a few boats on a California lake

What are the most common injuries from boating accidents?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Boating accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, some of which can be quite serious. The specific injuries that occur in boating accidents can vary depending on factors such as the type of boat, the circumstances of the accident, and whether safety precautions were taken. However, some common injuries from boating accidents include:

  1. Drowning: Drowning is a significant risk in boating accidents, especially if passengers are not wearing life jackets or if the boat capsizes or sinks.
  2. Head Injuries: Head injuries can occur if passengers are thrown from the boat and strike hard surfaces or objects in the water. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can result from such incidents.
  3. Fractures and Broken Bones: Collisions with other boats, docks, or submerged objects can lead to fractures and broken bones in the arms, legs, or other parts of the body.
  4. Cuts and Lacerations: Sharp objects on the boat or in the water can cause cuts and lacerations.
  5. Burns: Burns can occur if there is a fire or explosion on the boat, often due to fuel or electrical issues.
  6. Hypothermia: In cold water, boating accidents can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature.
  7. Sprains and Strains: Falls or sudden movements on a boat can result in sprained or strained muscles and ligaments.
  8. Spinal Cord Injuries: Serious accidents can cause spinal cord injuries, which can result in paralysis or other long-term disabilities.
  9. Whiplash: Sudden stops or impacts can lead to whiplash injuries, which affect the neck and spine.
  10. Bruises and Contusions: Minor injuries like bruises and contusions can result from various accidents and collisions on the boat.

It’s important to note that many boating accidents can be prevented or their severity reduced through safe boating practices, such as wearing life jackets, avoiding alcohol while boating, maintaining a safe speed, and being aware of weather conditions and navigational hazards. Additionally, taking a boating safety course and knowing the rules and regulations for boating in your area can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

What is the most common time of the year for boat injuries to occur?

The timing of boat injuries can vary depending on factors such as location, weather, and local boating habits. However, in many regions, the most common time of the year for boat injuries to occur is during the warmer months of late spring, summer, and early fall. This period is often referred to as the boating season, and it typically corresponds to when people are more likely to be out on the water enjoying recreational boating activities.

Several factors contribute to the higher frequency of boat injuries during this time of year:

  1. Increased Boating Activity: Warmer weather encourages more people to engage in boating and water-related activities, leading to higher levels of boating traffic on lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.
  2. Vacation Season: Many individuals and families take vacations during the summer months, often including boating trips, which can result in more boats on the water.
  3. Longer Daylight Hours: Longer daylight hours provide more opportunities for boating, which can increase the likelihood of accidents, especially when people stay out on the water later in the evening.
  4. Recreational Activities: Summer and early fall are popular times for activities such as water skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, and other water sports, which can carry an increased risk of injury if not done safely.
  5. Crowded Waters: Popular boating destinations can become crowded during the summer season, increasing the chances of collisions and other accidents.

It’s important to note that boating accidents can happen at any time of the year, and safety precautions should be taken year-round. Boaters should be especially vigilant during peak boating season, when there is a higher concentration of boats on the water, and ensure that they follow safety guidelines and regulations, such as wearing life jackets, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining safe speeds and navigation practices.

The Role of Alcohol in Boat Accidents

Not drinking while operating a boat, or refraining from boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI), is of paramount importance for several reasons:

  1. Impaired Judgment: Alcohol impairs judgment and decision-making, which are critical skills when operating a boat. Impaired judgment can lead to risky behavior, poor navigation decisions, and a higher likelihood of accidents.
  2. Reduced Reaction Time: Alcohol slows reaction time, making it difficult to respond quickly to changing conditions on the water, such as obstacles, other boats, or sudden weather changes.
  3. Impaired Coordination: Boat operators need good coordination to handle the vessel safely. Alcohol affects coordination and balance, increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and collisions.
  4. Decreased Awareness: Alcohol can impair a boater’s situational awareness, making it harder to spot hazards, navigate safely, and respond to emergencies.
  5. Increased Risk of Capsizing or Falling Overboard: Boating under the influence can lead to instability on the boat, increasing the risk of capsizing or passengers falling overboard, especially if they lose their balance.
  6. Higher Risk of Drowning: A person who falls overboard while intoxicated may have difficulty staying afloat and swimming to safety, increasing the risk of drowning.
  7. Legal Consequences: Boating under the influence is illegal in many jurisdictions, and individuals caught doing so can face fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. These legal consequences can have long-lasting effects on one’s personal and professional life.
  8. Liability and Responsibility: If an intoxicated boat operator causes an accident resulting in injuries or fatalities, they may be held criminally and civilly liable, facing legal and financial repercussions.
  9. Endangering Passengers: Operating a boat while impaired not only endangers the operator but also places passengers, swimmers, and other boaters at risk.
  10. Safe Boating Culture: Promoting a culture of safe boating, which includes abstaining from alcohol or drugs while operating a boat, helps ensure the safety of everyone on the water and maintains a positive reputation for boating enthusiasts.

To ensure the safety of all boaters and passengers, it is essential for boat operators to avoid alcohol and drugs while on the water. If you plan to consume alcohol, do so responsibly and designate a sober operator or use alternative transportation options to get back to shore safely. Encouraging responsible behavior on the water and knowing the laws and regulations regarding BUI in your area are crucial steps toward safer boating.

How often do boating accidents occur?

According to the United States Coast Guard, there are over 4,000 recreational boating accidents that occur each year in the US, resulting in over 500 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries. In fact, just recently on November 1, 2023 one person was injured after three boats caught fire near Oyster Point Marina in San Francisco. Upon the arrival of fire crews, they found three of the boats burning and four people who had jumped into the water to escape the flames.

One of the victims sustained minor injuries and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, while officials indicated no further reports of visible injuries from the three others who were involved.

Boating accidents can happen at any time without notice, as illustrated above, that is why it is vital to be careful in and around boats and to never travel if you see a safety issue or even suspect one could occur. Regular maintenance and repair of boats is extremely important.\

What to do if you have been injured in a boat accident in California?

If you have been injured in a boat accident in California, it’s important to take certain steps to protect your health, ensure your safety, and establish a legal record of the incident. Here’s what you should do if you’ve been injured in a boat accident in California:

  1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention:
    • Your health and well-being should be your top priority. If you or anyone else on the boat is injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if the injuries seem minor. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent but can be serious.
  2. Report the Accident:
    • If the boat accident resulted in injuries, death, disappearance, or significant property damage exceeding $500, it must be reported to the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) within 48 hours. You can report the accident online through the DBW’s accident reporting system.
  3. Gather Information:
    • Collect as much information as possible about the accident. This includes the names and contact information of all parties involved, including boat operators, passengers, and witnesses.
    • Take photographs or videos of the accident scene, damage to the boats, and any visible injuries.
    • Note the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as weather and water conditions at the time.
  4. Contact Law Enforcement:
    • If the accident involved significant injuries, fatalities, or criminal conduct (such as boating under the influence), contact local law enforcement or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to report the incident. They can conduct an investigation and file a report.
  5. Obtain a Copy of the Accident Report:
    • Request a copy of the official accident report from the investigating agency. This report can be valuable for insurance claims and legal purposes.
  6. Preserve Evidence:
    • Keep any physical evidence related to the accident, such as damaged equipment, clothing, or personal belongings, in a safe and secure place.
  7. Consult with an Attorney:
    • If you sustained injuries and believe someone else’s negligence contributed to the accident, consider consulting a personal injury attorney with experience in maritime law. They can help you understand your legal rights and options for seeking compensation.
  8. Notify Your Insurance Company:
    • If you have boat insurance, notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. Follow their instructions for filing a claim.
  9. Keep Detailed Records:
    • Maintain a record of all medical treatment, expenses, and other costs related to your injuries and recovery. This documentation will be crucial for any potential legal claims.
  10. Be Cautious with Statements:
    • Avoid making statements or admissions of fault to other parties, including insurance adjusters, until you’ve consulted with an attorney.

Boat accidents can be complex, and the legal and insurance processes can be challenging to navigate. Consulting with an attorney experienced in boat accident cases can help you understand your rights and pursue appropriate legal action if necessary.

If you have been injured in a boating accident, call the personal injury attorneys at J&Y Law Firm today at (877) 310-2104 to get your free consultation. Our team has recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients and we pledge to fight aggressively for your behalf until you receive the compensation that you deserve.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.