A Michigan boat accident lawyer can help if you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a boating accident. These personal injury cases demand compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages. It is essential to have an experienced boat accident attorney on your side immediately after the accident.

The state of Michigan is surrounded by four Great Lakes. These Great Lakes constitute 90% of the United States fresh surface water. Because of this, boating is one of the most popular outdoor hobbies in the United States and although it is widely considered a fun and relaxing sport, recreational boating can result in disastrous injuries and even death.

In fact, boating accidents in the United States resulted in 3,331 injuries and 709 deaths in the past years. Startlingly, America’s waterways are second only to highways in terms of the number of accidental deaths occurring on them. However, boaters, jet skiers, and others on our waterways and lakes have legal duties to follow boating safety rules, just as drivers do on our roads and highways.

Boat accidents and injuries often occur due to reckless behavior, negligent use of a boat, and even because a boat operator was intoxicated and caused an accident. The boat driver must not only be concerned about other boats, but others enjoying the water, like skiers and swimmers. If you or a loved one was injured in a boating incident, an attorney could help to investigate the circumstances of a wreck, gather evidence of negligence, and guide you through the legal process to seek compensation.

Types of Boating Crashes in Michigan

Michigan boating accidents are often severe. The following is a list of some of the most common types of reportable crashes:

  • Grounding, capsizing, sinking, flooding, or swamping
  • Falls in or overboard a vessel
  • Persons ejected from a vessel
  • Fire or explosions that occur while underway and while anchored, moored or docked if the fire resulted from the vessel or vessel equipment
  • Water-skiing or other mishap involving a towable device
  • Collision with another vessel or object
  • Striking a submerged object
  • A person struck by a vessel, propeller, propulsion unit, or steering machinery
  • Carbon monoxide exposure
  • Electrocution due to stray current related to a vessel
  • Falls off an anchored vessel
  • Casualties where natural causes served as a contributing factor in the death of an individual, but the determined cause of death was drowning
  • Death from natural phenomena, such as interaction with marine life and interaction with nature

Unfortunately, these or other circumstances may lead to severe injuries or even death. However, there are certain measures a person can take after a wreck, including contacting a compassionate Michigan boat accident lawyer to discuss their legal options.

What to do After a Boating Accident

Even the most careful boater cannot control the actions of others on the water. After an accident happens, there are a number of steps to take. These include:

  • Determine if anyone has been thrown overboard. Throw them a life preserver, life jacket, or another personal flotation device. Most people are not strong enough swimmers to save a drowning person by jumping in the water to get them. Even throwing a rope or anything else the person can grab onto is better
  • Determine if anyone needs first aid or medical attention. Apply first aid as circumstances permit
  • Render any aid to any other vessel involved if you are able
  • Once everyone is safely on board and any medical attention has been provided, exchange information with the other vessel. Ask for and provide the name, address, and telephone number of each person on board and any other witnesses; name and registration number of the boat; insurance company; and the insurance policy number
  • Take photographs of any damage to the boat and any visible injuries to a person
  • File a boating accident report with the Coast Guard and any appropriate state or local agency

How to File a Crash Report

When a boating accident has occurred, the United States Coast Guard requires operators of all watercraft defined as vessels to make an official report. The Coast Guard defines the term “vessel” as any watercraft or artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on the water, including airboats, auxiliary sailboats, cabin motorboats, canoes, houseboats, inflatable boats, kayaks, open motorboats, personal watercraft, pontoon boats, rafts, rowboats, and sailboats.

Pursuant to federal law, anyone who has been in an accident must file a report with their closest boating authority. This must be done within 48 hours of the crash for any of the following circumstances:

  • Any death that occurs within 24 hours
  • An injury that requires medical attention
  • Any damage on the boat
  • Any person who disappears from a boat under circumstances that suggest injury or fatality

The proper authorities might be in the state where the accident happened, the state where the vessel was numbered, or the state where a vehicle was primarily in use. If a boater died because of a crash, the owner of the boat must make the report instead. If a crash is less severe, however, a report should be made within 10 days.

Determining Liability in a Boat Collision

To determine liability for a boat accident, it must be demonstrated that an individual did not conduct themselves as a reasonable person would in a similar situation. Also known as negligence, this includes following safety rules, including providing an adequate amount of life vests on board and being mindful of the safety of their passengers and others on the water.

When these duties are disregarded, an individual could be deemed negligent. Common forms of negligence include:

  • Operator inattention
  • Operator inexperience
  • Improper lookout
  • Excessive speed
  • Alcohol use
  • Machinery failure
  • Drug use
  • Sharp turn
  • Restricted vision
  • Overloading
  • Improper loading
  • Improper anchoring

Boating under the influence (BUI) is just as dangerous as driving under the influence (DUI), because many boaters have less experience maneuvering a boat than a car. Some of the most common collisions occur because of alcohol consumption, which severely impairs judgment, reactions, and coordination of a driver. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is in fact the leading cause of fatal wrecks. In fact, boating while intoxicated is listed as the cause of 16% of wrongful death waterway accidents.

Victims who survive these crashes can still suffer serious, even catastrophic injuries. In fact, non-fatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning. However, for a successful claim, an injured plaintiff must prove that a boater behaved in these or other negligent ways and, therefore, caused a crash. A skilled Michigan attorney could help the victim of a boat accident to establish and prove negligence for a claim.

Boating Accident Death Statistics in the U.S.

As you can see in the graph below, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, the number of injuries has decreased by over 1,500 since 2002, and the number of fatalities has also declined in the United States. In 2019, 613 people died from boating accidents and another 2,559 people were injured.

Buckfire Law boating accidents and deaths statistics

The U.S. Coast Guard also cites improper lookout, operator inexperience, and inattention as the primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents 2019. As you can see in the graph below, alcohol and excessive speed are also important factors.

Buckfire Law boating accident causes statistics

Boat Crash Prevention Tips

When operating a recreational vessel, steps can be taken to prevent accidents or minimize potential injuries if an incident arises. The most important precaution an individual can take when on a boat, whether or not they are the operator or passenger, is to always wear a life jacket. Furthermore:

  • Always dress for possible immersion
  • Be aware that cold weather is more dangerous than warm weather. There are fewer boaters and patrols to rescue those in distress, and the water is much colder
  • Do not drink alcohol while on the water
  • When in large bodies of water, take advantage of available distress-alerting and position-indicating technologies
  • The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers boating safety courses, which are imperative for a boat owner to take. These classes are also available on CD
  • Know the maximum capacity of the vessel and resist overloading it with passengers or gear
  • Adults do not have to wear the PFDs while on board, but must be able to access them easily. It is imperative that all children wear life jackets while on board, but each state defines what the age limits are for requiring life jackets. And, if you are operating a vessel 16 feet or longer, you must have a throwable PFD
  • Have a fire extinguisher onboard (mostly applies to larger boats)
  • Get a free vessel safety check
  • Watch for potential threats at a marina such as loose boards, uncoiled rope, leaky hoses, and faulty gas pumps
  • Wear non-slip shoes and encourage your passengers to do the same

Life Vest Safety Requirements

There are life vest-specific requirements for each boater in Michigan. The U.S. Coast Guard has set these requirements as follows:

  • Children less than 6 years of age must wear a Type I or Type II Personal Floatation Device (PFD) when riding in the open deck area of a boat
  • Each person 12 years of age or older operating, riding on or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a Type I, Type II or Type III PFD
  • Vessels less than 16 feet must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or IV PFD for each person on board
  • All vessels less than 16 feet, used on the Great Lakes or connecting waterways, to carry one approved Type I, II, or III devices for each person on board
  • Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, or III for each person on board must carry one type IV, excluding canoes and kayaks

How much are Boating Accident Settlements?

A boating accident lawsuit demands two types of compensation. The first type is known as non-economic damages and includes compensation for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, scars and disfigurements, and the loss of enjoyment of life. There is no schedule to determine the amount of these damages and they are on a case-by-case basis.

The second type of damages are economic damages or financial losses. These included lost wages and income, payment of medical bills and expenses, and other financial losses. These are more easily determined and are absolute dollar amounts that are claimed in the case.

In event of a death result from the negligent or reckless operation of a boat, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases demand monetary compensation for the pain and suffering of the loved one prior to death. They also demand a settlement for the loss of companionship caused by the untimely death.

Call a Michigan Boat Accident Lawyer to Discuss Taking Legal Action

If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident or collision, you may be traumatized and stuck with the inability to work as you recover. However, when the negligence of another boater or passenger caused an accident, you have legal rights and may benefit from speaking with a Michigan boat accident lawyer.

Call an experienced boat Michigan boat accident attorney at the Buckfire Law Firm today. 

We charge no legal fees whatsoever unless you win a settlement!

Awards and Accolades
Our No Fee Promise No Legal Fees Until You Settle or Win