What is the Leading Cause of Boating Fatalities?

The carelessness of how some people act when driving a boat is worrisome. Recreational boating statistics from the US Coast Guard reveal 658 boating fatalities occurred in 2021.

A 19-year-old girl died at the Beaufort River, allegedly due to her friend’s reckless behavior. The driver was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and was acting erratically. The boat crashed into a bridge, throwing Mallory Beach into the water. She subsequently drowned, apparently knocked unconscious in the crash.

Boating fatalities are always a serious matter. Browse The Personal Injury Center for in-depth knowledge of this topic and its legal implications.

What is a boat?

Boaters and boat operators should know the legal definition of a boat and its legal implications for boating deaths. According to Section 175.3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, a boat refers to the following:

  • Vessels primarily manufactured or used for noncommercial use, such as personal watercraft
  • Vessels leased, rented, or chartered for another person’s noncommercial benefit
  • Other vessels operated as uninspected passenger vessels 

The legal definition of a boat can vary per state. For example, not all states consider kayaks as boats.

What is a boating accident?

Section 6101 of the US Code requires boating operators to file an accident report when the following occurs: 

  • a person’s death
  • a person’s injury that requires medical treatment exceeding first aid
  • a person’s disappearance 
  • damage to vessels and other property
  • destruction of a boat

These are examples of what constitutes a boating accident. Similar to the definition of a boat, the meaning of boating accidents may also vary per state.

Typical boating accidents include collisions due to adverse weather conditions and failure to follow boating safety instructions. The nature of a boating accident will determine who is liable for it. 

What is the leading cause of boating fatalities?

The primary cause of boating fatalities is drowning. Regardless of the cause of boating accidents, drowning has been the cause of death in 81 percent of cases. 

People drown in boating accidents even if they know how to swim. Falling from a boat into open water can disorient or knock them unconscious, causing them to drown. Some people panic, and the intense rush of emotions can overwhelm their good sense. 

The National Safe Boating Council estimates that three out of four drowning boaters were using 21 feet long vessels. In addition, about 83% of them did not wear life jackets.

Researchers found that most drowning victims in boating accidents were under the influence of alcohol. A 2003 study showed that autopsies of drown victims in these accidents manifested measurable blood alcohol levels.

Drunk boaters have a higher chance of falling into the water and becoming incapable of swimming. Anyone attempting to rescue a drowning person will likely end up drowning themselves.

The intoxication of boat operators can also endanger the lives of other boaters. Since they are under the influence, they may lose control of the boat and crash.

Most who participate in boating activities want to party, so it is common for boaters to get drunk. However, Section 2302 of the US Code Title 46  imposes penalties for operating a boat while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. 

Have you recently been injured in an accident?

Factors Leading to Boating Accidents

Boating accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Collisions are a leading type of boating accident,  with 1,734 incidents reported in 2021. A collision can happen in three ways:

  • Collision against a vessel
  • Collision against a fixed object
  • Collision against a floating object

A collision at excessive speed can cause passengers to bump against objects within and outside the boat. It is also possible for passengers to get caught between the vessel and another structure. You can avoid serious injuries and death if you guard against the following contributing factors:

Operator inattention

Operator inattention contributed to 677 accidents, resulting in 41 deaths. A boat operator maneuvers the boat on behalf of the passengers and is responsible for their safety. 

They should monitor the weather and vessel traffic constantly to react to unexpected hazards in the water. Acting as an improper lookout breaches their duty of care to their passengers. 

Operator inexperience

In addition to an operator’s inattention, their inexperience could also cause injury and death to the boaters. For example, an operator may not know how to react during emergencies. 

Before getting into a boat, you should find out if they have sufficient experience to operate it safely. If you are chartering a boat, inspect the voyage records of the operator. Learn where their usual travel routes are and the kind of boats they operate.

Mechanical failure

Mechanical failure may also cause boating fatalities. It happens when the boat or its components do not function as expected. For example, an electrical short may lead to fatal electrocution. In some instances, engine failure may cause a fire to break out, endangering everyone onboard. 

Any failure of the boat or its parts to function normally is most dangerous while on a voyage. The vessel could capsize or worse. Boat operators should always have mobile connectivity to connect with emergency rescuers.

Damages Recoverable from Boating Accidents

Injured parties may claim compensation when a boating accident happens because of someone’s negligence or intentional act. In most cases, these include economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to quantifiable costs that the injured parties incurred due to the at-fault party’s actions or inaction. Non-economic damages cover compensation for pain and suffering like emotional distress and loss of consortium.

While exceptions exist, the boat operator is the most common at-fault party. Recovering damages incidental to a boating accident can be a challenging ordeal. Protect yourself and your loved ones by hiring a reliable personal injury lawyer or law firm.

Did you know?

The Fourth of July is among the deadliest holidays for boaters, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day. These are when a combined one-third of all boating accidents and deaths occur.

Connect With Trustworthy Boating Accident Lawyers

Statistics show that drowning is the primary cause of boating fatalities. However, the studies also indicate that alcohol use is a factor. 

Boating activities are often merry, but can quickly turn deadly when alcohol or drugs enter the picture. You should know the potential causes of boating accidents to prevent them.

However, fatal boating accidents can still happen. Consult a personal injury lawyer if you or a family member sustains injuries in a negligent boating accident. 

The Personal Injury Center offers a free case evaluation for injured parties of boating accidents. We can help match you with a competent lawyer by answering a few questions about your case. You will need one.

Boating accidents cause significant losses to victims. Visit The Personal Injury Center to learn about your rights and legal options.

FAQs on the Primary Cause of Boating Fatalities

Your primary focus should be on gathering evidentiary documents. Coordinate with a personal injury lawyer to determine the most relevant evidence to build your case.

A boating injury lawsuit falls under personal injury claims, so the same statute of limitations applies. State laws vary, but when filing a claim with a federal agency, complainants have two years from when the injury occurred.

Get in touch with a boating accident lawyer as soon as possible. Failing to take immediate action may adversely affect your claims and legal interests.