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Who is responsible for boating accidents?

By John Singleton on August 20, 2017

As a coastal state, Virginia is a haven for commercial and recreational watercraft. That means that our Commonwealth’s inlets, bays, and rivers can get quite crowded at times.

Fortunately, we have the U.S. Coast Guard patrolling our coastline, ready to respond to any desperate situation. But sometimes the Coast Guard does things that local boaters aren’t too happy about. For instance, the Coast Guard recently announced plans to remove all aids to navigation from Davis Creek in Mathews County. Davis Creek, an inlet that leads to Mobjack Bay and the Chesapeake Bay, is popular with boaters and fishermen.

Aids to navigation, like channel markers, beacons, and buoys, are important in waters like these because they guide boaters along the best route through the channel and point out shoals and other shallow spots. The absence of navigational aids could lead to boating accidents, particularly among boaters unfamiliar with the waterway.

Boating accidents have an added element of risk because there’s the possibility of drowning—you don’t just “walk away” from this type of accident. Just a few months ago, a fishing boat accident in Gloucester County left two men dead. It’s a sobering reality of venturing out on the open water.

What could cause a boat accident?

Boat accidents can be caused by hitting a submerged object or running aground, colliding with another watercraft, colliding with a fixed object like a dock, equipment failure, or being overturned by a wave or the wake of another watercraft.

Can someone be held responsible for a boat accident?

Whether someone can be held “liable” (legally responsible) for a boating accident depends on the accident. For the most part, if a person or company was negligent, and that led to someone else being injured, the person or company bears legal responsibility to pay for all costs of that injury.

The responsible party could include:

  • The operator of the boat, if a passenger was injured by poor driving,
  • The operator of the boat that caused the wake, if it was a no-wake zone,
  • The manufacturer of the boat or boat part, if a boat malfunction caused the accident.

What should you do?

Owning and operating a watercraft is a big responsibility, which is why anyone 14 and over who wants to pilot watercraft in Virginia must complete a boating safety course. The same is true for anyone who wants to operate a watercraft propelled by 10 hp or more. If that’s you, we strongly encourage you to do your homework before “shipping out” on the deep blue sea.

On the other hand, if you have been injured in a boating accident and are wondering what your legal options are, talk to us at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys at (804) 413-6777. A skilled Virginia boat accident attorney will sit down with you, at no charge, and go over what you can do to recover payment for your injuries and losses.

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