Personal watercraft accidents can cause serious and lasting injuries. There were 155 reportable Maryland boating accidents in 2020, according to the state. 64 of those accidents resulted in injuries and there were seven deaths. Filing a Maryland injury claim after a personal watercraft accident may be the only way victims can hold others responsible and recover compensation for injuries. In this type of claim, a victim must generally show that the defendant in the case acted negligently and caused the victim’s injuries. Boating accidents can be complicated and in some cases, there may be disputes about which law applies in a certain jurisdiction.
A recent case involving a near-collision between a surfer and a city lifeguard operating a personal watercraft is an example of the complex laws and disputes that can arise in such cases. In that case, the surfer was surfing by a public beach when the lifeguard made an abrupt left turn in front of him, according to the surfer. The surfer alleged that he had to dive off of his surfboard in order to avoid a collision. The surfer hit his head on the ocean floor and suffered serious injuries as a result. He used a wheelchair full time as a result. The surfer and his wife filed a lawsuit against the city and the lifeguard, arguing that the lifeguard was negligent.
The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued in part that the trial court made an error by failing to tell the injury that a basic default speed law applied in this situation, according to a state navigation code. The section of the code reflects a default speed limit of five miles per hour for vessels that are operated in certain waters. The law states that an operator is guilty of an infraction if the operator uses a vessel at a speed in excess of five miles per hour in certain areas, within 100 feet of another person that is surfing or doing certain activities in the water. The plaintiffs had requested that the court instruct the jury about this law, but the judge found that the law did not apply to city lifeguards.