Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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.

Going on a cruise is supposed to be a fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating experience. Many Maryland residents choose to go on cruises to relax and spend time with family and loved ones. However, just as they can onshore, accidents can happen on cruise ships, leaving passengers seriously injured. When this happens because of a cruise line’s negligence, passengers may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line to recover for the injuries they suffered. These types of suits are often referred to as premises liability, because they are a way of holding owners responsible for accidents that occur on their premises.

For example, take a recent federal appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship and was walking with her husband to one of the restaurants on board the ship. To get to the restaurant, the passengers had to walk through a narrow opening between some lounge chairs on the deck and the ship’s railing. While walking, the plaintiff’s foot got caught on a leg of a lounge chair, causing her to slip and fall. She suffered serious injuries as a result of this incident, and so she sued the cruise ship line to recover for her medical bills and her pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the cruise line knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the ship, and was negligent in not warning passengers about it. In response, the defendant cruise line moved for summary judgment, arguing in part that they did not know and should not have known about the condition. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, but the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court considered whether the defendant cruise line had notice or should have had notice of the condition, and determined that they did. Importantly, the plaintiff presented evidence that the cruise line took corrective action to make the situation less dangerous, by requiring the lounge chairs to be set up in the upright position, thus protruding less into the walkway. The cruise line also had employees monitor the area and put the chairs back upright if they were lowered by passengers. This evidence was sufficient to defeat summary judgment, as it is not clear that the cruise ship definitely did not know about the condition. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the case back to the trial court. This ruling allowed the plaintiff to move forward with the case and, hopefully, to receive monetary compensation from the cruise line responsible for her injuries.

Earlier this week in the Chesapeake Bay, one young girl was killed and seven others were injured when a speed boat driver lost control of the boat he was operating, sending it into several other boats that were full of spectators. According to one news source, the girl was on a boat that was tethered together with several other boats, all of which were watching the speedboat race that was billed as “NASCAR on the water.”

Evidently, the accident occurred around five in the afternoon during the 25th annual Thunder in the Narrows race. As the boat’s operator lost control and careened into the string of spectator boats, seven people were injured, and one young girl died. Three of the injured victims were flown to the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Four others sustained some minor injuries but were not hospitalized.

The U.S. Coast Guard is currently in the midst of an investigation into the accident, hoping to learn more as to why the boat’s operator lost control of the vessel. Charges have not been filed against the boat’s driver yet. However, that could change depending upon the conclusion of the investigation.

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Local Maryland authorities reported that late last month, six people were hospitalized in connection with a boat explosion that occurred at a Maryland Marina. Six children aged 13 and younger were injured, according to government officials.

According to one witness’s account, a dad was seen picking kids up and throwing them into the water, in addition to people frantically scrambling to get off of the boat as quickly as possible. People then tried to swim from the boat back to the dock for safety. As black smoke billowed out the back of the boat, the same dad reportedly attempted to throw life vests to the children in the water below.

Two of the children were then transported to the Johns Hopkins burn center for treatment. Thankfully, no one suffered life-threatening injuries.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is leading the investigation into the accident. So far, authorities know that the boat–with its nine passengers–refueled at the marina, and the boat then stalled when it left the dock shortly after noon. The explosion reportedly occurred when the captain of the 32 foot vessel attempted to refire the engines.

The incident took place at the Oak Grove Marina near Edgewater, Maryland, which is approximately 30 minutes east of Washington on the South River. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

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The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a global trade organization representing cruise lines, has put ten new safety policies into place over the past year in response to the Contra Concordia crash off the coast of Italy last January. The United Nations’ maritime safety agency gave its approval to the new policies near the end of 2012, effectively giving them the force of international law. They include mandatory lifeboat training for crew members, restrictions on bridge access, and minimum requirements for life jackets. One of the new safety policies will directly affect cruise passengers, as it requires emergency drills for all passengers, known as “musters,” prior to the ship’s departure from port.

The Costa Concordia struck a boulder as it cruised near the shore of the island of Giglio, located off the coast of Tuscany in northern Italy, on January 13, 2012. The captain was allegedly trying to execute a display maneuver called a “salute” when the ship ran into a rock, causing it to founder and capsize. Thirty-two of the more than 4,200 people on board, including two Americans, died as a result. It took divers days to locate most of the bodies, and it took authorities weeks to complete positive identifications. Italian prosecutors charged the ship’s captain with multiple counts of manslaughter and other offenses, alleging that he caused the crash by taking the enormous ship dangerously close to the island. The first officer and several officials of Costa Cruises were also under investigation. Numerous civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims by families of the victims and claims for injuries by both passengers and crew members, followed the criminal investigation.

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The parents of two students who died in a July 2010 boat accident settled their wrongful death lawsuit a few days into its trial in a Philadelphia federal court. The lawsuit included eighteen survivors from the accident, which occurred on the Delaware River when a city-owned barge collided with a tour boat. The plaintiffs had faced a possible cap on damages for their claims in the lawsuit based on federal maritime law. The parties reached a settlement at the urging of the judge.

The accident occurred in July 2010 on a stretch of the Delaware River in view of downtown Philadelphia. Thirty-seven passengers and crew were on board an amphibious duck boat, a vehicle that can drive on land and in water, commonly used for sightseeing tours. The duck boat had overheated due to a misplaced radiator cap. In the 103-degree heat, the duck boat’s captain reportedly thought the steam off the engine was fire. The captain dropped anchor immediately, leaving the boat stranded in a busy channel.

At the same time, an eighty-yard barge pushed by a tug was coming through the channel.The tugboat captain reportedly had a family emergency and was busy on his cellphone. He moved to a part of the tugboat where he could not see the river. He therefore failed to see the barge bearing down on the duck boat. The barge collided with the duck boat, causing it to capsize. Two passengers, 16 year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20 year-old Szabolcs Prem, both students from Hungary, died in the collision. Twenty-six passengers were injured. The tugboat captain is now serving a one-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

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A lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Maryland seeks to hold a bar liable for injuries sustained in a 2008 boating accident. Early in the morning on June 5, 2008 a ski boat carrying 10 people crashed into an abutment on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City, Maryland. Conditions at the time were foggy, and the collision caused all of the boat’s occupants to fall into the water. Everyone was rescued, although several sustained injuries. Only one passenger required hospitalization, while 6 passengers were treated at the hospital and released, and 3 were treated at the scene.

Scott Howard Shepard, who was operating the boat at the time of the accident, was eventually charged with operating a vessel while impaired, negligent operation and reckless operation. He received a 30-day jail sentence. Shepard and the boat’s passengers had been at Seacrets, a resort nightclub. The club’s water taxi had ferried them to their boat prior to the accident.

In March 2011, passenger Danielle Vollmer, who had been treated and released from the hospital, filed suit in the United States District Court in Baltimore against Shepard and Seacrets. The claim against Shepard appears to be an ordinary negligence claim, while the claim against Seacrets incorporates maritime law claims and a claim for dram shop act liability. Her complaint states that “Seacrets knew or should have known that ferrying and encouraging a severely intoxicated patron such as Shepard to his boat, and then later ferrying the plaintiff to board and depart on the same boat with Shepard, created a condition of danger to the plaintiff and the public.” She is seeking $1 million in damages from each of the defendants.

Vollmer’s case against Seacrets will be interesting to watch. Maryland is one of 12 U.S. states that does not have a statute or caselaw providing for dram shop liability. “Dram shop” liability holds a bar that sells alcohol, or a host that serves alcohol, to a visibly intoxicated person strictly liable for damages subsequently caused by that person. For example, a bar that sells liquor to an individual who would appear intoxicated to any reasonable person would be liable to a person injured by the intoxicated individual, to the extent that the injuries were a result of the person’s drunken state. This most often involves DUI accidents. 38 states have laws allowing this sort of liability, but not Maryland.

That may change in the near future, though. In June 2011, Montgomery County, Maryland judge Eric M. Johnson stated in an order that it is time for Maryland’s law to change. Judge Johnson was presiding over a lawsuit against a bar by the family of a child killed by a drunk driver who had been served beer at the bar prior to the accident. In rejecting the bar’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Johnson wrote:

The facts of this case undoubtedly should serve as the impetus to adjusting Maryland jurisprudence on the topic of dram shop liability…This court is of the opinion that while the Maryland legislature has not enacted dram shop legislation, it has not expressly prohibited it … A bar owner who continuously serves drinks to intoxicated individuals and makes no attempt to ensure that the individual has alternative means home should expect that the intoxicated patron can get into an accident.

Judge Johnson’s order does not have any force of law beyond that particular lawsuit, but it may herald a change in how bars are treated when a bar patron causes an accident.

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According to the Baltimore Sun, there have already been 11 Maryland boating accident fatalities so far this year. All of the victims were male—compare that to last year when the state didn’t report is fourth Maryland boating death until June 24 or the fact that over the last 10 years, there have been on average 10 boating fatalities here annually.

The news of the fatalities even as boating season has yet to fully kick off and we are about to head into July, which is the busiest time for Maryland boating accidents. Dropping gas prices also will likely spur people onto the water.

Our Maryland boating accident lawyers represent victims and their families. We know how to prove negligence and pursue recovery from all liable parties. The responsible party may be a boating operator, the boat manufacturer, the boat company operator, or others. A lot of this will depend on the specifics of your case.

Brothers John W. Sowers, 64, and Stephen R. Sowers, 67, were killed on Friday in a Maryland boating accident when the fishing vessel they were in sank on the Chesapeake Bay off Breezy Point. The two men had gone out fishing with their brother Robert Sowers and John’s son-in-law, Matt Hinkle, when the boat lost power as the waters got rough. Afer getting hit by a large wave, the 25-foot vessel began filling with water and capsized.

The men were only able to avail of three of their life vests. Hinkle swam 1½ miles toward shore to get help, while someone came buy and picked up Robert. The two men were treated for hypothermia. Meantime, a Maryland State Police chopper helped find the other two Sowers brothers in the water. They were pronounced dead at Calvert Memorial Hospital. The boaters were in water with a temperature of about 50 degrees for over two hours.

Maryland Boating Accidents

Rough waters and unpredictable weather conditions can cause tragic boating accidents. In some cases, human negligence may also have been a factor, which is where an experienced Baltimore boating accident law firm should step in.

Other common causes of Maryland boating accidents:
• Operator inattention
• Boat malfunction or parts defect
• Equipment failure
• Speeding
• Boater inexperience
Examples of boating accidents:
• Capsizing
• Boat collisions
• Falls overboard
• Slip and fall
• Boat fire or explosion
• Sinking
2 York County men die in boat accident in Md., YDR, April 23, 2011
2 men die after boat capsizes in Chesapeake Bay, The Baltimore Sun/AP, April 25, 2011

Related Web Resources:

US Coast Guard Home Page

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Boat Accidents, Justia
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Boating Accident: Teenager Seriously Hurt While Trying to Dock a Personal Watercraft, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 7, 2009
US Coast Guard Suspends Search for NFL Players Who Were Lost After Boat Capsized, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 3, 2009
US Coast Guard’s 2007 Recreational Boating Statistics Reports 10 Deaths in Maryland, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 3, 2009

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A 13-year-old was recently rushed to Johns Hopkins Shock Trauma Hospital after he was seriously injured in a Maryland boating accident in West Ocean City’s Herring Creek. The accident occurred while the juvenile was trying to dock the personal watercraft. Instead, the teenager maneuvered the boat under the dock. The force of the crash caused the boy to get tossed from the vessel and into the water.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police Special Operation Division is investigating the boating accident. Meantime, Brian Jay Dalamater was charged with knowingly letting a person younger than 16 operate the boat and of failing to have a valid boat registration.

With summer fast approaching, this Maryland boating accident is a reminder of why it is so important for people to follow the proper safety precautions when riding a boat. In 2008:

• 9 people died in Maryland boating accidents.

• 222 people were arrested for operating a vessel while impaired.

Common causes of Maryland boating accidents:

• Boating under the influence
• Boater negligence
• Boater misconduct
• Operator inexperience
• Defective watercrafts
• Bad weather

Common kinds of Maryland boating accidents:

• Boating collisions
• Falls overboard
• Capsized boats
• Getting lost at sea
• Sinking boats
• Fires on boats
• Boat blasts

An all too common cause of boating accidents is ignorance—not being aware of boating laws and safety regulations and failing to understand that operator inexperience or carelessness can lead to catastrophic if not fatal consequences.

BOAT ACCIDENT: 13-year-old seriously injured in docking attempt,, May 25, 2009
Our Say: Boating safety based on knowledge and basic rules, Hometown Annapolis, June 7, 2009
Related Web Resources:

US Coast Guard

Maryland Natural Resources Police

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