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Maine Boating Accident Lawyer

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With its coastal waters and abundant lakes and rivers, Maine’s waterways are popular among those who enjoy boating for leisure or as a way to make a living. However, boating can also be a highly dangerous activity.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 32 boating accidents that occurred within three miles of Maine’s coastline in 2008, with a quarter of those accidents ending in a fatality. The total number of boating accidents the year before, whether on coastal or inland waters, was 100, with 16 fatalities.

The attorneys at Skelton, Taintor & Abbott understand that boating accidents vary greatly and can impact people throughout Maine, including Auburn, Rockland, Waterville, Augusta, Bangor, Lewiston, Biddeford, Portland and South Portland. Call Skelton, Taintor & Abbott today at (800) 639-7026 or contact us online. We have an in-depth understanding of the complex state, federal, personal injury and maritime laws that apply to these cases.

With so many lakes, rivers and coastal areas, the State of Maine has developed complex laws, rules and regulations to protect its boaters. If you have been an injured in a boating accident, one of these laws, which can be found through Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, may have been violated, providing the basis for legal action against the responsible person:

  • Reckless Operation of a Watercraft. In Maine, it is illegal to operate any watercraft, water ski, surfboard or similar device in such a way as to recklessly create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person.
  • Operating to Endanger. A person is guilty of operating a watercraft to endanger if he operates any watercraft, water ski, surfboard or similar device so as to endanger any person or property.
  • Swimming Area. A motorboat cannot be operated in an area marked or buoyed for swimming.
  • Speed Regulations. Watercraft may not be operated at a speed greater than headway speed while within the water safety zone or within a marina or an approved anchorage in coastal or inland waters except while actively fishing. "Headway speed" means the minimum speed necessary to maintain steerage and control of the watercraft while the watercraft is moving. The operator of any watercraft must operate at a reasonable and prudent speed for existing conditions and regulate the speed of a watercraft so as to avoid danger, injury or unnecessary inconvenience in any manner to other watercraft and their occupants, whether anchored or under way. The operator must consider the effect of the wash or wave created by their watercraft to waterfront piers, floats or other property or shorelines.
  • Unlawfully Permitting Operation. It is unlawful for the owner of a watercraft to negligently permit another person to operate the watercraft in violation of law.
  • Age Requirements for Operating Watercraft. When operating a motorboat with more than 10 horsepower, a person under the age of 12 must be under the immediate supervision of a person located in the boat who is at least 16 years of age. A person under 16 years of age may not operate personal watercraft, which includes jet-skis. A person between 16 and 18 years of age may operate a personal watercraft if they have successfully completed an approved education course, or if they are accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older. Proof of age and course must be possessed while operating a personal watercraft.
  • Imprudent Operation. A person is guilty of imprudent operation of a watercraft if that person, while operating a watercraft on the inland or coastal waters of the State, engages in prolonged circling, informal racing, wake jumping or other types of continued and repeated activities that harass another person. This subsection may be enforced by any law enforcement officer or a person may bring a private nuisance action for a violation of this subsection pursuant to Title 17, section 2802.
  • Boating & Alcohol. Any person who operates or attempts to operate any watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or a combination of liquor and drugs; or while having 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in that person's blood is guilty of a criminal violation. The operator of any watercraft must complete a blood-alcohol test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that the person operated or attempted to operate a watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor; or when the person was the operator of a watercraft involved in a watercraft accident which results in the death of any person.
  • Navigational Lights. Every watercraft in all weathers operating on inland waters from sunset to sunrise shall carry and exhibit the following lights when underway and during such time no other lights which may be mistaken for those prescribed shall be exhibited. Every white light prescribed by this section shall be of such character as to be visible at a distance of at least two (2) miles. Every colored light prescribed by this section shall be of such character as to be visible at a distance of at least one (1) mile.

Your ability to be compensated for your injuries could depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The location of the accident (inland, coastal or international waters);
  • The type of boat involved (recreational or commercial);
  • The jurisdiction (state law, federal law or maritime law);
  • The role negligence played in the accident;

If your accident involved a commercial boat, specific rules may apply, such as:

  • The Jones Act (allowing seamen to bring claims against their employers for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering);
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (providing protection to non-seamen who are injured in navigable waters);
  • Death on the High Seas Act (allowing the surviving spouses of seamen to recover damages for their spouse’s future earnings);
  • Unseaworthiness Claims (allowing recovery where the boat or was not safe enough for its intended use);

As you can see, Maine's boating laws are complex, and recovering for your injuries may require experienced legal advice. We can help whether you were paddling in a canoe or working on a trawler. If you have been injured on a boat by someone else’s wrongful or negligent acts, call the personal injury attorneys at Skelton, Taintor & Abbott at (800) 639-7026 or contact us online to learn more about your legal options.