In Virginia, there are countless lakes, rivers, and coastal waters for residents and visitors to enjoy. Whatever part of the Commonwealth you are in, there are ample opportunities to go fishing, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, or just enjoy a beautiful day out on the waters with family and friends.

The boundless boating opportunities the Old Dominion state has to offer also creates an increased risk of boat accidents, the majority of which are caused by operator error or the reckless actions of a passenger. These accidents can result in serious and catastrophic injuries. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a boating accident, you may have a right to compensation.

At Schilling & Esposito, we have several decades of experience representing clients injured in boating accidents and those who have suffered all other types of personal injuries in Virginia. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex cases. We work closely with our clients, and we take the time to thoroughly investigate their case and pursue all potential legal avenues toward recovering full and fair compensation.

We are skilled negotiators and strong litigators. In general, it is in everyone’s best interests to work out a reasonable settlement without the need for costly and time-consuming litigation, and we look for opportunities to settle the case when it makes sense for our clients. That said, we fully prepare for trial from the outside of a case, and if the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, we are ready and able to pursue full damages through litigation.

Common Types of Boating Accidents

There are a number of ways that accidents and injuries can occur on the waterways:

  • Boats crashing into each other: About one out of every four boat accidents are collisions between two or more watercraft. When boats crash into each other, the impact of the collision can cause severe injuries to those on board.

  • Boats crashing into other objects: Sometimes, a watercraft might collide with a fixed object that is in the water. Examples may include docks, rafts, bridge supports, and many others.

  • Flooding and capsizing: When a boat is moving too fast for conditions, there is a risk of hitting a large wave and capsizing or taking on water and flooding. Flooding can also happen when a boat plug is defective and pops out, or it is accidentally removed.

  • Grounding: If a boat driver does not see heavy objects underneath them in the water, they might strike these objects, which can throw occupants in all different directions and cause injuries. Grounding can happen when a boat strikes a large rock, reef, shoal, or even the shore.

  • Falling overboard: One of the leading causes of serious injuries and fatalities is a driver or passenger falling out of a watercraft. While less common than other types of boating accidents, falling overboard can happen when someone is standing in the boat when they should not be, the boat encounters heavy winds, waves, and/or the boat is moving at very fast speeds.

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning: Boat motors and engines emit odorless gas, which can start as seasickness and progress to carbon monoxide poisoning, even in the open air. Boats should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and have adequate ventilation to prevent this from occurring.

Reasons Boating Accidents Occur

As mentioned earlier, operator negligence and reckless actions by passengers are to blame for the vast majority of boat accidents. Some of the most common reasons a watercraft accident may happen include:

  • Operator inexperience: Many boat drivers are young, inexperienced, and do not have the proper training to safely operate the watercraft. Those who lack the proper training can easily make mistakes that put others who are out on the water in greater danger.

  • Speeding/reckless driving: Some boat operators have the proper training, but for whatever reason, they choose to drive the boat too fast, too close to other watercraft and engage in other types of reckless behavior. Driving recklessly indicates a wanton and willful disregard for navigation rules and the safety of others.

  • DUI: Alcohol is a factor in a large number of boating injuries and fatalities. A lot of water-related activities involve alcohol consumption, and unfortunately, far too many boat drivers make the poor and often fateful decision to operate the watercraft while intoxicated.

  • Distracted driving: A growing number of boat crashes are caused by driver inattentiveness (i.e., distracted driving). These days, more and more people seem to be unable to resist the temptation to send texts, take pictures, and do other things with their smartphones while there supposed to be driving their boat.

  • Overcrowding: When there are too many people piled into a boat, it can result in disastrous consequences. Passengers can wind up being thrown overboard, and the boat can start to sink and take on water because there is too much weight in it.

  • Defective/faulty equipment: Machinery failure is a factor in some boat accidents. This can happen because of defective design, faulty manufacturing process, negligent maintenance, or a combination of these factors. When boat accidents and serious injuries happen because of a product defect or maintenance failure, it may be possible to file a claim against the equipment designer, manufacturer, supplier, distributor, or the party responsible for maintaining the watercraft.

Damages Available for Virginia Boat Accident Injury Claims

When someone is seriously injured or killed in a boating accident, they or their loved ones deserve to be compensated. Compensatory damages available for these types of injuries may include:

  • Cost for current and future medical care

  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity

  • Pain and suffering

  • Emotional distress

  • Loss of enjoyment

  • Permanent disability

  • Loss of consortium, companionship, and guidance

  • Funeral and burial costs

In rare cases in which the actions of the responsible party were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded as punishment for the wrongdoing and to help deter similar behaviors from occurring in the future. In Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000. There is also a two-year statute of limitations in this state for most personal injury lawsuits. For this reason, it is best to get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident.

Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Richmond and Central, VA Boating Accident Lawyer

At Schilling & Esposito, we understand that boat accidents can exact a major physical, emotional, and financial toll on those who are injured and their families, and we fight hard for every dollar of compensation you are entitled to. We take care of all of the complicated legal tasks, so you can focus on recovering from your injuries. And throughout the process, we provide frequent updates on the progress of your case, and we are always available to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys, call our office today at 804-261-1001 or send us a message through our online contact form. We will meet with you to fully assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.

We accept all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay attorney fees if we win your case