Boating accident litigation may in some instances be governed by maritime law depending on where the accident takes place and the circumstances of the accident.
Boating Accident Injuries
Boating accidents can result in severe injuries. They involve personal water craft, wave runners and other types of small vessels. I have been a boater most of my life having owned both sailboats and motorboats. In handling these types of claims it is important to be familiar with the administrative regulations as well as U. S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules that may apply to boats.
Critical questions to be looked at in the case of a boat accident
- Does admiralty jurisdiction apply? If the waterway where the incident occurred is a highway for interstate commerce and the incident posed a potential hazard to maritime commerce and arose out of activity that bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity then maritime jurisdiction may apply. Such a case could then be brought in federal court.
- To what extent does state law apply? If state law does not conflict with maritime law or interfere with the uniform working of the maritime legal system, then state law may supplement maritime law.
- Should the case be filed in federal or state court? If the case is filed in federal court and maritime jurisdiction controls, then there may be no right to a jury trial.
- Is the plaintiff potentially a seaman under the Jones Act? If so, then that plaintiff may have special rights.
- If the case involves a wrongful death which occurred more than three nautical miles offshore, then it may be governed by the Death on the High Seas Act. On the other hand, dependents of nonseamen killed in state territorial waters may bring a wrongful death action that is governed by state law.
- Does the Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act apply? If so, then there may be special limitations on the amount of recovery.
- Was the operator of the boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Was the operator in compliance with the Virginia Administrative Code dealing with the safe operation of boats?
- Was there excessive speed involved?
- Was there an improper turn that caused the injury?
Personal watercraft accidents
A personal watercraft (PWC) is a gasoline operated boat which does not have a propeller but rather uses a water jet pump for propulsion. This propulsion system is similar to an aircraft jet engine. The PWC is powered and steered by the water jet. There is no rudder. There are hazards that are peculiar to PWCs:
- The PWC loses directional control when the throttle is released. As a result, the PWC essentially becomes like a torpedo heading in the last direction of thrust until it stops on its own or it strikes an object. It is only when the operator maintains throttle that the operator likewise maintains the control over the vessel.
- There have been a number of reported accidents where the operator fell backward off the vessel and was essentially eviscerated by the high pressure stream of water that powers the vehicle.
If you have been involved in a boating accident contact us, we have experience serving the watercraft accident needs of our Fairfax, Va. and Washington D.C. clients.
See boats on this site for a review of Virginia case law.