Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Washington
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of J.D. Smith with Law Office of J.D. Smith, PLLC.
Boating is a popular past-time in many states with prominent bodies of water. From lakes and rivers to a stunning coastline, Washington state has a lot of water at its disposal perfect for boating. However, boating carries inherent hazards which can make the activity extremely dangerous without proper attention to safety. Operator error can compound those hazards resulting in catastrophic situations putting the operator, passengers, and other boaters at risk.
According to Washington State’s Recreational Boating Accident Statistics Report, 114 recreational boating accidents were reported to law enforcement involving 15 deaths, approximately 50 injuries, and an estimated $1.28 million in property damage in 2017 alone; of these boating accidents, several causes arose as the most common both in the state of Washington and across the country. Whenever someone is going out on the water, it’s important to commit to a pre-launch safety checklist and ensure that everyone on board understands basic and emergency safety protocol.
Common causes of boating accidents in Washington include the following:
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
- Alcohol/drug use
- Improper lookout
- Excessive speed
- Machinery failure
The one factor that most of these causes have in common is that they are largely preventable. While machinery failure and the weather may be somewhat out of the boat operator’s control if the weather changes suddenly or a piece of machinery fails without warning, the other causes are generally a direct result of operator error.
Additionally, according to Washington State’s 2017 report, the top three causes of boating accidents when the cause can be identified include driver inattention, inexperience, and alcohol/drug use. While driver error and alcohol/drug use are also common causes of car accidents, it’s important to remember that whenever you are on the water there are additional risk-factors at play. Other boats, passengers who may or may not be skilled swimmers, and water that can quickly become unpredictable all significantly increase the danger in the event of a boating accident.
That said, the penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) are similar to driving under the influence (DUI); either of these violations can result in up to a year in jail and fines in excess of $5,000.
Boating accidents can be devastating and expensive.
Collisions between boats, falling overboard, capsizing, and being ejected from the vessel are unfortunately common types of accidents that can occur due to any of the above causes. The results of these and other boating accidents can be devastating, resulting in severe injuries and even fatalities. Every boat operator has a responsibility to take reasonable measures to care for the safety of their own passengers as well as any other vessel they may come across on the water. If you or a loved one were injured on the water due to another boater’s error, you may be eligible to seek compensation for the resulting damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even wrongful death in the event your loved one dies from their injuries sustained in the boating accident.