The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported over 4000 recreational boating accidents in the U.S. in 2012. These accidents collectively resulted in $38 million dollars in property damage, 3000 injuries, and 600 fatalities. Failure of the operator to pay proper attention, inexperience, improper lookout, failure of machinery or equipment, and excessive speed are the top five reasons why these accidents took place. However, among all of these causes, alcohol use is still a leading factor in recreational boating accidents in the U.S.
Admiralty law protects individuals who happen to get into accidents in U.S. navigable waters. Individuals and their loved ones who have sustained injuries or suffered a wrongful death due to recreational boater negligence often elect to contact an admiralty lawyer in order to seek compensation or reimbursement for damages and losses.
Boating accidents, like car accidents, can result in impact injuries that can lead to costly medical bills, lost wages from missed time on the job, and long-term rehabilitation expenses. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal injuries can be difficult to treat. Traumatic brain injuries can be especially dangerous because they are not always diagnosed at the time of the accident. Memory loss, mood swings, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating are all symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury, which can severely interfere with an individual’s ability to enjoy life and work. Spinal cord injuries and other internal injuries can lead to changes in lifestyle that are costly as well, if not death.
Some survivors of recreational boating accidents even suffer from post traumatic stress as a result. Sometimes, following an accident, a boat might take on water, resulting in a long ordeal where individuals may even have to spend long periods of time adrift at sea, subject to the elements. These types of life-threatening situations can haunt victims for years to come – if not the rest of their lives.
As far as fatality rates are concerned, statistics show that most deaths at sea following a boating accident are due to drowning, although trauma, cardiac arrest, hypothermia, and carbon monoxide poisoning are also causes of death in U.S. waters.
When a boating accident occurs, the first thing investigators will ask is what could have caused the accident. Sometimes, no one is at fault. Several boating accidents throughout the years have resulted from sudden changes in weather or even a spontaneous rogue wave. Unfortunately, the vast majority of boating accidents are the result of negligence.
Many accidents at sea could have been easily prevented had recreational boaters paid proper attention, heeded navigation rules, and obeyed speed limits. Sometimes boaters operate their vehicles too close to shore, putting innocent swimmers at risk.
In a previous blog, our admiralty lawyer discussed the complex combination of international and U.S. laws that govern injuries and offenses that occur on U.S. waters. Admiralty law encompasses the laws which apply to accidents or incidents that occur on navigable waters and protects victims’ rights. An admiralty lawyer understands the international and domestic laws that govern and can assist boaters who sustain injuries in U.S. waters to obtain justice, especially when these accidents are the result of another boater’s negligent or reckless actions, such as boating under the influence or speeding, or even those that result from the state’s inability to provide proper warning signs for boaters to take greater caution when navigating along waterways.
While the hope remains that recreational boaters will follow the rules, this doesn’t always happen. The sad fact remains that boating accidents will and do occur in U.S. waters. It’s important to remember that anyone who operates a boat or watercraft should refrain from consuming alcohol while in the use of their craft, obey speed limits, and ensure they are operating their vessel or watercraft in a prudent manner to avoid any collisions and serious injuries. In the event a boating accident does take place, it’s important that victims and their loved ones consult with an experienced admiralty lawyer so they can fully understand their rights.