There are more than 12 million recreational vessels registered in the United States, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics from 2011. People living in and visiting coastal cities or areas near any body of water, from rivers to lakes, enjoy spending time on the water. Unfortunately, boating also presents some risks to boat operators and passengers. Whether it is the weather, machinery malfunction, operator inexperience or a combination of these factors, boat accidents claim the lives of hundreds of people and injure thousands every year.
Boating accidents present a hazard that most other accident types do not: water – one of nature’s most deadly elements. When a boating accident occurs, a victim who is submerged in the water is at risk of a number of injury types, ranging from hypothermia to drowning. If you have been in a boating accident, seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney immediately.
The Boating Safety Division of the U.S. Coast Guard presents helpful boating accident statistics, which can be viewed here. According to nationwide statistics from 2011, there were 4,588 accidents that caused 3,081 injuries and 758 deaths. Approximately $52 million in property damage occurred as a result of these recreational boating accidents.
What Causes Boating Accidents?
There are three types of incidents that may be considered boating accidents, and these may or may not involve an actual collision. The first involves a vessel that is damaged, which may occur from a lightning strike, fire or other adverse event. The second involves any type of incident that leaves a passenger seriously injured. The third involves the disappearance of a passenger from a boat, in a scenario where it is considered that injury or death has occurred. According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Coast Guard that includes an analysis of boat accident statistics, the top five contributing factors were:
Operator inattention: a type of negligence and possibly associated with alcohol use or inexperience, operator inattention involves a situation where the driver of the boat is not paying sufficient attention to weather/water conditions, other vessels, the shore or obstacles.
Improper lookout: a failure of the boat operator or other individual to serve as a lookout on the vessel, to watch for dangerous objects, other vessels or sudden changes in the weather.
Operator inexperience: improper navigation and operation of a boat due to inexperience or a lack of knowledge pertaining to boating and boat safety. Only 11% of boat accident deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had been instructed in boating safety.
Excessive speed: just as speeding is a dangerous practice on roadways, it presents a serious hazard on the water as well. Speeding can cause a boat to capsize and may also increase the likelihood of a collision with another vessel or a fixed object.
Machinery failure: improper maintenance and/or manufacturing or design defects may lead to machinery failure on a vessel. This may have serious consequences, particularly if the navigation system is compromised or the vessel is inoperable and cannot return to shore.
Injuries in a Boating Accident
Injuries incurred by a boat operator or passenger in a boating accident can be severe, and may result in loss of life. Hypothermia, drowning, near-drowning (leading to traumatic brain injury), and cardiac arrest are common in boating accidents. Broken bones, internal injuries, loss of limb, and lacerations may also occur. Often times, these injuries are serious enough to prevent an individual from being able to return to work or returning to his or her same quality of life prior to the accident. High medical bills, lost wages, excessive medication and treatment costs, and psychological trauma often result after a boating accident.
Who can be held accountable?
Depending on the cause of the accident and other circumstances surrounding the incident, there are various parties that may be held accountable. A person injured in a boat accident may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the operator of the boat, the manufacturer of a defective part, a boat rental company for improper maintenance of a vessel or any other party that contributed to the event. Filing a lawsuit of this kind will grant the injured individual the opportunity to seek monetary compensation for physical, emotional and financial losses and injuries.
An Experienced Boating Accident Attorney Can Help You!
Do not let an insurance company convince you that you have to accept a first settlement offer; if you have been in a boating accident, you have the right to seek legal recourse. Properly investigating and negotiating or litigating a boat accident lawsuit requires knowledge, experience and resources. Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC has all three in spades. If you would like to learn more about our services, please feel free to contact our office for a consultation. Your initial case review is free and strictly confidential.