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The Bummers of Summer Boating Wrecks


In 2015, registered crafts were involved in 4,158 boating Wrecks in the United States. These mishaps resulted in 626 fatalities and an additional 2,613 individuals were injured. Boating Wrecks can occur on any sized body of water, and for any number of reasons.

Boating Wrecks in the US

According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), there are over 12 million boats registered in the country. Many more are not registered, including canoes and other small craft. Roughly 76% of those who die while boating do so as the result of drowning. USCS data also shows that of those who died, 85% were not wearing life preservers at the time of the boating Wreck.

Open motorboats accounted for 47% of Wrecks in 2016. These were followed by personal watercraft including jet skis at 18%, and cabin motorboats at 15%. The data further shows that motorboat, kayak, and canoe Wrecks accounted for 69% of fatalities that same year.

Nationwide, fatalities tend to rise in the "cooler" months between November and March. Of the total number of Wrecks that occur in these months, more than 20% involve a fatality. By comparison, the "warmer" months of April through September tend to have fewer fatal Wrecks with the rates dropping to as low as 11% in August. Interestingly, there are far more Wrecks in the warmer months and these rates reflect the impact weather, water temperatures, and the faster response time of assistance due to greater traffic and emergency responder presence can have on a victim's chances of survival following an Wreck.

Common Boating Wrecks

There are six primary causes of boating Wrecks. These include:

Capsizing - Boats often capsize due to improper handling including turning to swiftly, positioning the boat parallel to waves, improperly setting the sails, or overloading and improper loading. Most capsizing incidents happen suddenly and with little warning to operators or passengers.

Overloading/Improper Loading -Overloading a boat with cargo or passengers, or failing to ensure that the weight of cargo/passengers is evenly distributed on the boat can lead to swamping, sinking, or capsizing. When a boat is improperly loaded or overloaded, it can make the safe movement and management of the boat impossible for even the most experienced crew.

Man Overboard - Poor weather conditions, improper handling, "horseplay," alcohol consumption, etc. can cause victims to fall off of boats. Individuals who topple into the water can be seriously injured in the fall, grievously injured by the propeller, or drown if they are not wearing a lifejacket. In 2016, there were 171 Wrecks where "men overboard" were struck by propellers. Of these, 24 victims died and a further 176 were injured.

Improper Forward Watch - Improper forward watch is a leading cause of collisions. When a boat is in the water, it is the operator's duty to ensure that it does not collide with obstructions or other boats in the path of the vessel. These collisions can cause serious injury and considerable property damage even when they occur at low speeds while trolling or drifting.

Ignoring Weather -Weather conditions are a leading cause of boating Wrecks and injuries. Rain, wind, and lighting can quickly turn a Sunday cruise into a nightmare. Changing weather can cause damage to the vessel and pose a considerable threat of injury or death to the passengers.

Unsafe Fuel Practices -Unsafe fuel practices include storing fuel in unsafe containers or handling fuel in a haphazard and dangerous fashion. Attempting to refuel the boat while the boat is in motion is an example. The most serious threat of unsafe fuel handling is fire. Toxic exposure is also a threat that can pose considerable long-term health risks.

Liability for Boating Wrecks

One of the first things individuals involved in boating Wrecks must determine is whether federal or state law applies to the case. If the Wreck occurs on a navigable waterway such as one that is used for commerce, then federal law is typically applied. Conversely, if the Wreck occurs on a lake or other shallow body of water, then state law is typically the ruling doctrine.

Boat operators who were speeding, under the influence of alcohol/drugs, failing to keep a proper watch, or not maintaining control over the vessel due to careless operation or inexperience can be held liable for causing boating Wrecks. A personal injury lawyer in Tennessee can help individuals investigate the causes of an Wreck and determine the factors that played a role in causing serious injuries, wrongful deaths, and property damage. In addition to civil claims, individuals who are responsible for causing boating Wrecks may be subject to criminal penalties that are similar to those that can be levied in automobile Wrecks.

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