Summer has arrived and that means that many residents and visitors to Virginia will be enjoying water activities, including canoeing, fishing, jet skiing, water skiing, or just relaxing on the deck of a pontoon boat. Unfortunately, this also means that there will be boating accidents that take place in the state, and tragically some of those victims will die. If you or a loved one is hurt in a boating accident, you may be unsure who is liable for damages, especially if the boat was rented. A personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help.

Causes of Boating Accidents

According to national statistics gathered by the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 5,265 boating accidents last year that resulted in 767 deaths. Another 3,191 victims suffered injuries. When these numbers are compared to boating accident statistics from 2019, they reveal that the number of accidents rose by 26.3 percent, the number of deaths by 25.1 percent, and the number of injuries by 24.7 percent.

There are a number of reasons why boating accidents occur. The most common include:

  • Operator distraction: Distracted driving is becoming as much of an issue for boat operators as it is for vehicle drivers. It is critical that a boat operator stay focused on navigating the boat, watching for water depth, weather, and other potential hazards.
  • Boating under the influence: Operating a boat while under the influence is just as illegal as operating a vehicle and can result in criminal charges, fines, and even jail time. It is also one of the leading causes of boat accidents.
  • Operator inexperience: The Coast Guard cites operator inexperience as one of the top causes of boating accidents.
  • Speeding: It is just as important to be able to have enough time to react when you are operating a boat as it is when you are operating a car. If a boat operator fails to maintain safe speeds, they may be unable to maneuver their boat in time to avoid a tragedy, such as hitting another boat, jet ski, or swimmer.
  • Waves or wakes: A wake is when water is disturbed by the force of a boat’s hull or by other boats close by. If a boat operator is unprepared or unsure of how to navigate their boat through a wake or waves, the boat can end up crashing into other boats or the force can even cause it to capsize.
  • Failure to have a lookout: It takes all of the focus and attention of a boat operator to safely navigate a boat. This is why they should always have a second person with them to be on the lookout for any hazards or dangers that could be around. If the operator fails to have someone as a lookout, or the lookout fails to pay attention, the results can be tragic.
  • Equipment failure: A boat owner – just like a vehicle owner – should always make sure their vessel is in good working order. Any time an operator gets on the boat, even if it is one they are renting, they should always do a thorough safety check to make sure that all systems are working.
  • Weather conditions: Never go out on a boat without checking to see what the weather conditions will be, even if the skies look sunny, and make sure to keep an eye out for weather alerts. A beautiful sunny sky can quickly darken with storm clouds without any warning.

Boat Accident Liability

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, you may be able to file a boating accident claim to pursue damages for any losses you sustain because of your injuries. Some of these losses can include medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more. Establishing liability for a boat accident can be complex, but a seasoned Virginia personal injury attorney can help. Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule a free case evaluation with a Va. boat accident attorney to find out what legal recourse you may have.

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