It’s late spring in the DMV and the anticipation for long days of sunshine, warm weather, and summer fun is palpable. Given the beltway region’s proximity to the coast, many recreational boaters are dreaming of lazy, breezy days out on the water. Many boaters in our region take their crafts out on the Chesapeake Bay. This natural wonder is the largest estuary in the United States and boasts an ecology unlike anywhere else in the world. Its conservation is a cause near and dear to nature-lovers all across the country. But given the high traffic in this famous waterway, and the occasionally dubious conduct of boat owners and drivers, accidents are inevitable. Malloy Law wants to keep DMV boaters safe this summer with our Chesapeake Bay boating accident guide.
Over five thousand boating accidents occur per year in the US, causing tens of millions of dollars in damages. In 2020, 767 fatalities were recorded as a result of boating accidents. The vast majority of these fatal accidents occur as a result of a lack of safety precautions and safety education. For instance; 86% of drowning fatalities were not wearing a life jacket, but less than 12% of boating adults wear a life preserver. The message is clear; even the bare minimum of safety precautions can save lives.
By far the most common cause of boating accidents is alcohol use, according to data gathered by the US Coast Guard. Alcohol not only inhibits a driver’s reaction time and decision making but will also negatively impact their ability to respond to a crisis situation such as an imminent collision or propeller accident. Moreover, operating a boat while intoxicated is a federal crime, carrying a fine of up to $5000.
There are, of course, other common causes of boating accidents. But the majority of these can be summarized as “reckless or irresponsible driving.” These may include:
It may also interest you to know that while inclement weather and rough seas can be a cause of boating accidents, most of them actually occur in calm waters. This would seem to further reinforce the theory that boating is at its most dangerous when the operator of the boat in question is impaired, inexperienced, overconfident, or irresponsible.
If you are involved in a collision with another boat (a fairly common type of accident), many of the procedures you may be familiar with after a car accident still apply. Remain at the scene. Exchange insurance and contact information with the operators of any other vehicles involved. Provide medical attention to anyone who may need it. Contact the proper authorities and obtain an accident report. However, if your accident involves your boat and only your boat, you may be unsure as to your legal responsibilities. This is because laws concerning the reportage of boating accidents vary from state to state.
Boating accidents must be reported to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources within 48 hours if a person:
The operator is also legally obliged to report the accident to MDNR within ten days if:
Boating accidents must be formally reported to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources if there is:
The reporting windows are similar to Maryland’s policies as well. Serious injury, disappearance, or loss of life must be reported within 48 hours. Serious property damage must be reported within ten days.
Thank you for reading this Chesapeake Bay boat accident guide. It’s our sincere hope that all our seafaring friends, clients, and neighbors in the DMV will have an enjoyable and safe summer on the water. Operating boats of all shapes and sizes in a responsible and lawful manner and adhering to safety best practices will protect most people from serious accidents or injuries. But some accidents are still inevitable. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident due to another party’s negligence, Malloy Law can help. Our firm is proud to employ the DMV’s boat accident specialists. Our experienced legal team will pursue maximum compensation on your behalf while you recover from your physical injuries and emotional trauma. We pride ourselves on a culture of individualized attention and empathy for the injured. Contact us today for a free consultation.