Under federal regulations, the operator of any recreational vessel must report a boating accident to the U.S. Coast Guard under four circumstances: a person dies; a person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; damage to the vessel or the other property totals $2,000 or more, or there is complete loss of the vessel; a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury. Although these are the minimum boating accident reporting regulations, certain states may enforce stricter laws in an effort to determine boating accident responsibility and prevent future boating accidents.
As of September 30, 2003, the Coast Guard stated that there were 12,854,054 numbered recreational boats in operation in 2002. Reported boating accidents totaled 5,705 and resulted in 750 fatalities and 4,062 injuries. The number of fatalities reversed a downward trend and indicated the highest number of boating accident fatalities since 1998, when 815 were reported.
Seventy percent of boating accident fatalities were the result of drowning. Of these drowning victims, 85 percent were not wearing life vests. Experts say that 440 drowning deaths could have been prevented if proper safety measures had been taken.
The most reported type of reported boating accidents involved collisions with other vessels, although more than half of the fatalities reported were due to capsizing or falls. In general, inattentive or inexperienced operators, careless or reckless operation and excessive speed are the leading causes of all boating accidents.
Additionally, approximately 80 percent of all boating accident fatalities occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction; alcohol was involved in 39 percent of all fatal boating accidents.
All of these statistics show that serious boating accidents can be prevented if proper safety measures are taken and adequate experience and education is attained. Boat operators are responsible for the safety of their passengers and must take proper precautions to ensure boating accidents do not occur. If you have been involved in a boating accident and have sustained injury or loss of personal property, a lawyer can help determine whether the accident was a result of operator negligence or could have been prevented through efforts of your own.