Spending the day out on your boat can be a relaxing and enjoyable part of your weekend routine. However, it is important to follow safe boating guidelines to prevent boat accidents. Learn more about the cause of most fatal boating accidents and who you can turn to for help if you are involved in a boat accident.

Statistics Say This Is the Primary Cause of Deadly Boating Accidents

What is the main cause of most fatal boating accidents?

Every year United States Coast Guard gathers statistics surrounding recreational boat accidents and publishes a report for the preceding year. The most recent report continues the trend of earlier reports ranking boating collisions as the primary cause of recreational boating accidents. Collisions are so frequent that the Coast Guard subdivided collisions into two categories, collisions with other vessels and collisions with stationary objects. 

Although collisions are a leading cause of fatal boat accidents, falling overboard leads to more deaths than collisions. The top five accident types with their associated number of deaths are as follows:

  1. Colliding with a recreational vehicle: 31 deaths out of 1,226 events (2.529% fatality rate)
  2. Colliding with a fixed object: 43 deaths out of 508 events (8.465% fatality rate)
  3. Flooding or swamping: 55 deaths out of 461 events (11.931% fatality rate)
  4. Grounding: 12 deaths out of 308 events (3.896% fatality rate)
  5. Falling overboard: 170 deaths out of 273 events (62.271% fatality rate)

Not only was falling overboard related to the greatest number of deadly boating accidents, but it also carried the greatest chance of fatality compared to the other top five accident types. The greatest percent of deaths occurred with people who fell overboard. The contributing factor was associated with a more than 62% chance of death and can be considered the most common cause of fatal boating accidents.

Other Causes of Fatal Accidents

Fatal boating accidents occur for various reasons. Many deaths are linked to collision-free accidents. The top ten contributing factors to boating accidents range from boat operator inattention to having an improper lookout.

Some of the top ten contributing factors that lead to boating fatalities are the following.

Influence of Alcohol

Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in deadly boating accidents. It is linked to approximately 16% of boating accident deaths.

Excessive Speeds

Excessive speed is ranked as one of the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents. It contributed to 298 accidents and 23 deaths.

Faulty Equipment

Machine failure, or equipment failure, is one of the top four primary factors contributing to U.S. boating accidents. It factored into 305 accidents and 12 deaths.

Bad Weather Conditions

Bad weather is the 10th most likely factor to contribute to boating accidents. It played a role in 178 accidents and contributed to 30 deaths.

The Most Common Types of Boating Fatalities

In 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 2,578 boating accidents, leading to 266 deaths and 1,802 injuries. These accidents were divided into 30 categories and assessed for their number of accidents, deaths, and injuries. The primary contributing factors to boating casualties are as follows: 

  1. Unknown: 128 deaths out of 239 accidents
  2. Alcohol use: 86 deaths out of 247 accidents
  3. Hazardous water: 68 deaths out of 200 accidents
  4. Operator inexperience: 65 deaths out of 506 accidents
  5. Other: 49 deaths out of 219 accidents
  6. Operator inattention: 41 deaths out of 677 accidents
  7. Weather: 30 deaths out of 178 accidents
  8. Excessive speed: 23 deaths out of 298 accidents
  9. Improper loading: 21 deaths out of 39 accidents
  10. People on the bow, gunwale, or transom: 21 deaths out of 51 accidents

Drowning plays a significant role in many boating accidents. People sometimes drown, even when wearing life jackets, as they can sustain damage that can cause boaters to lose consciousness and drown. Just as distracted driving can contribute to car accidents, distracted boating can increase the likelihood of boating accidents.

Non-Fatal Injuries Often Sustained By Boat Accident Victims

For every person who is killed by a boating accident, there are more who are injured. These victims can be considered lucky compared to the deceased. However, boating accident injuries can be severe and impact victims for the remainder of their lives.

The following is a list of the most common injuries suffered by boat accident victims:

  • Amputation: 39 of 2,641 injuries
  • Broken bone: 555 of 2,641 injuries 
  • Burns: 115 of 2,641 injuries
  • Carbon monoxide: 14 of 2,641 injuries
  • Concussion or  traumatic brain injuries: 258 of 2,641 injuries
  • Dislocation: 67 of 2,641 injuries
  • Electric shock: 0 of 2,641 injuries
  • Hypothermia: 154 of 2,641 injuries
  • Internal organ injury: 111 of 2,641 injuries
  • Laceration: 606 of 2,641 injuries
  • Scrapes and bruises: 316 of 2,641 injuries
  • Shock: 16 of 2,641 injuries
  • Spinal cord injury: 52 of 2,641 injuries
  • Sprains and strains: 125 of 2,641 injuries
  • Other: 24 of 2,641 injuries
  • Unknown: 184 of 2,641 injuries

These injuries range from minor bruises and sprains to serious medical conditions such as hypothermia and amputations. These accidents were often caused by negligent or careless boat operation. 

Compensation for Boating Accident Injuries 

When a fatal boat accident occurs, it is important to understand how compensation factors into the equation.

Each boating claim is unique, and no one can guarantee you a specific amount of compensation. However, certain factors can influence the value of your claim.

If you suffered a more serious injury, you are more likely to receive more compensation. For example, you would likely receive greater damage awards for an amputation than a strained muscle. This is true for multiple reasons, including the following:

  • An amputation is more costly to treat, resulting in more expensive medical bills.
  • An amputation is more likely to require ongoing therapy or treatment, resulting in future medical expenses.
  • An amputation is more likely to keep you out of work longer, resulting in greater total lost wages.
  • An amputation is more likely to keep you from returning to your previous profession, resulting in greater lost future wages.
  • An amputation is more likely to increase pain and suffering, resulting in greater noneconomic damages.

While an amputation may be more serious than a muscle strain, a muscle strain claim can still have value. This is particularly true if it has resulted in monetary loss, such as from medical bills or an inability to return to work.

If you or a loved one have been harmed in a boating accident, an experienced attorney can help. Contact the boating accident lawyers at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt.