Boating Accidents in Virginia


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Virginia is home to some of the longest rivers and largest bays in the mid-Atlantic.  From the Chesapeake Bay to the Rappahannock and James Rivers, the state is a boating lover’s paradise. While the boating lifestyle is full of adventure, there are serious risks when even the most experienced boater takes to the water.  Most boating accidents that occur are avoidable, but serious and fatal accidents still happen.

There are a number of reasons why boating accidents take place, and the scenarios are very similar to those found in car accidents.  Disregard for laws, inexperienced operators, hazardous conditions, reckless or negligent operation and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol are the cause of most boating accidents.  Because a boat operates on the open water, there are a number of deadly circumstances that can occur, such as drowning, sinking, flooding or vanishing.

In Virginia, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries refers to a license as a Boating Education Card.  The Department is gradually establishing new laws that will take effect over the next several years.  In 2012 a new law was put in place that requires all boaters, regardless of age, to meet the boater education requirement in order to operate a personal watercraft.   Motor boats have a different set of requirements and only mandate that those 30 years of age and under have a boater education card.

Although operating laws in Virginia are mandated to keep the waterways safe, accidents and fatalities still occur.  Virginia boating accident statistics from the 2010 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reported 102 total accidents and 14 fatalities.  The USCG noted the top primary contributing factors as operator inattention, improper lookouts, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use.  All of these factors are avoidable.

We’ve mentioned that the causes of a boating accident are similar to those of a car accident.  While many of the laws and procedures are similar to automobile accident cases, different laws such as admiralty and comparative negligence may apply depending on the body of water and the type of accident. The personal injury attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff are experienced in boating laws and proceedings, and stand ready to represent those that responsibly enjoy the water, but have been negatively affected by those who disregard the law.

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