In the summer months, recreational boating can offer a fun and enjoyable activity for the entire family. The sport can provide many lasting memories when undertaken wisely. Sadly, a serious boating accident can occur even with a moment of carelessness or recklessness. Under Virginia state law, the vessel operator must report the accident with the Commonwealth’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The failure to report such an incident could lead to criminal charges.
Accident victims may be eligible for compensatory damages and may be able to hold the boat operator, vessel owner, rental company, or even other passengers liable via a civil lawsuit. By doing so, the victim may be able to receive monetary compensation to help offset the costs related to the accident.
Recreational Boating Accidents
In the US, hundreds of people succumb to boating accident-related injuries, which includes fatalities in the waters around the Virginia Beach region. For boating accident victims, minor injuries can also become life-threatening due to the remote access to medical care.
Boating accidents can occur while canoeing, sailing, water skiing, tubing, fishing, and more. The common reasons behind VA Beach recreational boating accidents include the following:
- Failure to adhere to navigational rules
- Being inattentive
- Boat overcrowding
- Improper lookout
- Alcohol and drug consumption
- Insufficient training and operator mistakes
- Collisions with rocks, docks, or sandbars
Boating Laws and Regulations in Virginia
Anyone under the age of 16 years is prohibited from operating a watercraft. Individuals aged 14 or 15 may operate a watercraft upon completing a course on boating safety.
- Your vessel must be equipped with a life jacket within the easy reach of every person aboard. On top of this, life jackets should be the proper size.
- It is unlawful to carry more passengers on board than the watercraft is meant to hold.
- Speed near piers, swimmers, boat ramps, and docks.
- Ride negligently, including following closely, weaving through vessels, or steering towards a person or object.
Filing a Formal Written Report Following a Virginia Boating Accident
Vessel operators must file a formal written report with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in the following cases:
- A vessel or the equipment on-board sustains damage of over $2,000 due to the accident
- The accident leads to an injury that necessitates medical assistance beyond first aid or causes a fatality
- Any occupants of the vessel go missing
The failure to report a boating accident resulting in injuries, significant damage, fatality, or disappearance could result in a Class 4 Misdemeanor charge.
Time Frame for Reporting a Boating Accident
In Virginia, the time frame for reporting a boating accident is detailed below. But you should contact emergency services or the Coast Guard as soon as you can if a serious incident occurs on the water.
- 48 hours if there is a fatality within 24 hours of the incident
- 48 hours if a boater or passenger is injured and cannot undertake routine activities
- 48 hours if someone disappears due to the boating accident
- Ten days if a more prompt report is not needed but becomes necessary
- Ten days if the damage to the vessel or equipment aboard the boat is over $2,000
- Ten days for a total boat loss
Alcohol Consumption and Boating Accidents
In nearly one-third of all fatal boat accidents, alcohol is the primary contributory factor, as per the CDC’s information. It is also dangerous to operate a boat when under the influence of recreational or prescription drugs, irrespective of whether the drugs are legally prescribed. Alcohol and drugs impair an operator’s balance, judgment, reaction time, perception, and vision, whether operating an automobile or a boat.
The effect of alcohol or drugs is further compounded due to sun and heat exposure when boating. If you have been involved in a boating accident where the operator was drunk, a Virginia boat accident lawyer can help you understand whether you have a valid personal injury claim.
Boating Accidents related to Carbon Monoxide and Fumes
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a common reason for boating-related injuries and fatalities. This odorless gas comes out of boat engines and motor generators, and initially causes symptoms that may appear similar to those of seasickness.
Boats should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and have proper ventilation. The equipment on the boat should be well-maintained and in good working order. The below-deck sleeping quarters are particularly prone to carbon monoxide poisoning, but the gas can also be hazardous in the open air.
If you suspect that you have sustained damage from carbon monoxide while boating, your boat accident lawyer can assess whether the boat was appropriately maintained and safe.
Boating Accidents due to Other Passengers
Vessel operators are often at fault for boating accidents, but around 46 percent of boating injuries and deaths occur when a boat is tethered, docked, anchored, or drifting. Passengers may cause injuries to others by negligent actions, inattention to their surroundings, or even due to an altercation.
Not surprisingly, what may have been a small accident on land can rapidly turn life-threatening on a boat. An experienced boat accident lawyer in Virginia can investigate a boating accident for you if you believe that you were injured because of another passenger’s negligence.
Recreational Boat Accident-Related Damages
A boating accident can cause severe injuries, such as broken bones, fractures, spinal injuries, cuts, traumatic brain injury, drowning, near-drowning, and soft tissue injury, which can mean extensive medical bills and income loss, and significant pain and suffering for the victim.
While every case is unique, the damages for which a boating accident victim receives compensation will depend on the level of their injuries and the long-term effect of the accident on their life. A skilled boating accident lawyer could help you gather evidence to build a solid case and work hard to ensure that you get the rightful compensation that you deserve for your losses.
Contact a Skilled Boat Accident Attorney in Virginia
If you or a loved one got hurt in a Virginia boating accident, you may be entitled to significant compensation. After seeking medical attention, get in contact with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.