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What is the Most Common Cause of Non-Fatal Boating Accidents?

image - little girl in yellow life jacket floating alone in ocean

When it comes to taking a boat onto the water, there are always going to be risks that follow. Sometimes, the conditions and waters can be unforgiving, and these challenges even the most experienced of captains. According to the United States Coast Guard, there was a decrease of just over 3% in the number of boating fatalities in 2019. However, there are two problems with this statistic:

  • The number is still high at 613
  • The number of non-fatal boating accidents is still increasing

That’s right, the number of accidents on the whole increased by half a percentage point. Meanwhile, the number of victims increased by nearly 2%. With all accidents considered, total damage exceeds $55 million and the injuries have the potential to change lives.

Common Causes of Non-Fatal Boating Accidents

Why are there so many watercraft accidents? Here are some of the most common causes:

Poor Lookout

Unfortunately, many people who suffer a boat accident injury could have been helped with proper lookout. Whenever a boat goes into the water, the operator should assign somebody as a lookout to keep an eye on other vessels and other potential hazards. With improper lookout, there is a huge risk of collision and we see it every year with people tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and partaking in other water activities.

Lack of Experience or Attention

Over the years, we’ve spoken to plenty of operators who assumed that driving a boat would be easier than a vehicle on the road; they had visions of popping open a beer, soaking up the sun, and casually roaming around the water. In reality, operating a boat requires care and attention, something that is often lacking and therefore can cause a boat accident injury.

First and foremost, anybody planning to operate a boat should be aware of the federal and state laws that apply in this area. As well as general laws, they should consider the specifics of the boat. It’s one thing to operate a boat, it’s another to do it safely (for all persons on board!).

For those reading this as a precaution, we recommend taking a short boating safety course; education is key. The more you know, the better your position to deal with dangers and stay safe on the water. If all boat operators have this level of education, the number of accidents would reduce significantly. Not to mention, completing a boating safety course will actually decrease insurance payments because you’re less of a liability.

When operators have the experience, they tend to pay more attention to what they’re doing because they appreciate the difficult task in hand.

Alcohol

Did you know that BAC (blood alcohol content) laws are exactly the same for road and water users? Inexperienced boat operators often assume that they have free rein to drink as much as they want. If your blood alcohol content is above 0.08, you will be in breach of the law and you will commit a criminal offense.

We understand the desire to load the boat with alcohol and spend a relaxing Saturday afternoon in the sun, but there are ways to go about it safely. If you want to drink too, hire a boat operator who will get you back home safely. If you want to operate the boat yourself, understand that the state’s drunk driving laws apply to you too.

According to federal data, alcohol is still one of the biggest contributors to both fatal and non-fatal boating accident statistics. If you want to avoid a watercraft accident, make sure the operator stays away from alcohol. Not only do you put everybody on your boat in danger, but you also put other water users in danger.

Speeding

Just like speeding on the road, speeding on the water is equally dangerous. When moving across the water at high speed, you don’t have time to react to any obstacles in the water, whether this is debris or another water user. The more you respect the water with regards to speed, the more time you have to react to obstacles, hazards, other boats, and more. Even when you think the water is clear, it only takes a moment for the whole landscape to change when you’re moving across the water at high speed.

While some speeding incidents are down to inexperience and a lack of attention, other occasions of speeding are due to operators wanting to show off in front of friends. Either way, speeding is dangerous and a leading cause of non-fatal boating accidents.

Equipment Failure

So far, we’ve really clamped down on the human aspect of a boat accident, and this is because it’s something we see as a boat accident attorney. There’s nothing more frustrating, in the water or otherwise, than accidents that could have been prevented. But another common cause of accidents is equipment failure.

To remain safe for the water, all boats should be maintained regularly. Checks should be performed, experienced individuals should assess important systems and processes, and any small problems should be fixed as soon as possible. When a boat isn’t maintained properly, the risk of an accident only increases with every single trip out into the water. If you don’t have the experience yourself, don’t be afraid to get in contact with an expert for servicing.

For boating accidents, two of the most common equipment failures come with the steering and engine. As you can imagine, both of these have the potential to cause high-impact incidents (and therefore serious injuries). While some equipment failure can be blamed on the owner/operator, others are from the manufacturer. If you were the victim of a boat accident, you may have grounds to claim compensation.

As well as a failure with the boat itself, equipment failure also covers a lack of safety gear on board. For example, it might be that the boat you were on didn’t have sufficient flares, life preservers, navigation lights, or items of this nature. In addition to accidents themselves being preventable, the moments that follow are also preventable in some cases with the right equipment.

Operator Error

We’ve mentioned inexperience, we’ve mentioned inattention, but sometimes it’s just human error that causes problems. Even with the most experienced boat operators, they can sometimes make poor decisions. Elsewhere, they might struggle in the poor light and make bad decisions in nasty weather or after the sun goes down. With this and even navigational errors, it can lead to non-fatal boating accidents.

Environmental Hazards

While we can rely on the roads to be the same for most journeys, the water is far more temperamental; you could go out five times and experience five very different boating days (this is part of the appeal for many!). With this in mind, we’ve seen accidents caused by extreme waves, rocks, bad weather, and unpredictable conditions.

Lack of Planning

When heading out into the water, it’s important to have a plan in mind. Make sure the preparation stage includes loading the boat with flares, life vests, medical supplies, water, food, and more.

Reckless Actions

Finally, as a boat accident attorney, we also see several cases caused by reckless actions. While this sometimes comes from drivers, it can also come from skiers, passengers, and others involved in the accident. Examples include:

  • Passengers with no experience taking over the wheel
  • Loading the boat with too many passengers
  • Allowing passengers to jump overboard
  • Attempting to race with another boat

When on the water, the driver is perhaps the most important person because they’re in charge of the safety of all other passengers. However, this doesn’t mean that passengers don’t need good judgment. For the water to be a safe space, absolutely everybody needs to make good decisions and use good judgment.

Avoiding a Boat Accident Injury on the Water

The reason that the road and water are dangerous places is that no user is ever assured of a safe journey. Following the rules and laws is great, but we also rely on thousands of others to do the same. As we’ve seen at The Injury Firm, this is something that just doesn’t happen all the time. Whether on the road or water, we need to consider that not everybody will be taking the same precautions as ourselves.

You can never guarantee a safe trip on the water, but you can do your bit to keep the water safe for all. By exercising good judgment and using the advice we’ve provided above, you can reduce the risk as much as possible.

As you can imagine, the danger grows when multiple risk factors are combined. For example, when inexperience combines with a lack of preparation. Alternatively, when speeding and alcohol are combined. By limiting the risk factors, you’ll be in the best position to deal with hazards and enjoy a peaceful trip on the water.

Dealing with a Boat Accident

When we use the term ‘watercraft accident’, this doesn’t have to mean that two boats have collided.  Instead, a sad number of cases are due to drowning. Following an accident on the water, the priority should be getting medical attention. As soon as possible, contact the relevant authorities and explain your position. With a boat accident, every second is critical so it’s important to keep the mind clear and not let the stress overcome you. Even if you’re a passenger, you can still play a crucial role.

Thankfully, Coast Guard members have the experience and training required to help people after an accident.

Filing a Boat Accident Lawsuit

If you’ve experienced an injury on the water that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to compensation. If you believe the accident was caused by reckless actions, a lack of preparation, inexperience or inattention, or any other form of negligence, get in touch with a boat accident attorney today. The team at The Injury Firm has experience in this field and may be able to help you recover compensation.

In a perfect world, there would be no boating accidents and we could focus on a different area of law. As we all know, this isn’t a perfect world, and victims of boating accidents deserve our experience and expertise to claim compensation.

Are you eligible for compensation? This all depends on the accident and the injuries you sustained as a result of the accident. If you experienced injuries that required medical attention and have left you unable to work, we may be able to recuperate some compensation on your behalf. If you were the victim, it doesn’t make sense that you should pay all the medical bills while also unable to earn. With a potential claim, we’ll consider medical bills (existing and future), loss of income, pain, and suffering, loss of earning potential, and more.

Ultimately, every case is different, and this is why we offer a free consultation at the very start for everybody. If we work together, you can focus on recovery while we gather evidence and compile a strong claim. We have the resources to take the case in front of a judge for a positive outcome.

Whether you were the victim or you’re contacting on behalf of a loved one, feel free to reach out today. Our attorneys will explain how the process works, your options, the best route to choose, and more. With the vast majority of watercraft accidents caused by negligence, inexperience, and inattention, it’s time to get the compensation you deserve.

Message for All Water Users

As a parting message, please take life jackets and ensure that all passengers wear one. According to the Coast Guard in their statistics for 2019, nearly four in every five boat accidents had at least one drowning victim where the cause of death was known. Of all the people who drowned, only 14% were wearing a life jacket. These jackets aren’t designed for appearance, they’re designed to save lives.

Follow the advice we have provided today to stay safe on the water. Contact The Injury Firm with any questions or concerns!

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