Across the state of Maryland, many people enjoy spending time cruising around lakes and rivers on their boats and taking advantage of the beautiful natural backdrop our state offers. Unfortunately, boating is a hobby that comes with a few inherent risks. In 2018, Maryland recorded at least 132 boating accidents and 16 fatalities. For those involved, the consequences can be catastrophic. Our personal injury attorneys have assisted many clients involved in boating accidents, and a common question we receive concerns how fault is determined in accidents of this nature. Here are a few insights we can share.
Determining who is to blame for a boating accident can be a complex task, but generally speaking, the most common responsible parties can be a boat owner or the manufacturer of the vessel in some cases. If a boat owner was operating the vessel in an unsafe or reckless manner, resulting in the accident, then that person will likely be financially liable for damages. If that person carries boating insurance, then the insurance company will be responsible for issuing payment for a boating accident claim.
Some boating accidents are caused by manufacturing defects of components of the vessel, such as the engine or propellers. When the accident can be linked directly to a malfunction or flaw in the boating equipment or parts, then the manufacturer of the said defective component may be liable. This would be considered a product liability case rather than a personal injury claim.
The state of Maryland is one of only four states (along with the District of Columbia) to recognize the Pure Contributory Negligence Rule. What this means for accident victims is that if a victim is found to have partially contributed to the accident – even if that person is only 1% to blame for it – they become ineligible to receive any compensation. If you have enough reasons to believe your actions may have contributed to the accident, it is essential to seek the help of an experienced boating accident attorney who can construct an effective strategy to give you a fighting chance to recover compensation.
This is also true if you are dealing with the other party’s insurance company. Because the pure contributory negligence rule is so strict, it is not unusual for insurance companies to try to get away from having to award a settlement by trying to place a percentage of the blame on the victim. Whether their claim is legitimate or not, a skilled attorney will know how to navigate the situation in your favor.
When it comes to filing a claim for your boating accident, every state has a firm deadline. This deadline is referred to as the statute of limitations, which is the window of time given to claimants to initiate their claim or civil suit before time runs out. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for most personal injury and property damage claims is ‘three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides a different period of time within which an action shall be commenced.’ (Maryland Code § 5-101.)
In simple terms, the clock starts ticking as soon as the accident happens. However, in spite of having three years to file your claim, you may want to start the process sooner than later, while evidence is easier to access and memories of what happened are still fresh in your mind. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to prove that any injury or property damage was a direct result of someone else’s actions. By filing a claim shortly after the accident, you are increasing your chances to receive compensation.
Boating accident claims can be complex by nature, and identifying the responsible party is not always an easy task. Add to that the fact that Maryland’s pure contributory negligence rule makes it hard — if not impossible — for victims to recover compensation after an accident, and you have a potential recipe for failure. Some cases may not require the assistance of an attorney, such as when damages were minor or when both parties agree on who is financially liable for the accident.
Other cases are not so simple. Insurance companies may fight back or try to offer victims less-than-adequate settlement amounts. There may be multiple responsible parties, or a thorough investigation may be necessary in order to prove that a piece of defective equipment was to blame. In those cases, it is highly recommended that you seek the help of a skilled attorney who knows the right steps to take to secure a positive outcome for your case. Most personal injury law firms work on a contingency basis, meaning they will not require any upfront payment in order to begin working on your case. In addition, if your case is not successful and you don’t win, no money is owed to your legal team. At the Malloy Law Offices, we have helped countless victims of boating accidents to receive the fair compensation they deserve. It is in your best interest to have an experienced team of boating accident attorneys on your side. We can help you every step of the way and maximize your chances of receiving compensation. Contact us for a free consultation to learn your options.