Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Written by™ on behalf of Stewart J. Eisenberg with Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C..

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Written by™ on behalf of Stewart J. Eisenberg, a Medical Malpractice attorney based in Pennsylvania.


Boating accidents can occur in a variety of ways. Some risks faced by boat operators are the same as those faced by drivers operating a motor vehicle; however, other risks are unique to boats. Water can be unpredictable and plays a major role in the dangers involved with boating accidents. It is important to take extra precautions when operating a boat, and to seek additional training as needed. It’s also important to make sure that everyone aboard the boat has access to a life jacket in case going into the water should become necessary.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident, seek medical care and reach out to a boat accident attorney to learn about your options for physical and financial recovery.

Common causes of boating accidents include but are not limited to the following:

  • Distraction. Just like drivers, boat operators may find themselves distracted by any number of things. From texting, to looking somewhere other than where the boat is being directed, to eating, drinking, and talking with passengers, inattention can cause serious accidents to occur. The weather and condition of the water can change without warning, so it is vital for boat operators to remain attentive at all times.
  • Boat operator inexperience. Just like drivers, boat operators should first undergo adequate training regarding operation of their vessel in addition to rules that apply to them on the water, referred to as admiralty and navigation rules. It is also essential to make sure that every boat operator is aware of emergency protocol and has emergency equipment in place in case there is a need for it.
  • Excessive speed. Speeding on the water carries much the same danger as speeding on a roadway. Speeding could cause a boat operator to fail to see or avoid other boats or obstacles in their path, and could result in unsafe wakes and even roll overs.
  • Substance abuse. The rule against driving under the influence is the same for boat operators as it is for drivers. It is extremely dangerous to operate such a large piece of machinery under the influence of a substance which impairs reaction time and the thought process. Operating a boat while under the influence can result in catastrophic water accidents and even death for both the operator and passengers.
  • Equipment failure. Any kind of machine is subject to the possibility of equipment failure. Sometimes equipment fails unexpectedly and there isn’t much a boat operator can do to predict it. However, this does highlight the importance for boat operators to complete a thorough pre-boating and post-boating checklist to check the status of all necessary equipment aboard. This can help identify equipment problems or failures before they cause a life-threatening accident.
  • Violation of navigation rules. This is much the same as violating traffic rules. Boat operators are required to follow speed limits, proper directions, signaling, and to properly interpret instructional signs and flags indicating where it is or isn’t safe for a boat to operate. Failure to follow these rules can result in severe accidents.
  • Hazardous conditions. Hazardous conditions are just as much of a hazard on the water as they are on the road, if not moreso. However, hazardous conditions may look different when water is involved. Rough seas, changes in the current, or otherwise unpredictable water or winds could be a sign that it is best to wait and refrain from taking a boat out until those conditions abate.
  • Inclement weather. Always check the current weather as well as the future weather predictions for the time you expect to be on the water. It’s all too common for a sunny day to quickly turn stormy, and leave inexperienced boaters stuck dealing with dangers of inclement weather while on the water.

To learn more about boating accidents or what to do after you have been involved in one, reach out to a boat accident attorney.


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