Boating Accidents

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2013 alone there were 4,062 recreational boating accidents nationwide, involving 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries, and approximately $39 million in property damage. The fatality rate was 4.7 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. Where the cause of death was known, in 77% of the fatal boating accidents the victim drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84% were not wearing a life jacket. Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length. The top 5 primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents are:

  • Operator Inattention
  • Improper Lookout
  • Operator Inexperience
  • Excessive Speed
  • Machinery Failure

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 16% of the deaths where the primary cause was known. Overall, alcohol use was a contributing factor in 236 of the boating accidents in 2013. Twenty-two children under the age of 13 lost their lives while boating in 2013, 8 of them (36%) by drowning, with 5 of those 8 not wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law. The top 5 recreational boating accident types are:

  • Collision with Recreational Vessel
  • Flooding/Swamping
  • Collision with Fixed Object
  • Grounding
  • Skier Mishap

There are strict federal Boating Accident Report (“BAR”) requirements, mandating that for certain types of boating accidents, the operator or owner must report their accident to a state reporting authority within a specified period of time. While the minimum reporting requirements are set by federal law, states are allowed to have more stringent requirements. Depending upon where a particular boating accident occurs, different laws may apply when determining the rights of those involved. For example, if an accident occurs on a lake or a pond, state laws will govern an injured person’s rights against the owner or operator of the vessel causing the injury or death. But if the accident occurs on inland navigable waters, then the claim will be governed by what is called “maritime law” under a series of federal laws and regulations. See, e.g., The United States Coast Guard has promulgated a comprehensive set of regulations governing the behavior of persons operating vessels on such waters. It is important to know which laws apply in your particular case, as there can be hugely differing measures of legal damages between state law and federal law, depending on where your accident occurs. Mr. Grenier has handled multiple recreational boating accident claims, and we at GLG will be happy to review with you – at absolutely no charge – your particular rights and remedies.