boating accidents

Boating Accidents

Boating is one of the most popular outdoor hobbies in the United States. And though it is widely considered a fun and relaxing sport, recreational boating has a dark side. In 2008, boating accidents in the United States resulted in 3,331 injuries and 709 deaths. Shockingly, America's waterways are second only to highways in terms of the number of accidental deaths occurring on them.

The main causes of these boating accidents are attributable to the following acts of negligence: excessive speed, no proper lookout, operator inattention, and general carelessness. Not surprisingly, excessive alcohol consumption played a role in 17 percent of boating accidents.

Boating accidents involve a multitude of different watercraft. Open motorboats were responsible for 43 percent of boating accidents, personal watercraft for 23 percent, and cabin motorboats for 15 percent. The United States Coast Guard requires operators of all watercraft defined as vessels to make an official report when a boating accident occurs.

The Coast Guard defines the term "vessel" as any watercraft or artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on the water, including airboats, auxiliary sailboats, cabin motorboats, canoes, houseboats, inflatable boats, kayaks, open motorboats, personal watercraft, pontoon boats, rafts, rowboats, and sailboats. (The Coast Guard has not determined unmodified inner tubes to be "vessels"; accidents involving them are therefore not included in Coast Guard reports.)

Federal law (33 CFR Part 173; Subpart C -- Casualty and Accident Reporting) requires that victims of boating accidents file a report with the nearest state boating authority. The Code of Federal Regulations requires a boating accident report to be filed within 48 hours of the occurrence of any of the following kinds of incidents:

  • A fatality that occurs within 24 hours of the accident;
  • A person's injury that requires medical attention beyond first aid;
  • Damage to the vessel that results in more than $2,000, or in the vessel's total loss;
  • A person disappearance from a vessel under circumstances that point to death or injury.
The reporting authority can be the state where the accident occurred, the state in which the vessel was numbered, or -- if the vessel does not have a number -- the state where the vehicle was mostly used. If the operator is deceased or cannot make the report because of injuries, then the vessel's owner must do so. For less serious incidents a report must be made within ten days of an occurrence if there is damage to the property or vessel.

If you find yourself the victim of a boating accident, consult attorneys trained in the rules and regulations governing boating accidents.