Boating Accidents

Each year in the United States, hundreds of people are killed, thousands are injured, and millions of dollars are lost because of preventable boating accidents. In many cases, these boating accidents are the result of negligence or error on the part of a boat operator, passenger or other individual. Alternatively, boat equipment or machinery failure or defect can be the culprit in boating accidents.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death in a boating accident, the first two essential steps are to seek medical attention and report the accident to proper authorities (read below to learn more about reporting boating accidents). The next crucial step is to contact a qualified attorney who can evaluate your case to determine the best way to protect your interests and help you seek the compensation you deserve for your losses and suffering.

Read on to learn more about boating accidents, including statistics, common types of accidents, causes of boating accidents, common injuries, when and how to report boating accidents, preventing boating accidents and more about your legal rights.

Boating Accident Statistics


The US Coast guard compiled the following most recent (2007) statistics:

  • While boating accident deaths dropped from 2006 to 2007, the number of accidents, injuries and damages associated with boating accidents increased
  • In fatal boating accidents, nearly 70 percent of victims drowned. Of these drowning victims, a striking 90 percent were not wearing life jackets
  • In fatal boating accidents in 2007, only 14 percent of the boat operators in these accidents received prior boating safety instruction.
  • 75 percent of all boating accident drowning deaths occurred in vessels measuring less than 21 feet in length.

Common Types of Boating Accidents

The most common types of boating accidents are:

  • Collisions with another boat
  • Collisions with a fixed object, such as a pier, dock, a submerged object or other physical object
  • Skiing or other towing accidents
  • Overboard falls
  • Capsizing

Less common types of boating accidents can involve fires, explosions, electrocution, ejection from the vessel, propeller injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning, and swimming accidents involving boats.

Causes of Boating Accidents

According to the US Coast Guard, the following are the most common causes of boat accidents in the United States:

  • Operator negligence, inattention, or errors (involved in 70 percent of all boating accidents)
  • Passenger or skier behaviors
  • Excess speed
  • Careless or reckless operation of a boat
  • Alcohol use (reported to contribute to 35 percent of all boating-related deaths)
  • No proper lookout on the boat
  • Operator inexperience
  • Machine failure or defect
  • Weather
  • Equipment failure or defect

The most common types of boats involved in boating accidents are:

  • Open motorboats (involved in 44 percent of accidents)
  • Personal watercrafts (involved in 24 percent of accidents)
  • Cabin motorboats (involved in 15 percent of accidents)
  • Kayaks and Canoes
  • Pontoon boats

Boating Accident Injuries

Drowning is the lead cause of death in boating accident. Other causes of death in boating accidents include traumatic injury (such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury), hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning). Common types of non-fatal injuries in boating accidents can include, brain and spinal injuries, fractures, lacerations and bruises, concussions, and more.

Reporting Boating Accidents

Under federal law, boating accidents must be reported by filing a Boating Accident Report (BAR) with the state or other boating authority. These reports must be made after any accident involving a boat or its equipment under the following circumstances:

Within 48 hours if:

  • A person dies as a result of the boating accident
  • A person requires emergency medical treatment beyond first aid
  • If a person disappears from the vessel

Within ten days if only vessel and/or property damage or loss occurs.

Preventing Boating Accidents: Follow Boat Safety

While countless measures can be taken to make boating a safer and fun experience, the following are the most important general precautions and actions to take to prevent boating accidents:

  • Stay sober. Coupling alcohol consumption with boats and the accompanying environmental exposure is a dangerous equation. In fact, 35 percent of all fatal boating accidents involve alcohol or drugs and 20 percent of all boating accidents involve such dangerous intoxicants.
  • Use and maintain safety equipment, including life jackets, flotation devices, fire extinguishers, boat lights, a first aid kit, emergency supplies and an anchor
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions. No matter the season, keep an eye on the weather and water conditions.
  • Learn boat safety. The US Coast Guard’s website has a list of classes
  • Prepare properly. Before getting underway, tell someone where you are going, open all hatches, run the blower, and sniff for fumes before starting the engine, do not overload the boat and follow proper boat launching etiquette
  • Wear your life jacket. In 90 percent of all fatal boating accidents, the victim was not wearing a life jacket.
  • Follow navigation and boating rules.
  • Be vigilant. Remain actively aware of your surroundings, the boat’s movement, weather conditions, water conditions, and the location of other boats and objects at all times while boating. Negligence and error are responsible for a majority of boating accidents.

Boating Accidents and Your Legal Rights

While following these and other boat safety recommendations can prevent many boating accidents, these tragic incidences still kill and injure thousands every year.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a boating accident, it is wise to contact a qualified boat accident attorney who can meticulously evaluate the details of your case to determine the best way to obtain the compensation you deserve.

Through a boat accident claim, you may be able to recover your loses—including medical expenses, other out-of-pocket expenses, loss of income or earning potential, property damage—and suffering, including loss of companionship or a loved one, emotional pain, and other suffering.

Please contact us today to speak with a qualified attorney who can evaluate your situation and determine the best way to help. We offer a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.

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