This article on boating emergencies has been expertly reviewed by: Serah Waweru, Esq., on May 23, 2023
If you’re a boater, you’re probably familiar with the sensational stress-free feeling of the cool breeze blowing across your face while cruising through your favorite waters. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same sentiments about boating, all because of a single tragic encounter.
Boating emergencies have become common within the past few years, accounting for hundreds of deaths and millions in yearly damages. The sad part is many of these fatalities are preventable by following the proper safety precautions and learning a thing or two about what to do when faced with a boating emergency.
5 Boating Emergencies to Watch Out For
So, before shoving your boat offshore, whether a motorboat or something as simple as a canoe, here’s a list of five common boating emergencies you should look out for and what to do if someone negligently puts you or your loved ones in harm’s way this boating season.
It may come as a surprise, but boat collisions are not uncommon, much like car collisions. You may wonder how that’s even possible when, in fact, many water bodies are broader than the standard size of a freeway. But for the same reasons as car accidents, many boat collisions occur due to common issues such as drunk boating, speeding, bad weather, boat mechanical issues, operator inattention, and more.
When boats collide, there is a high chance that they may capsize and sink, taking everything under the water. Additionally, passengers on board without life jackets risk drowning even before rescuers arrive.
Most boat collisions are preventable. However, many of these collisions result from negligence. For instance, a boat operator knows all too well that riding a boat while intoxicated or ignoring its mechanical issues is as good as signing up for disaster. That’s why you could be entitled to compensation if you or your loved one gets injured in a boating accident due to such kind of negligence.
2. Poor Boat Maintenance
Speaking of mechanical issues, boat owners must maintain and service their boats as required. This includes an oil change every 100 hours of runtime and regularly inspecting parts of the boat, such as the propeller, engine, and water pump. For canoes and smaller boats, the owners should frequently inspect the hull for damages and fasten any loose screws and bolts to keep their vessels seaworthy.
A poorly maintained vessel can turn a boating trip into a horrific experience. For instance, recent statistics show that boat propeller accidents alone surged by 44 percent during the Covid pandemic, causing hundreds of crippling injuries and deaths. This is because boats with mechanical issues such as propeller faults can cause numerous boat accidents, including collisions, capsizing, and grounding.
Every boat has a recommended capacity indicated on the capacity plates near the steering area. That’s where you’ll find information on the maximum number of adults and loads the boat can accommodate at any given time. This is one kind of information you shouldn’t ever ignore.
An overloaded boat is likely to become unstable due to uneven weight distribution, causing it to sink or capsize. So if you’re renting a boat, remember to inquire about the number of passengers it can safely carry onboard, including the boat crew members.
In addition, ensure that your guests have basic knowledge about safe boating practices. Boating parties can be wild and uncontrollable at times. Unfortunately, combining overloading and wild boat partying can be the perfect recipe for disaster.
4. Falling Overboard
Falling overboard is a common accident, especially during the summer months when there’s an influx of boating activities. This accident happens when a boat passenger falls off the boat and into the water.
It could derive from a strong wave rocking the boat and pushing a passenger off the boat or when the boat party gets a little bit wild and an intoxicated passenger ignores safe boating practices.
This type of accident can result in serious injuries when the individual hits the water’s surface hard. And if not rescued in time, there’s always the risk of drowning, and that’s also one of the reasons why it’s advisable to avoid hanging out on the boat’s high deck when the waves are strong or attempting dangerous stunts, however exciting they may seem.
In boating lingo, flooding is when water enters a vessel’s watertight compartment, but the boat remains afloat. This may happen when a crack or hole forms on the boat’s hull due to general wear and tear or due to unfastened screws and cocks.
A flooded boat may develop mechanical issues and compromise its watertight integrity. For instance, the water may ingress the boat’s engine, causing corrosion, fuel leakages, and clogging, among other damages. This may cause serious boat accidents, including but not limited to fires, grounding, and capsizing.
Proper boat maintenance practices can prevent flooding-related accidents. For instance, canoe and kayak owners who use their vessels in salty waters must rinse them with fresh water after every sail to prevent the hull from corroding and forming holes and cracks. In addition, boat operators should be attentive while piloting to avoid collisions that may cause damage to the boat’s hull, paving the way for water to flood the boat.
Can I Sue For A Boating Accident?
You may be entitled to compensation if injured in a boating accident caused by someone else’s negligence. The same applies in the unfortunate event that you lose a loved one in a similar incident.
A boating accident can rob you of your loved ones in a second, leaving you traumatized and desperate for justice.
Who Is At-Fault in a Boating Accident Claim?
Whether you rented a boat or recently bought a new one, you don’t deserve to lose a loved one or get injured while having the time of your life in the water. Even though you are required to practice safe boating to prevent accidents and catastrophic injuries, you’re not the only one responsible for guaranteeing your boating safety. Other parties that may owe you the duty of care include:
- Boat operator
- Boat owner
- Other boaters on the water
- Boat passengers
- And more
If any of these parties act in a way that risks your life while boating, they’ll have breached their duty of care. Moreover, their negligence may result in severe injuries, property damages, or even death. For this reason, you can hold them accountable for their actions or inactions.
What Damages Can I Sue for In A Boating Accident Case?
Boating emergencies result in many forms of injuries. Here are some of the damages you may be able to sue for in a boating accident case.
Personal injury includes any form of harm inflicted on your body as a result of the boating accident. For instance, you may have suffered broken bones, lost a limb, sustained deep cuts, or developed a concussion from a boat collision. Such injuries can cost a lot of money in medical expenses, therapy sessions, and medication, which you may be able to recover in the lawsuit.
If you can’t return to work and earn a salary after a boating accident, you may be able to sue the responsible party for lost current and future wages. First, however, you must prove that the injury you suffered is the reason why you’re unable to work and earn a living.
Besides bodily harm, boating emergencies can cause property damages you may be able to recover in a boating accident lawsuit. For instance, you may lose property worth thousands of dollars or even personal items if your boat wrecks in a boat collision accident.
Fatal boating accidents leave many families grieving, traumatized, in debt, and yearning for justice. In such a case, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party to recover damages such as funeral expenses, medical expenses if the deceased received medical care before they died, loss of companionship, loss of financial support the deceased would have provided had they been alive.
Because each boating accident case is different, you may face numerous challenges while navigating the nitty gritty of seeking justice amid all the pain and suffering. For this reason, working with a boat accident lawyer may ease this burden, allowing you and your family to grieve, heal, and recover from the traumatic experience.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Boating Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations for filing a boating accident lawsuit varies from one state to another. For instance, In Washington state, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. Further down in Texas, you must file such a claim within two years of the accident.
An experienced boating accident lawyer may be able to help you file your claim on time so you don’t have to worry about juggling between the legal processes of filing the claim, your personal commitments, and your recovery journey.
When Is a Written Boating Accident Report Required?
The exact timeline for reporting boating emergencies depends on the jurisdiction. In New York, for example, you must report such an accident if it resulted in the loss of life, injury requiring treatment, disappearance, or property damage worth over $1000. In Nevada, such a report should be filed within 48 hours if it results in physical injury.