With a summer full of rainy days and back-to-school time quickly approaching, many boat owners are taking advantage of the nicer weather to get in some much needed lake time.  Whether you own or rent and whether it’s a pontoon boat or a jet ski, it is important to know what steps need to be taken in case of an accident, and - even more importantly - what steps you can take to prevent an accident from ever occurring.

Many of the tips for preventing a water vehicle accident are common sense to those who’ve grown up around the water.  In some cases, though, the opposite is true.  People who have grown up going to the lake and operating boats often feel a sense of immunity when it comes to getting an accident.  They may take less precautions, see life jackets as an inconvenience, drive faster than they should or have less of an awareness about the other drivers around them who may or may not have years of lake experience.

That’s why the following tips are important no matter your boating or watercraft experience:

  1. Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense.  Many people don’t realize that impairment can occur even more quickly while driving a boat than a car due to external factors like motion, sun, and wind.  It is important to allow your body time to recover from consuming alcohol before operating any sort of water vessel.  Approximately a third of all boating accidents are alcohol-related.
  2. Keep your boat well-maintained or, if you are renting, make sure that the owner is reputable and the boat appears to be in good condition.  If your boat is involved in an accident due to a mechanical failure or other malfunction, you could be sued for negligence.  It is a good idea to have your boat checked each year before operating season to ensure that everything is in proper working order.
  3. Know the limits of your boat.  Don’t use excessive speeds, attempt hairpin turns or exceed the weight capacity of your vessel.  All of these things could cause undue stress on your water vehicle leading to capsizing, waterlogging, or loss of control.
  4. Know the basics of boating safety.  Anyone who will be operating a water vessel should undergo some form of training to ensure that they know the basics of boating safety, as well as how to safely operate their specific watercraft.  A Boater Education Card is required for all boat operators 15 years of age or older who do not yet have a driver’s license, but it is a good idea for anyone who will be operating a boat to take an online or in-person safety course.
  5. Always wear a life jacket.  No matter how good of a swimmer you may be, there is always the possibility that an accident could leave you treading water for an extended period of time.  In this situation, wearing a life jacket could save your life not only by helping you stay afloat, but also by enhancing your visibility to other boaters and rescuers.  State law requires all children under 13 years of age to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on board a water vessel.

If despite all of these tips you still find yourself involved in a boating accident, federal law requires you to report the accident to your State Boating Law Enforcement Agency if any of the following situations are true:

  • a person dies,
  • a person disappears,
  • a person requires medical treatment,
  • damages total $2000 or more, or
  • the boat is destroyed.

For an example of an accident reporting form, click here.

If you have been involved in a boating accident this summer and are in need of legal representation, contact Boughter Sinak, LLC.  We can help you in all aspects of your case from filing your accident report to navigating the tricky waters of a complex boating accident claim, so contact us right away!  We deal exclusively in accident and injury law, and we will put our experience to work fighting for you!

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