What To Do If You’re Injured in a Water Sport or Boating Accident
For water sports and recreation enthusiasts, as well as visitors who just want to look at beautiful water scenery, southeastern Virginia is the land of limitless opportunity: choices include the magnificent Chesapeake Bay — Virginia Beach oceanfront, marinas, and wharves — Elizabeth River in Norfolk — James River in Portsmouth — and many more. This high level of water activities poses risks, and sometimes water recreation and boating accidents occur.
Boat Accidents Pose Unique Questions
In some ways, boating accidents are similar to other types of accidents: liability for injuries generally is determined by who was responsible for causing the accident. Product liability is also possible, because many water activities involve boats, Jet Skis or another personal watercraft, water skis, and other equipment.
In other ways, boating accidents are different from other accidents, including the fact that special laws may apply. For boating or water sports accidents in Virginia, state law and regulations apply, including those applicable to water activities. Sometimes local laws apply as well. In addition, U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules are applicable. Finally, depending on where the accident happened, federal laws and regulations may pertain too.
There are many different ways water recreation or boat accident injuries can occur. Collisions with another watercraft or with a fixed object are the most common types of water accidents. Swamping and grounding can cause injuries, and skier mishaps also occur with some frequency. In addition, a person may fall in a boat or fall overboard, or be hit by a watercraft while in the water. Machinery and equipment failures can cause injuries. Even fires and explosions happen.
No matter how a water sport or boating accident occurs, water injury situations are factually complex and require extensive investigation before determinations about legal responsibility can be made. Recreating and reconstructing a boating accident can be very difficult. Boating accidents often happen on open water. Unlike other types of accidents — for example, car accidents and slip-and-fall cases — it often isn’t possible to return to the scene or premises where the accident happened. Additionally, physical evidence can be lost, because a boat or watercraft or significant parts of the craft can sink or be carried off in the current.
Boating Accident Causes and Injuries
The primarily cause of boat accidents is operator error, including: inattention, reckless or careless operation, excessive speed, inappropriate behavior, inexperience, and inadequate lookout. Often, alcohol or drug use is involved. Accidents can also be caused by negligent designed or defective design of boating or water equipment.
Boat accident injuries are frequently very severe and even fatal. Trauma often includes broken bones; head wounds, which can cause traumatic brain injury; carbon monoxide poisoning; back, neck, and shoulder injuries and fractures; and deep lacerations caused by a propeller or other equipment.
When Should You Talk With an Attorney About Your Water Sport or Boating Accident?
If someone else was responsible for causing the accident that injured you, that person may be legally liable for your medical costs, lost wages, and other losses. If your injuries are minor and temporary, and all your medical expenses have been paid, it may not be necessary to talk with a lawyer. But if you have serious injuries requiring extended or extensive medical treatment or permanent impairment, it is in your best interest to talk with an attorney about your legal options. If you lost a loved one in a boating accident that may have been caused by another person, you also should talk with an attorney about whether a wrongful death lawsuit is possible.
If your boating accident occurred in Virginia, a local attorney is in the best position to help with your case. Knowing state and local laws and regulations is critical in determining responsibility. When a case goes to court, being represented by a local attorney who knows the local customs and court rules can make a difference in the outcome. Personal injury attorney Jeff Brooke has the knowledge and experience that really matters in a case involving boating or water sport accident injuries or a wrongful death caused by a boating accident. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries — or if you lost a loved one — in a boating accident in Virginia, we are here to help. Contact us by phone at (866) 915-2996 or by using our online contact form.
Boating Accident Injuries and Wrongful Death: Who Is Responsible?
Recent news reports of a $4 million settlement in a wrongful death case arising from a Virginia boating accident are a somber reminder of the risks of recreational boating. With the abundant opportunities for boating activities in our state — including here in Virginia Beach and nearby — accidents can and do happen. When a Virginia boating accident does occur, who is responsible for compensating victims and their families for injuries and wrongful death?
Virginia Boating Liability Law
Recreational boaters are subject to a number of special laws and regulations. For accident injuries and wrongful death, however, the personal injury laws that apply to boating accidents are the same as the Virginia laws that apply to other types of injuries, such as car accidents.
If a person is injured in a boating accident, and someone else caused the accident, the at-fault person may be legally liable and responsible for compensating the injured victim for his or her injuries. The standard that applies is negligence. Generally, negligence means acting in a careless or reckless manner or failing to use reasonable care under the circumstances.
Virginia applies a rule of pure contributory negligence in accident cases. Under that rule, if the injured victim contributed to his or her injuries in any way, the victim cannot recover compensation from the at-fault party. That is true even if the at-fault party is more at fault.
In some cases, boating accidents can be caused by defective products or machinery. In those cases, product liability law will apply. The manufacturer may be responsible for injuries.
When a boating accident causes someone’s death, and another person is responsible for the accident, the family of the victim may be able to recover compensation under the Virginia wrongful death statute. In wrongful death cases, family members are compensated for their losses resulting from the victim’s death. Damages are calculated differently in a wrongful death case than in a lawsuit for compensation for injuries.
Causation and Fault in Boating Accidents
By their nature, serious boating accidents present complex circumstances and complicated factual issues. It can be particularly difficult to determine the cause of the accident and ascertain who was at fault. Extensive investigation is often required.
The United States Coast Guard compiles recreational boating accident statistics on a nationwide basis. Reports are issued annually. Those reports include information about common causes and factors in boating accidents.
Consistently, the Coast Guard reports that alcohol is a leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. It follows that alcohol use contributes significantly as a cause of all recreational boating accidents. Use of alcohol while operating a boat — and even while riding as a passenger — is extremely high risk.
In addition to alcohol use, there are five primary causes of recreational boating accidents:
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
- Improper lookout
- Excessive speed
- Machinery failure
Operator error is not the only frequent cause of boating injuries. Boat propellers cause a surprising number of injuries. Installing available safety features and equipment and following propeller safety rules is essential for recreational boaters.
Another underestimated hazard of recreational boating is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It cannot only harm you, but it can cause death. Knowing the risks and symptoms of CO poisoning in boating is a critical part of recreational boating safety.
One important — but not surprising — statistic in the Coast Guard report is the fact that the vast majority of boating deaths occur from drowning. What is surprising is that of those fatalities, more than 80 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets. Many of those lives could have been saved, if the victim had been wearing a jacket. Wearing a life jacket may not seem cool or comfortable at times — but it could save your life.
Numerous special laws and regulations apply to recreational boating. When those laws are broken, the violations may be evidence of causation or fault in an accident.
Talk With a Trusted Virginia Beach Attorney About Virginia Boating Injuries and Wrongful Death
If you’ve been seriously injured in a Virginia boating accident — or if you’ve lost a loved one in a boating accident — consulting with a personal injury attorney who understands Virginia law and practice is essential. When you’re injured, getting medical attention is clearly the most critical priority. But you should also talk with an attorney at the earliest possible time.
Especially for boating accidents, as time passes, it becomes more difficult to interview witnesses and gather evidence. Boating accidents require substantial investigation, and often require consulting with experts to determine the cause of the accident. Any delay will make the investigation more difficult.
Having a local attorney is extremely important in a boating accident. If your accident was in Virginia, our state’s laws will determine whether you can recover compensation, as well as what compensation you can recover.
Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeff Brooke has knowledge and experience that make a difference in a case involving boating accident injuries or a wrongful death caused by a boating accident. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries — or if you lost a loved one — in a boating accident in Virginia, we are here to help. Contact us by phone at (866) 915-2996 or by using our online contact form.