Hampton, Virginia is a mecca for those who enjoy boating, the gateway to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). The Hampton Roads waterway has been called one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Located at the mouth of the James River and surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, the area is home to a number of marinas, including the Docks at Downtown Hampton and the Custom House.
But with that large number of boaters and personal watercraft users comes a rate of boating accidents that is higher in Virginia than that in other states. In 2021, there were 89 boating incidents in the state, involving 115 vessels. Nineteen people were killed in these incidents, and another 47 were injured.
And it’s not just motorboats, yachts, ski boats, or jet skis that pose a high risk – 32 percent of the fatal incidents involved canoes or kayaks. Tragically, 84 percent of the victims killed were not wearing life jackets. Other recorded boating incidents involve pontoons, water skiing, and tubing behind boats.
Types of Boating Accidents
Two of the most common types of boating accidents are capsizing and swamping. Both of these types of incidents can result in injuries to people in the vessel, as well as those nearby. People can sustain boating accident injuries if they fall off the boat or get hit by another boat, while using a PWC or while tubing behind a boat. There is also a high risk of a victim drowning.
Capsizing occurs when a boat gets turned over on its side or is flipped upside down. If weight is unevenly distributed through the boat or if the operator is driving in a reckless manner, the boat can capsize. Swamping occurs if the vessel stays upright but begins to fill with water.
This is why it is critical for anyone on a boat to always wear life jackets – no matter how good a swimmer you are. It is also crucial to never overload a boat. This is one of the most frequent reasons why boating accidents happen. And if you do have people on your boat, make sure they do not walk around or stand up when there is any risk of turbulent waters. This interferes with the vessel’s center of gravity, which can cause it to become unsteady and could result in capsizing.
Common Injuries in Boating Accidents
Many boating accidents result in serious to severe injuries. Those who do survive their injuries often face months of rehabilitation and recovery, and many are left with chronic pain and/or permanent disabilities. Some of the most common types of injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Fractured bones
Just as with any type of accident, when a person is injured due to the negligent or reckless acts of another person, Virginia law allows that person to pursue legal action against that party in order to recover financial compensation for the losses their injuries have caused them, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more.
But boating accidents along waterways around Hampton, VA involve navigable waters, and therefore attorneys often have an option to pursue claims under federal maritime law or under Virginia common law. You must consult with a skilled Hampton, Virginia boating accident attorney about the advantages of your attorney using provisions of federal maritime law such as the jones act.
Under federal maritime law, there are different rules on contributory fault of the person injured. For example, Virginia State law follows a rule that if a person injured contributes in any material way to causing their own injury they cannot recover at all. Federal maritime law on the other hand varies and allows recovery under comparative negligence law in most circumstances.
Victims of boating accidents can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against those responsible for the incident. However, these claims can be complex, which is why it is important to speak to a Hampton, VA personal injury attorney before pursuing any action.
Our Hampton, VA boating accident attorneys have successfully represented numerous boating accident clients, getting them the compensation they deserved, including a $150,000 boating accident insurance settlement for one client who suffered several severe injuries when the charter fishing boat he was a passenger on ran aground in the Oregon Inlet. Our client received emergency medical treatment for broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a broken nose, fractured teeth, and other cuts and bruises, and had to undergo multiple surgeries during his recovery. We have also represented persons who were injured in boat tubing accidents, as well as in cases where persons were outside the boat swimming and were inadvertently struck by a moving boat propeller causing very serious injuries.
Determining Fault in a Boating Accident
Just as with any type of accident, when a person is injured, responsibility for the incident needs to be determined. In the majority of boat accidents we handle at our Hampton, VA personal injury law firm, the boat operator is deemed the at-fault party, often because they were operating the vessel in a reckless manner.
According to Coast Guard statistics, the following are the most common causes of boating accidents:
- 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. Last year, more than 15 percent of fatal boating accidents in Virginia were alcohol-related.
- 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.
Call Our Hampton, VA Personal Injury Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation
If you have suffered injuries in a boating accident caused by another party, contact a Hampton, Virginia boat accident lawyer to find out what legal options you may have. At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, we are dedicated to helping injured clients obtain the compensation they deserve for their medical bills, lost income, and other losses their injuries have caused.
Call our office today at (833) 997-1774 or click here to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Our firm published an in-depth legal guide discussing the options available to someone who has been injured in a boating accident. Download the free guide here.
For more information about what to do if you are seriously hurt in a Hampton boating incident, read these articles:
- Virginia Boating Accident Lawyers: Death and Injuries in Hampton Roads
- Virginia Boating Safety: What You Should Know About Accidents on the Water
- From Recreation to Risk – The Importance of Boating Safely
- Which Types of Insurance Apply to Boat Crashes?
- Boating Injuries and Uninsured Motorist Coverage