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What Is Considered Boating Negligence?

Negligent driving is a well-understood danger that affects drivers and pedestrians. But equally dangerous is negligent boating. Most boat owners do not take into consideration the many dangers that are associated with boat ownership and boat operation.

Boating is often viewed as an innocent recreational activity with few dangers. But the truth is, those who own a boat or occasionally operate a rented boat are faced with many hazards each time they are out on the water. In fact, there are an equal number of hazards when it comes to boating as there are in operating a vehicle.

Because many people do not take boating dangers seriously, there are many injuries and fatalities on the water each year due to boating accidents. Following safety precautions is of the utmost importance out on the water.

It is also crucial to understand boating laws in the US in order to operate legally and safely.

If you or a loved one have been hurt in a boat-related accident, it is important to understand your legal rights under boating laws. A legal professional can help you navigate the sometimes confusing waters of boating negligence.

In many cases, individuals are due compensation because they were injured as a result of someone else’s boating negligence.

To help you better understand boating negligence, we have put together this guide. This is a good starting point. If you have further questions, you can contact a legal professional at the Stoddard Firm. We will be happy to answer your questions and get you the information you need if you have been injured or lost a loved one due to someone else’s boating negligence

How Common Are Boating Accidents?

Just like it is imperative that people learn the rules of the road before operating a vehicle, it is equally important that boaters learn the rules of safely operating their watercraft. This type of training, however, is grossly overlooked in most regions of the US.

Because of this, there are a large number of boating accidents each year. It is estimated that more than 2,500 injuries each year are the result of a boat-related accident. Many of these injuries are fatal. In fact, 767 fatal boating accidents were reported in 2020.

One of the most important factors used in tracking the safety of recreational boating is the fatality rate. Because each state has very different regulations, it can sometimes be difficult to analyze all of the information concerning boating accidents.

When you start looking for an attorney to help with a boating negligence case, you will want to find someone who has a strong knowledge of maritime law as well as personal injury cases.

You will want to find someone whose knowledge expands to all regions of the US since different states and regions have very different laws and statutes. The more knowledgeable your attorney is in this particular field, the more likely you are to get a fair trial.

Causes of Boating Accidents

Any kind of accident will involve many different factors. This applies on the roads or in the water. Trying to sift through all of these factors on your own can feel quite challenging.

When you couple this with the emotional stress you are already under following a boating accident, you can see why it is a good idea to reach out to an attorney with experience in this area.

Regardless of the complexities of a particular case, there are some instances of negligence that are always more likely to result in accidents than others.

The United States Coast Guard has compiled helpful information which helps to break down the different behaviors that might be considered negligence. These are considered to be the ten leading causes of boating accidents in the United States.

  • Boat operator inattention
  • No proper lookout
  • The inexperience of boat operator
  • Use of high speeds
  • Use of alcohol
  • Use of drugs
  • Mechanical failure
  • Equipment malfunction
  • Bad weather
  • Dangerous water conditions
  • Force of wake
  • Force of wave

It has been determined through US Coast Guard research, that the most dangerous cause of boating accidents is drugs and alcohol.

When an accident happens because of boating negligence which results in injury or death, it is imperative that the victim or the victim’s survivors reach out to get legal assistance to ensure that justice is served on those who were negligent.

Boating Laws In The United States

It is believed that many of these boating accidents are a result of loose boating laws in the United States. Currently, the US does not have very safe or very strict laws concerning boat operations.

This is very different from many European countries which always require that boat operators carry a license to operate legally. In order to obtain such a license, training is required.

Although many people may see this as strict, it is the best way to ensure that boat operators have the knowledge and understanding to safely operate a boat under any conditions.

Currently, the US does not have this type of requirement. This means that people with very little experience can operate a boat, sometimes with devastating consequences. This can often result in accidents and fatalities. Keep reading to better understand the laws and regulations for water.

Recreational Vs Commercial

According to current US law, there is no legal difference between recreational and commercial boat operations. Boating laws apply equally to both. The size of the boat is also not of consequence.

The boating laws apply the same to all boat operators. Boating laws demand that all boat operators acknowledge the responsibility they have to those around them when in the water. Caution should be used at all times to protect other boaters, swimmers, and passengers.

Even though the size of the boat will not matter in the eyes of the law, the maneuverability of the craft does matter if a boat is involved in an accident. Another factor that can affect a boating accident would be the maximum speed of the boat.

Additionally, a large boat has a responsibility to not cause the displacement of water in a dangerous way. The displacement of water is also called the wake and can pose a threat to those near the vessel.

Federal Regulations

Currently, the federal government has several regulations in place to help control the operation of non-commercial watercraft. In a boating accident, you should know that federal law will supersede state or local statutes.

Inland navigation rules are part of the federal regulations. These rules give us a guide for navigating inland waters such as rivers, harbors, or other types of inland water.

These regulations also include more specific rules for motorboats and also require that each vessel be accounted for by the Coast Guard. This law was created to ensure that there are safe, uniform rules for those operating motorboats anywhere in the country.

A personal injury lawyer who specializes in maritime law will be able to explain these statutes and help you understand how they apply to your particular accident.

State Regulations

In addition to the federal laws in place, there will also be state regulations for your particular state. These laws are often created to work seamlessly with federal law. However, in the event that a state law contradicts federal law, the federal law will take precedent.

Because boating accidents can be caused by a number of factors, state laws attempt to regulate the following issues that could cause a boating accident.

  • Operations
  • Equipment
  • Licensing
  • Registration

The understanding of the intricate details of state and local boating laws will have a huge impact on what you can recover in your boating negligence case. A knowledgeable legal professional could help.

Boating Safety Considerations

The foundation of boat safety is that the operator will always be someone who has the experience and preferably, training in operating the craft. This sounds like it would just be common sense, but lack of experience in operating the craft is often a huge factor in boating accidents and injuries.

One of the biggest contributing factors to accidents in the hands of inexperienced operators is that the operator expects the watercraft to operate and behave like a vehicle would on the road. Boats and vehicles are just two entirely different things and the skills to operate them are not similar.

One example is the fact that boats are very difficult to control at low speeds. This is exactly the opposite of how vehicles operate. Vehicles are very difficult to operate at high speeds. An inexperienced boater may think they will be safer by moving more slowly and this is not the case.

Another important safety consideration is that the direction the boat moves will not just be determined by the controls. The boat’s movements will be influenced by many things such as wind, the current, and surrounding waves.

When a boater moves into choppy waters or bad weather, it can be even more difficult to control the vessel unless you have had extensive training or experience doing so.

Before operating a boat alone, an operator needs training and experience in the following skills.

  • Docking
  • Starting and stopping the engine
  • Identifying and navigating dangerous water
  • Navigating narrow channels

In addition to these skills, a boat operator should also be responsible for stocking the boat with the proper safety equipment. This would include life vests, first aid, engine cutoffs, and other vital safety items.

When these things are lacking, the boat operator is not qualified to operate the boat. If that person then chooses to still operate a boat, they are operating that watercraft in a state of negligence.

If you believe that you were involved in a boating accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else, you need to seek out legal advice so that you can fully understand the situation and what legal actions you can take.


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