Boating Accident Attorney – Boat Lawyer | Valiente Mott

With approximately 11.88 million registered recreational boating vessels in the U.S., recreational boating remains a popular leisure activity. Recreational boating includes:

  • Dinghies
  • Rowing/Paddleboats
  • Sailboats
  • Powerboats
  • Cruisers
  • Personal watercraft

While boating is a popular activity, there are risks involved when operating a motorized vessel. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 4,168 accidents involved 613 deaths in 2019. Moreover, 2,559 injuries and $55 million of property damage resulted due to boating accidents. In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look into common causes of boating accidents and what to do should you ever be involved in one. You’ll also understand how a boating accident lawyer can help you and why it’s crucial to contact a boat injury lawyer immediately after your accident.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

It can be easy to let your guard down while enjoying your boating experience. Collisions often occur when you least expect them. Below are some of the most common causes of boating accidents.

Operator Inattention

Operator inattention was the number one contributing factor to boating accidents in 2019; just like driving a car, operating a maritime vessel while distracted can result in severe consequences.  Using cellphones, eating, or adjusting the GPS takes your attention away from the waters. Even briefly directing your attention away can be dangerous since the water conditions can change at a moment’s notice.


Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a significant problem, contributing to nearly half of all boating accidents. Alcohol is also the most deadly contributing factor, as there were 113 recorded deaths in 2019 due to alcohol alone.  Dangerous waters were the next most deadly accident cause, contributing to 48 deaths.  Due to the leisurely nature of recreational boating, alcohol onboard a vessel can be common. If passengers enjoy a few drinks in the sun, it’s easy for the driver to follow suit. However, even just a drink or two can severely impair your judgment, risking death or serious injuries.

Improper Lookout

Without constant monitoring of the surroundings, accidents can and will occur.  Under U.S. navigation rules, every vessel is required to “maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions to make a full appraisal of the situation and the risk of collision.”  This means looking out for other boats, bridge clearances, logs, and other hazards. Ideally, you’d have a separate passenger aiding as the lookout, as this role is quite involved. 

Operator Inexperience

Operator inexperience is also a significant factor in boating accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard attributes a lack of operator experience and safety training to 70 percent of boating accident deaths. Compare this to only 20 percent of deaths in accidents where the vessel operator was nationally certified for boating safety. Operator experience is essential during emergencies. Operators need to understand how to respond to changing conditions to ensure the safety of all those on board.

Excessive Speed

Operating a boat at high speeds can be a recipe for disaster. Speeding poses several hazards, such as:

  • Capsizing due to choppy waves
  • Difficulty identifying submerged rocks or other hazards
  • Increased stopping time
  • Less time to react and maneuver your boat around hazards
  • Increased severity of property damage and injuries

Operators need to consider varying factors, including visibility, weather, and traffic conditions, when determining a safe operating speed.

Machinery Failure

When your boat is not operating correctly, it can leave you and your passengers stranded. That’s why you must inspect your vessel before you leave shore. Your checklist should include inspecting the hull, bilge, outdrive, hoses and lines, battery, oil, fuel, electrical and cooling systems, and most critically, the drain plug. Regular inspection and maintenance will help reduce the risk of a mechanical failure in your vessel. Don’t forget essential hand tools or merely spare parts.

Jet Skis & Boating Accidents

Personal watercraft is a type of smaller vessel used primarily for recreational purposes, such as jet skis. They are small, agile, and easier to handle, making them extremely popular for boating enthusiasts. Police and rangers also leverage jet skis’ speed and maneuver while patrolling or conducting various legal enforcement activities.

Why Jet Skis are So Dangerous

While popular and fun to operate, jet skis are more dangerous than your typical boat. Jet ski accidents made up 20% of the total number of recreational boating accidents in 2019—ranking second to only open motorboats as the vessel type with the most incidents.  Here are some reasons why jet skis are so dangerous:

  • Reckless operation: The lighter weight and powerful jet motors allow top speeds of 65 mph or higher. Ease of mobility can lead to overconfident, reckless operations such as weaving in and out of congested traffic or “jumping” large boat wakes.
  • Jet ski design: While newer jet skis are relatively stable, their small size makes them easier to flip over. This is especially true when cruising at high speeds. Like a motorcycle on land, the chances of sustaining an injury on a jet ski are higher as there is nothing to stop you from falling or flying off the vessel. 

Additionally, the steering column can collide with your chest or head even in a moderate speed incident.

  • Lack of training: Personal watercraft are relatively easy to operate. In certain states, operators aged 12 are permitted to ride a jet ski. The ease of operability may encourage under-trained thrill-seeking drivers to hop on these zippy personal watercraft, thus endangering others.
  • Weather: Jet skis don’t offer the same amount of protection as most larger vessels. Their size and general lack of safety features make it extremely dangerous to navigate stormy weather. If you get tossed from your jet ski, it could drift out to sea without you. 

Common Jet Ski Accident Injuries

Jet ski riders involved in an accident can face a variety of injuries:

If you’ve sustained any of these injuries during a jet ski or boating accident, consult with a boating accident attorney Often, these injuries can have long-lasting effects, impacting every aspect of your life. A boat injury attorney can provide you with expert advice on how to get the maximum compensation available. 

What to Do After a Boating Accident

Whether you’re a passenger or an operator, here are some steps you should take after a boating accident.

Contact Emergency Services

Check to see if everybody is accounted for after the emergency occurs. Then, ensure there are no significant injuries. If someone is injured or there is substantial damage to the boat, contact the appropriate emergency services immediately.

Report the Accident

State laws will differ in reporting requirements after a boating incident. Federal law requires you to file a report with the U.S. Coast Guard if the boating accident resulted in either the following situations:

  • Injuries requiring more than first aid treatment
  • Death or missing person(s)
  • Damage of over $2,000 to any vessels or property involved

Document the Accident

Just like a car accident, you’ll want to gather relevant information relating to the boating accident. Take photos of the surroundings, including injuries, damages, and weather conditions.  Ensure you take down the registration and insurance details of the boat operator. Contact details of everyone involved should also be collected.

Get Medical Attention

The adrenaline rush immediately after an accident can make it seem like you are okay. However, symptoms can show up days after the incident took place. Even if you don’t feel anything, visit your doctor to be on the safe side.  A medical record right after an accident will also help establish a causal link between the accident and your injuries.

Consult a Boating Accident Attorney

Consult a boat attorney to help you navigate through the legal process. They’ll advise you on the best legal options, so you don’t make any costly mistakes while pursuing your boating accident compensation.

How a Boating Accident Lawyer Can Help

Turning to an experienced boat lawyer is the best thing you can do when navigating the ins-and-outs of a boating accident case.  To get compensation from a boating accident, you must demonstrate negligence or malicious intent on the part of another party. This means you must show that someone owed you a duty of care, and they acted in a manner that breached that duty or that the incident was caused by prohibited maritime behavior. Getting to the bottom of who is responsible for the accident is not always clear. For example, a collision with multiple boats can have numerous parties liable.  However, you must also consider other factors, such as weather or the condition of the vessel. Accidents can even be caused by parties other than the operator, including passengers, the boat owner, the boat manufacturer, or the boat rental company. Most states don’t require operators to carry liability insurance when operating a boat. However, operators may choose to have boat insurance to cover any damages.  If that’s the case, a boating accident lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies to ensure you get a fair settlement value. A lawyer will also advise on whether to pursue legal action directly against the liable party. As you can see, there are many moving parts in a boating accident claim. A lawyer will assess your case, gather evidence, and develop a strategy based on the findings.  Gain peace of mind knowing a legal professional is advocating on your behalf while you recover from your injuries.

Valiente Mott Can Help 

Injuries from a boating accident can be a challenging time for you and your family. That’s why we are here to help. We offer a free consultation, and you don’t pay unless we win the case.If you’re searching for a boating accident lawyer near me, choose Valiente Mott. As experienced Las Vegas personal injury lawyers, we fight for personal injury victims, helping them obtain the compensation they deserve. 

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