you notice a problem in order to prevent even further problems (and even potential catastrophe) while out on the water, where there is no help within an convenient distance. Regular maintenance such as the winterizing of your boat should also always be conducted as the seasons change and the boating season ends.
Know the Rules of the Road
Just like when you drive a car, knowing the rules of the “road,” so to speak, are crucial for a safe boating experience. After all, it is unlikely that you will never encounter another boater, and it is important that you know how to do so safely. Safely encountering another boat – or even many other boats – and maneuvering around it or them is huge in preventing boating accidents before they can even happen. Another part of this is always being aware of your surroundings, always know where other boaters in your vicinity are, or you could easily become a threat to them (and they to you).
Though there are many safety precautions to take while boating, you’re taking these precautions in the first place so that you can have a fun and wholly enjoyable experience. These 15 boating tips can make life on the water less anxiety-provoking and can be used whenever necessary. We all know about car accidents – we’ve had it drilled into us, how to be safe on the road, how to avoid the potentially tragic aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. And, unfortunately, we’ve all known someone who has been affected by one, be it major or even a minor car accident.
Many of us have lost loved ones in car accidents, and many more have suffered from serious injuries with life long complications and medical treatments (such as physical therapy, palliative care, pain management, etc.). But what many of us don’t know is that a boating accident can have similar consequences and can lead to similar life-altering injuries and sometimes even death. If you type “boating accident” into any major search engine, you’ll find stories about people killed in what are often referred to as “freak accidents,” meaning that they could have been predicted and, in most cases, could not have been prevented.
But many boating accidents can be linked to the negligence on the part of someone involved with the boat, be it the owner, the captain, or even the crew. In smaller-scale boating accidents, negligence can even be attributed to some of the passengers on board. The aftermath of a boating accident, particularly one where one of the parties involved can be found to be liable, can be just as jarring and life altering as the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, and similar considerations and potential steps should be thought about and, in some cases, taken.
The rest of this article will continue on with a list of practical advice and suggested course of action for those who are reeling in the wake of a boating accident.
What Caused Your Boating Accident And How Were You Injured?
If you were an injured party in a boating accident and are seeking a settlement (and, therefore, to determine liability), it is important to consider how the boating accident occurred in the first place.
In some situations, there is a clear cut person to blame, and this will make it easy to file a personal injury claim with your boating accident lawyer once you are able to give them this information, as well as any other information that may be relevant.
Boating While Under the Influence
One such clear cut cause of a boating accident is boating while under the influence of alcohol or any other mind and body altering drugs. Just like with other motor vehicles on the road, boating while under the influence is hugely dangerous and is a very risky behavior to partake in.
Unfortunately, many of us do not give boating under the influence the same attention and seriousness as we think about driving while drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
In fact, partying while boating is nothing unfamiliar, and is even something that is celebrated all throughout the United States. Holidays such as the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and other such summer events are common excuses to take to the water and get drunk. Sometimes all that is needed to justify boating and drinking is a particularly hot summer day and easy access to a lake or other such navigable body of water.
Boating while intoxicated, particularly if the majority of passengers are severely intoxicated, has many different and varying risks. For instance, boating while intoxicated is not just risky behavior to partake in for the driver slash navigator of the boat, but for the passengers as well.
As many of us are aware, consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances can be hugely mind altering, changing our perception of the world and our ability to safely navigate in it. Though there is a time and a place for drinking – especially during the summer months for many people – this author would argue that boating is never the ideal time for it, and far from the ideal place.
It is important to share as many details about the accident as you can with your boating accident lawyer, as it is not possible to accurately determine liability without them. Determining liability is important for deciding if there is a viable personal injury case, as sometimes both parties will be found to share in the liability.
For example, if you were consuming alcohol and sustained an injury directly related to that, it is unlikely that the navigator of the boat would be found liable. However, if the navigator of the boat was also intoxicated and this led to a boating accident on a larger scale, pinning liability on them might be more possible.
Know Your Boat
Another common cause of boating accidents involves a simple misunderstanding of how boating inherently works. Too many people, unfortunately, assume that boating is nothing like driving, and that they do not need to follow the “rules of the road” so to speak.
However, the opposite is true, and boating rules are often just as crucial to follow as road rules. This ignorance has led to considerably more boating accidents than there otherwise would be.
Contact a Boating Accident Lawyer
If you feel that someone else was at fault for injuries that you have sustained in a boating accident, it is far within your best interests to consult a boating accident lawyer that specializes in boating accidents as well as personal injury cases, as they are more likely to be prepared to take on your case and accurately assess liability and potential settlement values, as well as the validity of a potential personal injury case.
If the operator of your boat was negligent in any way, you will most likely to be entitled to receive compensation. However, it is likely that you will need to prove that you were not involved in said negligence and are merely a victim of the circumstances.
There are many different causes for an injury due to boating accident, such as improper handling of a boat to something as simple and seemingly trivial as the overcrowding of a boat.
Unfortunately, these small and seemingly insignificant mistakes can have serious consequences, resulting in major injury and even, in some cases, a loss of life. Fortunately, many of these accidents are able to be avoided by educating yourself on all you need to know about boating, from the necessary safety precautions to what is referred to as the rules of the road.
Get Legal Help from our Baltimore Boating Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a boating 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.
Contact the Baltimore boating accident attorney Randolph Rice today to get started. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, there is no fee until we recover the compensation you are owed.