Everything you should know about a boat accident claim

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Personal Injury, Watercraft Accidents

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Going boating in the summer would be greatly delightful. Either for recreation or sports, boating can revive the exhausted bodies and minds of all. However, the danger behind the fun should not be overlooked. A boat accident can spoil all your joys. Boating accident statistics 2019 reveal that more than 600 people died in the US, and around 2600 people were injured. When comparing the period from 2002 to 2019, the decrease in the number of people injured and dying brings relief to all. People planning to enjoy fishing and water skiing end up losing their lives, which is unnerving.

The inattention of the operators causes most of these accidents. Open motorboats account for one of the most common boating accidents that result in deaths and injuries. When compared to the previous year, boating accident statistics 2020 predict an increase from 4,168 to 5265. For every 100,000 registered recreational boats, there was a 25% increase in fatalities. Because the majority of the victims were reported to be without a lift jacket, approximately 75% of the victims drowned. Being without a life jacket while boating increases the chances of dying in a boat accident. Boating accidents increased by 40% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period the previous year.

Types of boats

There are distinctive varieties of boats for fishing and recreational purposes in the US. Let’s see some of them here.

  • Deck boats are used for swimming and water sports.
  • Runabouts or bowriders can be used for day-long outings for families as they can accommodate 6-8 people. It also allows a few people to ride on the bow part.
  • Towboats are used to tow skiers and wakeboarders, and they provide good aerial maneuvers for the skiers.
  • Sailboats will have engines and sails. Sailors prefer to use their sailing skills with the wind on their sails. These kinds of boats are only for the experienced.
  • Cabin cruisers will have a cabin, as the name suggests, and one can feel the comforts of home with facilities.
  • Pontoon boats accommodate more than 10-15 people and are suitable for small groups to enjoy skiing.
  • Fishing boats are specially designed for fishing purposes with fishing platforms, rod lockers, etc. They are strong and durable.
  • Dinghies or inflatable boats come with mother boats, and these can be used when the mother boat cannot be used in shallow waters. They are suitable for shallow fishing areas.
  • Personal watercraft boats are otherwise known as water scooters or jet skiers. These are for adventurers.
  • A duck boat is a colloquial term for a DUKW boat. This is a military amphibian boat that can also be used inland. This is now used as a recreational boat. However, this kind of boat is vulnerable to rough weather.

Boat accidents

Water bodies

Boating accidents occurring in the following water bodies such as lakes and ponds, rivers, creeks, inlets, canals, swamps, harbor and shore, bays, and gulfs are common in the US. Going deep into the sea without experience is very dangerous.

Common causes of boat crashes

The common causes of major boat accidents are as follows:

  • Inexperienced operators: Boaters lacking experience cannot maneuver the boats efficiently without hitting other boats or objects on the way. More number of accidents are caused by inexperienced operators. Trainees must not steer the boats without the assistance of the trainer.
  • Intoxicated operators or passengers: Intoxicated operators are as dangerous as intoxicated motorists on the road. They can’t look out for the possible dangers in the waterways. Drunken passengers won’t cooperate with the boat operators and cause everyone’s life in danger.
  • Neglecting navigation rules: Ignorance of the navigation rules or neglecting them also causes a serious boat crash.
  • Inadequate safety gear of proper sizes: Despite having safety gear, casualties occur when kids are given adult-size life jackets. Having less protective gear adds to the gravity of the fatality.
  • Falling overboard: Enthusiastic passengers may fall overboard when they forget about their surroundings.
  • Grounding: In shallow waterbeds, grounding cannot be avoided. Going close to the banks also can make your boat run aground. When the boat was caught between rocks, arrogant pushing to release the boat may result in leakage. If you try to drive forward with force, the boat may capsize.
  • Sinking: Leakage, improper balancing of the cargo or passengers, collision with other boats, or hazards make the boats capsize and sink.
  • Breakdowns: Like all vehicles, proper maintenance is a must for boats. Bad maintenance poses a great threat to the passengers. Product defects also become a reason for boat accidents.
  • Ignoring weather forecast: Ignoring the weather forecast may cost you even your dear lives. Steering the boat in adverse climate conditions leads to accidents and makes the rescue even tougher. A duck boat accident in 2018 became one of the saddest accidents in the US, killing 17 people.
  • Failing to look out: When boat operators fail to look out for other boats or objects on the way possibly leads to boat crashes.
  • Fire: Boats may catch fire due to fuel leakage, electrical short circuit, defective batteries, improper maintenance, etc. most boats are made of fiberglass. While burning, it produces toxic smoke and extremely high temperature. Boats with bunkers or cabins are more dangerous for people as they can’t escape once the fire or smoke engulfs the cabin.
  • Over-speed: Overspeeding the boats causes waves that would be dangerous to other boats. The operator would not get enough reaction time in case of collision. Passengers could be thrown overboard while overspeeding. Need extensive distances while stopping the boat.
  • Jet-skiing: Due to affordability and low cost of maintenance, water scooters have become famous among people. Jet skiing is one of the most common factors in causing serious boating accidents due to its speed. The wake or wave created by the jet skiers may become dangerous for other boats. Speeding in your PWC in congested areas could cause accidents.
  • Hit by another boat’s wake: Wake is a wave created by the boats behind them when they move fast. Do you know, which is the major cause of fatalities in small boats? When large wakes are created, they could capsize smaller boats that are caught in them.

Boat accident injuries

  • Traumatic brain injuries: During boat crashes, when people happen to fall underwater, they will be deprived of oxygen. When oxygen is deprived for a few minutes, the brain cell starts dying. This ends up in serious brain damage which cannot be repaired.
  • Spinal cord injuries: When the boat is hit with strong waves, passengers can get disc compressions which lead to spinal cord problems.
  • Amputations: When people fall overboard, they may be caught between the fast-moving propellers. This may result in serious lacerations, amputations, or even death. Permanent disability and disfigurement could also result.
  • Broken bones: During collisions, passengers can hit against the boat’s walls or railings which would result in broken bones or fractures.
  • Burns: People may be burnt to death during boat fires or explosions. Severe burn injuries and disfigurement could not be avoided in such cases.

Gravest boating accidents in the U.S.

Let’s see some of the horrifying boat accidents that occurred in The United States. A boat accident occurred due to a storm in the Atlantic between Florida and the Bahamas in January 2022, killing five people and leaving 34 people missing. There were no life jackets on the boat. After three days, a person clinging to the boat’s hull was rescued. This incident demonstrates the importance of wearing life jackets while traveling on boats.

A drastic boat accident occurred in Missouri in July 2018 as a result of a thunderstorm. The tour Duck boat, which was carrying 31 passengers, capsized near Branson, Missouri, killing 13 people on board, including children. Four people went missing, and their bodies were never found. Even after receiving a weather warning, the duck boat ventured into Table Rock Lake. When one of the four boilers on a side-wheel steamboat exploded, it sank in the Mississippi River. Despite being designed to carry 376 passengers, it carried 2137 passengers, resulting in the deaths of 1168. It became one of the worst boating disasters in U.S. history. The boat accident was also caused by passenger overcrowding.

How to prevent the boating accident?

Boat owners and boat operators should be cautious and prudent enough to face any kind of adverse situations that may arise during the ride. Before setting out on a boat ride, remember the following:

  • Have pre-knowledge about boat safety.
  • Check the boat thoroughly beforehand of the ride.
  • Have enough safety gear of various sizes in the boat.
  • Be sober. Having a clear and stable mind will help you react quickly in necessary situations.
  • Listen to the weather forecast.
  • Have a fire extinguisher.
  • Have visual distress signals like orange flags, flashlights, etc.
  • Working radio to make calls in case of distress.
  • Have horns, whistles, or bells.
  • Make sure you know how to swim.
  • Have a thorough knowledge of the hazards in the waterways you use.

Following the rules of the State and Federal governments regarding the safety protocols while boating would save many lives from perishing. boat-accident-law

Boating accident laws

There are different laws and regulations regarding boating accidents, such as Federal law, State law, and Maritime laws. Based on the type of boat and waterway, different laws are applicable. Boaters using the local water bodies should know about the State and Federal laws for boating. Those who venture deep into the sea should know about the maritime laws. The maritime workers can go for fishing accident claims when involved in accidents while fishing. Federal law insists the boat owners and operators report boat crashes within 48 hours if the following occurs:

  • Death or disappearance of one or more people
  • One or more injured and needed medical treatment
  • Damage to the property
  • Destroyed vessel.

Other boat accidents should be reported in 30 days to the Park and Wildlife Department.

Liability in boating accidents

In a boating accident, the following parties may be held liable: the boat operator, the boat passenger, the boat owner, the boat manufacturer, the jet ski rider, the lifeguard, or anyone else involved in the disaster. In the case of accidents created by the wake, the liability of the operator will be analyzed depending on the magnitude of the wake, the speed of the boat, the level of visibility, and whether the operator warned the passengers that the boat was approaching a large wake in the area of the accident and whether the victim was on a motorboat or a sailboat.


The boating accident laws ensure the following economic damages: medical expenses, long-term care services, physical therapy, medication and medical supplies, property detriment, loss of wages, loss of future earning capacity, and court expenses. You can also claim non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and loss of consortium.

Fishing boat accident claims

Based on the area of the accident, state, federal or maritime laws will be applicable for the boating accident claims. Most of the dangers the fishermen face while fishing is falling down the deck, drowning, or being injured by the sharp equipment. Anglers who construct their own lead sinkers run the risk of lead poisoning if they do not handle fishing hooks and rods with care. Liability in fishing accidents can be decided only based on the cause of the injury.

The possible defendants in fishing accident claims are the boat operators, other fishermen in the area who handled their equipment negligently, the manufacturer of the fishing equipment for the defective fishing gear, or another motorboat that created a big wake knowingly coming near a smaller fishing boat, etc.

How can a boat accident lawyer help you?

Filing a boating accident lawsuit has many complications as federal, state, and maritime laws have their own rules and regulations. Understanding the nuances of all these laws needs special experience. Only a boating accident lawyer could help you get your claims. Getting the assistance of an experienced lawyer will help you retrieve all the possible evidence early. Your boating accident attorney can interview the witnesses and other people to understand the real cause of the accident, get reports from the authorities for review, and talk to the insurance companies to negotiate the claims.

Importance of evidence

The following evidence could help you in your claims:

  • Photos of the scene of the accident
  • Statements of the witnesses
  • Police reports
  • Phone or call statements if the operator was found distracted while using the phone
  • Your own ER and medical reports of the injuries

Significance of medical record review in a boat accident lawsuit

Medical records and bills of a victim play a vital role in helping the boat accident lawyers assess the case in favor of the victim. They are the basis for personal injury or boat accident claims. Collecting all possible medical records is not that easy. Reviewing all those medical records is a tedious part of the process of winning litigation.

Law firms will either have experts review the records or outsource them to expert medical record review companies to analyze the records to find and sort the relevant medical records for winning your boating accident lawsuit. You may not remember to present all the records of your agony and pain. But they will point out the missing medical records that may help you with your claims.

Final thoughts

While enjoying your boating, be cautious of the dangers in it. If involved in a boat accident, be aware of your rights and duties to protect yourself and your dear ones. Getting medical treatment should be your priority. Choose an experienced boat accident lawyer to proceed with your complicated litigations. He would work with the record review companies to acquire victory in your complex lawsuit while you recuperate from your injuries.

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