Can Maritime Law be Applied to Maryland Boating Accidents?
Yes. Depending on the specific circumstances of an injury-related boating accident, Maritime Law (sometimes referred to as Admiralty Law) can be applied in Maryland personal injury lawsuits arising from watercraft accidents. In fact, many Maryland boating accidents are litigated under U.S. federal maritime law. It is not unusual for a personal injury attorney to consider filing a Maryland boating injury lawsuit in federal court — as opposed to a local or state court — because there are certain aspects of federal law that can be more favorable to plaintiffs in boating accident claims than those related to land-based injury accidents, such as Maryland injury suits related to car, truck or motorcycle collisions.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, our skilled legal team is well versed in the laws pertaining to a wide range of personal injury accidents. As experienced trial attorneys, we understand both state and federal law, which allows us to provide our clients with the best legal options for a specific injury claim. In the case of boating-related accidents, one of the main advantages of filing an injury lawsuit under federal maritime law involves the theory of comparative negligence versus contributory negligence, which often plays a part in claims arising from Maryland traffic accidents.
If a boating accident can legitimately be tried under maritime law, the defendant in the case may not be able to benefit from showing that the plaintiff contributed in some way to the accident that caused injury to the plaintiff. Necessarily, the captain of any watercraft is held to the “reasonable person standard,” that is, the manner in which he or she was operating that watercraft at the time of the accident.
Since a layperson may not be completely knowledgeable in every nuance of boat operation and waterway navigation, defense attorneys in personal injury cases will often call an expert witness to testify regarding boat operation. That testimony may show that the plaintiff contributed in some way to the accident. Whether as a captain or passenger, the injured party may be seen by the court as contributing, even in a small way, to his or her injuries.
Maryland has a myriad of waterways throughout the state and there is a fair amount of boating traffic, and hence opportunities for a watercraft accident. Whether on a small lake or the Chesapeake Bay, accidents can and do happen. Following another boat too closely, traveling dangerously near swimmers, or piloting a boat at excessive speeds for the existing conditions; these are all situations where a boat operator may be found to have contributed to an accident.
Similarly, passengers onboard are rarely secured with safety belts or other kind of restraint. When a boat encounters a large wave or swell, hits another watercraft or runs aground on a sandbar, unrestrained passengers can be ejected from the boat or thrown into a rigid bulkhead, causing injury or death. While the passenger or his family may be able to claim negligence on the part of the captain of one or both of the watercraft involved, it is very possible that contributory negligence could thwart a personal injury or wrongful death claim — unless, of course, the case can be tried in federal court under maritime statutes.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we highly recommend victims of Maryland boating accidents consult with a personal injury attorney who is familiar with all aspects of the law as it pertains to watercraft injury accidents. Our boating accident experts understand maritime law and can answer your most pressing questions on how it can affect the outcome of your case.
If you or a loved one has been badly hurt in a Maryland watercraft accident, please do not delay in contacting our offices to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. Remember that the statute of limitations for a personal injury accident is finite and waiting too long can have a negative impact on the viability of your case. We’re here to help, please call us today.