Boat Accident Lawyer

Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Boating accidents are unfortunate events that involve watercraft vessels. The event will typically result in some sort of injury, death or property damage. Each year the U.S. Coast Guard gathers numerous statistics relating to boating accidents for the year. In 2022, the top ten known primary contributing factors of boating accidents were the following:

No. 10 -Force of Wake/Wave

The force of wake or waves resulted in 137 boating accidents, 5 deaths, and 118 injuries. Powerful waves and wakes caused by other boats can easily capsize a vessel and even sink it.

No. 9 – Hazardous Waters

Boating in hazardous waters resulted in 184 boating accidents, 48 deaths, and 75 injuries. Although, boating in hazardous waters is a little lower on the list of common causes of boating accidents, the death toll was much higher compared to other causes. Accidents caused by hazardous waters result in drowning more so than other accidents.

No. 8 – Navigation Rules Violation

Not following navigation rules resulted in 205 accidents, 26 deaths, and 128 injuries. Some common rules that are violated are not yielding to another vessel that has the right of way and not utilizing proper maneuvering techniques.

No. 7 – Alcohol

Boating under the influence resulted in 215 accidents, 88 deaths, and 148 injuries. There were more deaths from accidents caused by alcohol than any other contributing cause. It is unfortunate that most of these are recreational boating accidents.

No. 6 – Weather

Bad weather caused 221 accidents, 44 deaths, and 77 injuries. Weather can change in the spur of the moment while out on a body of water. Weather changes can result in heavy rains, heavy swells, and lightning. These conditions make it very dangerous for boaters stuck on a body of water.

No. 5 – Machine Failure

Mechanical failure resulted in 289 accidents, 13 deaths, and 69 injuries. A throttle getting stuck is a good example of machine failure, but machine failure could be anything from bad repairs, improper maintenance, or manufacturing and design defects.

No. 4 – Excessive Speed

Boating at excessive speeds resulted in 320 accidents, 35 deaths, and 288 injuries. Excessive speeds make it much harder for a boat operator to control his vessel. The margin for error becomes smaller and smaller the faster the boat goes.

No. 3 – Improper Lookout

Not having a proper lookout resulted in 387 accidents, 22 deaths, and 234 injuries. A lookout is tasked with the duties of making sure there are no dangers ahead and relaying that information to the operator of the boat. A proper lookout should watch out for swimmers, skiiers, kayakers, and other personal watercrafts. A lookout should also be aware of any obstructions ahead such as logs or docks.

No. 2 – Operator Inexperience

Operator inexperience resulted in 464 accidents, 69 deaths, and 249 injuries. Boat operators should take the time to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of the boat and safety equipment. Inexperience can be alleviated by taking boating courses and learning from an expert.

No. 1 – Operator Inattention

Operator inattention is the number one leading cause of boat accidents. In 2022, operator inattention resulted in 602 accidents, 45 deaths, and 308 injuries. Boat operators should not be distracted when operating a vessel. Most accidents are caused because the operator is either on his phone or just not paying attention to where the boat is going and what is ahead. In 2022 alone, paying attention while operating a boat would have reduced the number of boating accidents by around 20%.

Determining the cause of the accident is crucial in your boating accident case. Your boat accident lawyer will not know who to hold liable for your personal injuries unless the cause is fairly clear. If you or your loved one is injured in a watercraft accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you seek legal advice, the better off your chances will be in receiving maximum compensation for your personal injuries.

Most Common Types of Boat Accidents

In 2022, there were over 4000 boating accidents reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. Of those 4000 accidents, the most common types of boat accidents were the following:

No. 5 – Falls Overboard

In 2022, there were 260 incidents of falling overboard. Of these, 175 resulted in fatalities and 98 resulted in injuries. Falling overboard is by far the type of boating accident that results in the most fatalities. This type of accident can be gruesome. Victims falling over the front of the boat can be run over and struck by the boat propeller.

No. 4 – Grounding

There were 350 reported incidents of grounding resulting in 12 deaths and 208 injuries. Grounding occurs when the bottom of the boat touches the ground. This can be very dangerous especially when traveling at excessive speeds and running up on the bank hitting trees, rocks, docks or other wood pilings.

No. 3 – Flooding/Swamping

Flooding or swamping was reported to have occurred 422 times resulting in 74 deaths and 93 injuries. Flooding, swamping and capsizing go hand in hand. If a vessel takes on too much water, it is considered to be swamped. With too much water, the vessel will capsize and sometimes sink. Occupants should always wear life jackets when boating, especially those that do not know how to swim.

No. 2 – Collision with Fixed Object

Collisions with fixed objects were reported to have occurred 447 times resulting in 57 deaths and 314 injuries. Common fixed objects that tend to get in the way of boats are docks, stumps, bridges, pilings, rocks, etc. Many of these collisions can be avoided with a proper lookout and operator attentiveness.

No. 1 – Collision with Recreational Vessel

Collisions with other recreational vessels are the most common types of boating accidents. There were 1085 boat crashes resulting in 39 deaths and 512 injuries in 2022. The majority of these accidents occurred on motorboats less than 25 feet long. Many happened while operating or riding on jet skis. These collisions along with collisions with fixed objects can be prevented. According to boat-ed, a certified boating education course, watercraft operators should always know the rules of navigation and should always follow those rules, they should always pay attention, they should maintain a safe speed, and they should never operate a watercraft when fatigued or under the influence of alcohol.

These are the top five types of boating accidents, but this is not an exhaustive list. There are several other types of accidents that can occur while on the water. An experienced boating accident attorney has likely encountered some of these types of cases in their practice of law. As with car accidents, boating accident victims can suffer serious injuries resulting in massive medical bills. If you are suffering from boating accident injuries, Joseph Williams can and will fight for you.

Shot of a sinking ship.

Common Boating Accident Injuries

Boating accident victims can suffer all types of injuries as a result of boat crashes. These injuries can require extensive medical treatment and can be quite serious. The following are the most common injuries that happen in boating accidents:

  • Drowning
  • Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Lacerations
  • Broken Bones
  • Scrapes and Bruises
  • Concussions
  • Internal Organ Injuries
  • Wrongful Death

Even the least serious injuries can require medical care. Like in other personal injury cases, the full extent of one’s injuries may not be immediately apparent. There could be issues that pop up later on in the future. It’s important that the injured party continue to follow up with their medical provider. Your personal injury attorney will need all of your medical records, including your medical bills, before they can really begin negotiating on your behalf.

What to do after a Boat Accident

Passengers or Injured Parties

The first action you should take after being involved in a boat crash is to try to remain calm and composed. If your vessel is sinking, you should try to find the nearest flotation device or try to get to shore. You should then check whether you sustained any serious injuries. If you did sustain serious injuries, you should yell for help or dial 911 if capable.

If you’re not injured or only suffered minor injuries, you should immediately start investigating whether anyone else is either injured or missing. If one of the members of your party fell overboard, you should help them get back onto the vessel or provide them with their own life jacket.

The ultimate goal in the beginning of a boat accident is to make sure no one drowns. Once all parties are accounted for, you should dial 911 and begin administering first aid to any injured parties.


In Georgia, there are certain boating laws that boat operators must abide by after they are in a boat accident. Unlike passengers, an operator, in so far as he can without putting himself or others in serious danger, has a duty under the law to render assistance to other persons affected by the collision. The operator must also provide his name, address, and his vessel ID to any persons injured as well as to any owners suffering property damage as a result of the collision.

If the accident results in death, disability, medical treatment, or missing person(s), operators must report the boating accident to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources within 48 hours. The report must be filled out on forms supplied by the department. The report will also require numerous questions to be answered about the facts of the accident.

The penalty for failing to follow the proper procedures after a boating accident can result in the operator being charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, the operator could face 12 months in jail, community service, probation, and steep fines.

Compensation You’ll Receive from a Boat Accident Claim

If your boat accident lawyer is successful in your personal injury claim you could be entitled to substantial damages depending on how bad your injuries are. In Georgia, you could be awarded economic damages as well as non-economic damages.

Economic damages are also called “specific damages.” Specific damages are damages that can be proven with a receipt, pay-stubs, invoices, etc. They include the following:

  • Medical expenses from the past or the future
  • Lost wages or lost earnings capacity because of an inability to work due to the injuries
  • Costs to repair damaged property

Additionally, you may be awarded non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are also called “general damages.” It is hard to put a number on general damages. They can’t be proven with paper. The general damages that you might be entitled to could be any of the following:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Emotional distress

Non-economic damages can be difficult to prove. The at-fault party’s insurance company is likely to low-ball when it comes to general damages. Thus, it is vitally important that you contact a personal injury law firm to represent you in your boating accident case.

Although, they are not as common as specific and general damages, in Georgia, you may also be entitled to punitive damages in a boat crash case. Punitive damages are awarded in order to penalize, punish, or deter the at-fault party. In Georgia, punitive damages are typically capped at $250,000. These types of damages are only awarded when your boat accident lawyer can prove that the at-fault party’s misconduct was willful or malicious or that he acted consciously indifferent to any sort of consequences.

Benefits of Hiring a Boat Accident Lawyer

Many people will never experience what it feels like to have a personal injury case. Personal injury cases are not that common to the average person. Boat accident cases are even less common. An experienced attorney has dealt with numerous types of cases involving personal injuries.

At Joseph Williams Law Firm, we know that we have to find where the insurance policies are. Without the insurance policies, there may be no money to recover. We know that gathering the facts and evidence as soon as possible helps make your personal injury claim stronger. We know how to estimate damages and negotiate with adjusters and other attorneys. We know that the statute of limitations on a boat accident case is 2 years from the date of the accident.

It is no cost to you to seek your own attorney. Many boat accident attorneys, including Joseph Williams, will allow you to have a free consultation at their law office. During this initial interview, you will receive a free case evaluation after you provide your lawyer with the facts that you remember about the case. After your initial case review, you can decide whether you want representation or not. The attorney that you select will be the one who establishes an attorney-client relationship with you, and he will be your trusted partner throughout the process.

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