Maryland Boating Deaths Exceed Last Year’s Total with Three Months Still Remaining

There are still three months left in Maryland’s boating season, and yet we have already exceeded last year’s total maritime deaths. As Maryland auto accident and personal injury lawyers, we at Lebowitz-Mzhen, LLC see this as a potentially alarming trend. Just like with automobile accidents, boating injuries and fatalities are typically a result of one or all of the following:

1) Driver inexperience or error
2) Drunken driving, or boating while intoxicated
3) Unfavorable water and/or weather conditions
4) Equipment failure

Injuries or fatalities that result because of the first three of these usually point to negligence on the part of the captain and/or the owner of the boat. The last one, equipment failure, could be attributable to the captain/owner, a repair or maintenance facility, or the manufacturer of the boat or specific piece of equipment. Whatever the reason for such as failure, if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of defective watercraft equipment, you should retain an attorney experienced in this type of personal injury law.

According to news reports, 10 people have died on Maryland’s waterways, 11-percent more than last year, and despite safety campaigns and concentrated enforcement by Natural Resources Police. In the majority of the accidents — including one last month involving an 11-year-old girl — the victims were reportedly not wearing life jackets.

It is a general rule of law that the captain and/or the boat owner must exercise the utmost level of caution to prevent injuries from occurring to swimmers, passengers in the boat, or anyone else who may be in the surrounding area. This responsibility can extend to requiring passengers to wear floatation devices as required by law.

The current death toll in Maryland apparently also concerns NRP officers because of its geographical sweep, from Deep Creek Lake to Eastern Shore rivers. As is unfortunately too common, the most recent fatality in Baltimore County involved alcohol, according to police. Drinking and piloting a boat can be a deadly combination, as the current statistics indicate.

Since the 2004 and 2005 boating seasons, when the state recorded a total of 27 fatalities, NRP officers have lowered this total using increased patrols, especially on weekends and holidays. The combined total in 2007 and 2008 dropped to 19, which reportedly put Maryland in line with trends elsewhere. Part of the increase in fatalities this season may be lower gas prices, which encourage more boaters to go out on the water.

One knock against our state is in the area of life vest use. Apparently we lag behind other states in requiring the use of life jackets by children. Maryland law requires youngsters under the age of seven years to wear a flotation device on boats that are 21 feet or less in length. Many other states have laws on the book that require kids up to 12 or 13 to wear a flotation vests. Maryland legislators are currently trying to have this state’s minimum age raised to 13 years for life-jacket use, which could go a long way to saving young lives.

Deadly year on water, BaltimoreSun.com, August 5, 2009

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