Boating Accidents – Statistics and Legal Rights Info

Most boating accidents can be cured by wearing good quality life preservers. That’s the biggest takeaway I can provide you with. If you intend to go out on a boat make sure you have vests and other PFD’s (personal flotation devices) available.

But let’s say you took that precaution, and even other precautions recommended to you during your boating safety training. Despite all of your preparation you still incurred an injury or got into an accident while in the water. What do you do now?

This article is here to share some of the most common statistics regarding boating accidents to help make you an informed boater. In addition, it is going to analyze what you can do from a legal perspective to make sure you are properly compensated for the negligence or incompetence of an outside party that damaged your property or caused injury to you or your loved ones.

Boating Statistics:

When trying to frame the circumstances of your accident, it might help to know some of the common statistics involved in boating accidents every year.

On average, there are appx 700 reported boating deaths every year in the United States. Furthermore, there are appx 4,500 accidents reported every year. Interestingly, it is believed that only 10-15% of all incidences are properly filed.

Property damage involved with these events is disproportionately large when compared to more common land accidents. In 2008 there was an estimated $54 million dollars in damage across the country. For some more interested stats, consider those compiled on

” * Over two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, ninety (90) percent were not wearing a life jacket.

* Only ten percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

* Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.

* Careless/reckless operation, operator inattention, no proper lookout, operator inexperience and passenger/skier behavior rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

* Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of the deaths.

* The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (43%), personal watercraft (23%), and cabin motorboats (15%).”

Types of Boating Accidents:

It was touched upon in the statistics section, but let’s list some of the most common types of accidents to determine if your situation falls into one of these criteria.

* Boat Collision. Quite simply this entails two or more boats striking each other. However, collision can happen in a variety of places, including crowded docks, narrow passageways, and on the open sea.

* Object Collision. Similar to boat collisions but with objects either at dock or in the open water. Object collision can be the fault of the boat operator, or can be caused by negligent/inappropriate placement objects by other boaters or water officials. Examples include loose buoyees, inner tubes, boat parts, etc.

* Water Skier/Tuber Incident. Water skiing can be extremely exhilarating, but it also has inherent risks. If you went on a skiing or tubing trip and you believe injury occurred due to faulty equipment or driver negligence, you may have a case.

* Driver Error. Many accidents occur due to negligence, intoxication, or lack of education of the boat driver.

* Boat Capsizing/Equipment Failure. A surprisingly small number of accidents occur as a result of equipment failure. However, negligence and lack of proper preparation can cause this to be an issue.

* Cruise Liner Incident. Cruise liners offer a whole different set of circumstances than normal watercraft. All manner of injuries can be sustained on a cruise liner, and if you believe it was caused by the crew or poor conditions, you may be able to pursue the situation legally.

* General Intoxication. Whether it be via the driver, passengers, crew, or whatever, intoxication is a leading cause of drowning and injury on boats.

Filing a Boating Accident Report

Something that goes hand-in-hand with boating accidents is the BAR, or boating accident report. Most boaters are made aware of the federal and state rules regarding accident filing when going through boater safety training. However, when an accident occurs that you believe might require legal involvement, it is important to understand the rules more thoroughly.

According to, a BAR must be filed when:

“1. A person dies; or

2. A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid, i.e. treatment at a medical facility or by a medical professional other than at the accident scene; or

3. Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more or there is a complete loss of any vessel; or

4. A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

If you experience a boating accident where one or more of these criteria have been met, you must file a BAR within 48 hours if:

1. A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence; or

2. A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or

3. A person disappears from the vessel.

You have 10 days to file a BAR if the damage only involves the vessel and/or property. Be aware that these are the minimum requirements for federal regulation of BARs and individual states may have stricter reporting requirements.”

Seeking Legal Compensation

Some accidents are quite simple and only involve you as the boater or passenger. However, if it involves multiple parties or a need for compensation from an external source, it is important to get in contact with a professional boating accident attorney even before you start this process. They will be able to give you proper advice and keep you from sabotaging your own case.

Be sure to find an attorney who is not only skilled at boating accident cases in general, but who is also an expert at your states specific rules. The stringency of boating law varies from state to state and it is critical to make sure you are doing everything you can to prove you were not at fault, or even partially responsible for the incident.