What’s the First Thing To Do in a Boating Accident?

When boating accidents happen, a boating accident lawyer helps those injured ‘navigate’ the laws to pursue a personal injury claim. Boating accidents are common enough that there are specific laws written if one occurs. Boating accident lawyers must have knowledge of maritime or admiralty laws where applicable, as well as the waterway laws of the state. With over 3,700 miles of coastline and 6,000 lakes and ponds, in Maine, an experienced boating accident lawyer must know each to ensure their clients are awarded the compensation they deserve. 

Maine Boating Laws and Crucial Factors

For many, boating is a way of life in Maine and, unfortunately, boating accidents are a common occurrence here. Boating knowledge is a crucial factor that contributes to recreational boating safety and, to be fair, most boaters are familiar with the laws that govern watercraft in Maine before powering up a motorboat. 

All Boats Must Be Registered

All motorized boats in Maine must be registered with validation stickers before legally operating in state waters. Maine state waters include all internal bodies of water and all federal waters within the jurisdiction of the State. Motorized boats include any watercraft or paddle craft equipped with any type of propulsion machinery of any size, whether the machinery is the principal source of propulsion or not, or permanently or temporarily attached, such as for a kayak, canoe, sailboat, or paddleboard. All must be registered. Exemptions are few. For example, lifeboats and government vessels in use for official purposes are exempt. Boats registered in another state or country can operate on Maine waters, too, but only for up to 60 consecutive days. 

Monitor Speed and Reckless Behavior

Reckless operation of any watercraft that can pose a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person is illegal. Operators of any watercraft must operate at a reasonable and prudent speed, being mindful of existing conditions. Speed should be regulated to avoid danger, injury, or unnecessary inconvenience in any way or manner to other watercraft and their occupants, whether they are anchored or underway on the water. This includes the effects of the wash or wave that their watercraft creates on other boaters or waterfront piers, floats, other properties, and even the shoreline. Operators of watercraft cannot endanger other watercraft, water skiers, surfboarders or operate a motorboat in areas marked or buoyed for swimming.

It’s a Criminal Violation to Drive Under the Influence

Just as with operating a motor vehicle under the influence, it is a criminal violation for a person to operate or attempt to operate any watercraft while under the influence. This means anyone under the influence of intoxicating liquors, beverages, or drugs or any combination of alcohol and drugs with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is in violation of the law. Probable cause is enough for law enforcement officers to request a blood-alcohol test of anyone making an attempt to operate or operating a watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. If there is a boating accident resulting in someone’s death, the operator of the watercraft involved in the fatal accident shall have their blood-alcohol tested.

What to Do If You’ve Been in an Accident

Boating accidents are serious offenses that can have very serious consequences. Anyone operating a watercraft involved in a boating accident of more than $300 of damage is required by law to report any collision, accident, casualty, or damage to any other watercraft or other property to the nearest available law enforcement officer by the quickest means of communication possible. The leading causes of boating accidents are operator inattention or inexperience, excessive speed, failure to keep a proper lookout, alcohol, and engine or electrical failure. In boating fatalities, alcohol continues to be the leading factor contributing to deaths, with failure to wear life jackets next.

How a Boating Accident Claim Differ From a Car Accident Claim

Though filing a claim for a boating accident is similar to filing a claim for a car accident, in that both are personal injury claims, boating accidents can differ from car accidents due to the nature of the accidents themselves. For starters, a boat cannot swerve out of the way as fast as a car can to avoid impact. Unlike car accidents, witnesses to boating accident are uncommon. There are no bystanders nearby or footage available from an adjacent building’s security camera to help determine negligence. Emergency services for car accident victims are able to respond rapidly, within minutes, whereas lakes and ponds in Maine, depending on the location, may have a boat ramp for an emergency vehicle to access in a time of need. 

Simply calling in an emergency can take excessive time in boating accidents. Often, there is no cell service out on lakes, coastal waters, or rivers. People involved in a boating accident must first return to shore, a port, or make their way down river or out of the forest to make contact with police or emergency services. Finally, boats are not made to withstand impacts like vehicles are, leaving those in boats much more vulnerable to injury. In the event of a collision or impact, there is little to no protection in a boat, which can cause serious injuries or even drowning. 

If you are involved in a boating accident, you will need to prove that you sustained your injuries as a result of another’s negligence in operating a watercraft. Though your cell phone service may not be available out on a lake, you can use your phone to take pictures of the accident scene, any damages and conditions, and injuries to people. You can also dictate relevant information into your phone to help recall what happened when you speak with police. Once you are ashore, seek medical attention for your injuries. Do not refuse medical attention if offered. Your injuries may not have fully surfaced yet in the adrenaline rush of the accident and getting to land.

Hire an Attorney That Specializes in Boating Laws and Accidents

If you’ve been injured involved in a boating accident, visit the law firm of Hardy Wolf & Downing for a free consultation. As Maine’s preeminent personal injury lawyers, Hardy Wolf & Downing’s law team has experience in boating laws and a well-earned reputation for client satisfaction.