Understanding The Laws That Apply to Boat Accidents | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The waterways of Virginia Beach, Virginia and the Outer Banks region of North Carolina (e.g., Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills) are utilized regularly by residents and tourists alike. During the spring and summer months of the year, it is common for recreational boaters, sailors, and swimmers to all access the water. This creates the risk of a serious accident occurring.

For example, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that over 4,100 boat accidents occurred in 2015 alone. Those accidents resulted in over 625 fatalities, over 2,600 bodily injuries and approximately $42 million dollars in property damage.

Types of Recreational Boats That May Be Involved in Accidents

When serious boating accidents occur in the waters of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Nags Head, Ocracoke, etc. they routinely into recreational boats including  the following types of vessels and watercrafts:

  • Sailboats
  • Jet Skis
  • Wave Runners
  • Sea-Doos
  • Pontoons
  • Kayaks & Paddleboards
  • Canoes
  • Center Console Runabouts
  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Tenders
  • Inflatable Boats
  • Go-Fast boats
  • Airboats
  • Yachts

Common Causes of Serious Boat Accidents

Boating accidents can occur in a myriad of ways. Some of the most common include an inattentive operator or Captain, failing to maintain a proper lookout, an inexperienced operator, excessive speed, and/or the operator was boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol or drugs.

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Assessing Liability in a Boat Accident

If you or a family member was seriously injured in an accident that took place on a boat, you may be able to file a personal injury claim the operator of the boat for negligence or for failing to provide reasonable safety. You may also be able to take legal action against the owner of the boat, the manufacturing company of the boat or other watercraft, the rental company, or other passengers on the boat who were acting recklessly.

State Law or Federal Maritime May Law

When it comes to a boat accident personal injury claim, whether the accident occurred in Virginia or North Carolina, one of the first issues that needs to be addressed is determining which set of laws apply to your case. This is where boat accident litigation can get complicated (and why hiring an experienced Virginia & North Carolina boat accident lawyer makes sense) since your case could fall under federal admiralty jurisdiction and general maritime law.

A personal injury claim involving a recreational boat falls under admiralty jurisdiction when the accident occurred on “navigable waters” or a recreational boat on navigable waters causes an injury suffered on land and the harm has a “nexus” with traditional maritime activities. See Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249 (1973) and Sisson v. Ruby, 497 U.S. 358 (1990).

Under federal maritime law, navigable waterways are the waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are used, or were used, to transport interstate commerce or foreign commerce.

If admiralty maritime law applies to your personal injury case, you have the option to file a lawsuit in state court or federal court. You can file suit in federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1333 since federal courts have original jurisdiction over admiralty claims.

Contact an Experienced Virginia & North Carolina Boat Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident, you may be entitled to financial restitution for your harms and losses. Our personal injury attorneys understand the complexities that separate boating accidents from other types of accidents like car wrecks or motorcycle accidents. To learn more about how our boating accident attorneys may be able to help you, contact our office to schedule a free case review.