Many boaters like to enjoy Michigan’s natural resources but boating carries with it many responsibilities and exposes boaters and their passengers to many hazards. Boating accidents can occur for a number of reasons on any type of watercraft.
Causes of Boating Accidents
Collision with another vessel is one of the leading types of accidents while boating, followed by water sport activities. Lack of boater education also plays a major role in why accidents occur. Here are some of the most common causes of boating accidents:
Operator inexperience: Age isn’t necessarily as much of a factor as much as experience. Because Michigan does not require boaters to complete a boating safety course before going on the water, many boaters do not know how to navigate well, respond to equipment malfunctions, or deal with emergencies.
Excessive speeding: Speeding increases the chances of losing control of the boat or crashing into the shore or another vessel.
Drug and alcohol use: It’s a lot of fun to go out on the water with some friends and to relax, but the boat operator must stay sober. Accidents can also occur when passengers are intoxicated and become unruly.
Operator inattention: Distraction from smartphones is becoming a more common cause of boating accidents. Some boat operators are looking at their phones or are trying to take pictures rather than pay attention to the waterway. Even if a boater is going at a slow pace, they can still crash into another vessel or the shore.
Faulty equipment: Before each boating outing, boat operators must check their equipment to make sure it is still in good working condition, that there are adequate lifejackets and fire extinguishers on board, a first aid kit, anchor and nautical charts. They must also check that navigation lights are working properly and the cabin has proper ventilation in order to prevent carbon dioxide poisoning.
Severe weather can also cause boating accidents when boat operators are not paying attention to the weather and find themselves out on choppy waters. While out on open water you are the highest point, making the boat more susceptible to being struck by lightning. When you hear thunder, that’s a sure sign that you should head back to land and get yourself and your passengers to safety. A lightning strike to a boat can be catastrophic and render all onboard electronics unusable or even result in a fire. A good rule of thumb is to start counting to 30 after you see lightning. If you hear thunder before you get to 30, then you should suspend all water activities for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap. This will help keep you and your passengers safe.
Common Boating Injuries
Due to the many ways that a boating accident can happen, boat operators and passengers can suffer myriad types of boating injuries. Below are some of the most common injuries that victims suffer after being involved in an accident.
Anytime you go on the water, there is always a chance of drowning. Even if someone is a good swimmer, most boating accidents could cause head trauma or pull the victim underwater by force, rendering them unable to swim to survive. This is why it’s important always to wear a life vest and follow safety regulations.
Cuts and Lacerations
Catastrophic accidents caused by getting too close to a propeller can lead to deep wounds and require limb amputations.
Electrocution can happen at the marina when the boat's electrical connection system is not compatible with the marina's receptacle, which can discharge electricity into the water. Electric shock drowning can occur when the electrical current from a boat is discharged into the water. Unfortunately, there are no signs that the water is energized. The electric current may be strong enough to electrocute a victim or cause musculoskeletal paralysis, which renders the victim unable to move.
Head, Neck, and Spinal Cord Injuries
As a result of a boating accident, victims can suffer multiple injuries to their head, neck, and spinal cord. When a boat collides with another vessel or with a dock or seawall, it can knock passengers and boat operators around, leading to severe spinal compressions and fractures in the face and vertebrae. Maxillofacial trauma involves fractures to the face, such as the cheekbones, jaw, or nose.
Spinal cord injuries can result from a sudden blow to the back, such as hitting the boat before falling. Because the victim has permanently or temporarily lost sensation and strength, they are at a higher risk of drowning if they fall overboard. Spinal cord injuries can affect any part of the back: the cervical spinal cord, thoracic spinal cord, or the lumbar spinal cord sections. Injuries to the sacral spinal cord, also known as the coccyx, could lead to a long-term inability to control pelvic organs such as the bladder and bowel. Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries can lead to long-term disability.
Boating accidents can lead to electrical faults and explosions that can cause fires. Oil burning on the water’s surface makes it much more difficult for firefighters to contain the fire. Passengers and boat operators can sustain serious burns if a fire starts in the engine and then travels to the rest of the vessel.
What You Should Not Do After A Boat Accident
Even if you believe that you have caused the accident, you should not apologize or accept responsibility for the collision. Instead, call All Law, PLLC, so we can launch a thorough investigation into the cause of your accident to determine who is liable. We take into account all of the facts and walk you through the steps of filing a personal injury lawsuit and getting the compensation that you deserve.
You should always accept medical help offered at the site of the accident even if you feel fine. The body naturally releases adrenaline during stressful situations. This is called your fight or flight response, and it is the reason why you may not feel pain immediately after your boating accident but could feel pain several hours later. Emergency room physicians are trained to identify injuries even if the patient does not feel them.
If you wait too long to see a doctor, then there is a chance that the defendant will try to use that against you. They will try to argue that your injuries were not serious, or you would have gone to the emergency room right away. Don’t give them a chance to try to argue their way out of being responsible for your injuries. Get checked by a medical professional, and then call All Law, PLLC. When you arrive at your initial consultation with us, be sure to bring any documentation from the emergency room and your medical bills.
What To Do After A Boat Accident
Your boat accident claim starts the moment that you dial 911 and help arrives. If the boat is still afloat and you are still on board, then you must assess any passengers to determine if they need medical attention. If any passengers have fallen overboard, then you must assist them back onto the boat if possible. If the vessel is sinking, then try to swim to floating debris and call for help. Remember, you should always wear a life jacket or have one accessible at all times in case of an accident.
If there are other boats in the waterway, then you must move your boat out of harm's way, if possible. Perform first aid on those who need medical assistance until the Coast Guard arrives.
If all passengers and boat operators are in stable condition, you must exchange essential information from those on the other vessel and any witnesses. The information that you should exchange includes:
Registration or ID numbers of the vessels involved
Insurance policy number and insurer
You should take photographs of the damage to your boat as well as the other vessels involved, the location where the accident occurred and the injuries sustained. Capturing this evidence using a cell phone can be helpful in your personal injury suit later on. When you arrive at All Law, PLLC for your free initial consultation, you should also bring this evidence so we can best advise you on what your next steps are.
Per federal law, you must report a boating accident to the US Coast Guard if anyone has been killed, injured severely enough to require medical attention beyond basic first aid, there is damage to the vessels or property that is $2000 or more, or if someone disappears and it is very likely that they have drowned.
When law enforcement arrives, you should give them accurate information without any speculation as to what you believe caused the accident. Again, it’s best to leave it up to All Law, PLLC to investigate your case and determine the cause of the accident. Only provide what you remember seeing, hearing, and feeling before and during the accident.
Boat operators must take their responsibility very seriously. Always review the laws of the waterways where you are planning to boat. Before going out on your boat in Michigan, you should be aware that you are not allowed to possess or consume alcoholic beverages between April 1 and Labor Day without written authorization at certain state parks.
Boating Under the Influence
In Michigan, it is illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, the same legal standard that applies to motor vehicles. Like operating a motor vehicle, there is a zero-tolerance policy for boat operators under 21 consuming alcohol. So if anyone under the age of 21 is found to have consumed alcohol, then they can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony if they cause an accident that injures others or causes property damage. If a boater refuses a breathalyzer test from law enforcement, then they can be prohibited from operating a boat for a year.
There are legal consequences to violating Michigan’s boating alcohol laws. It is a misdemeanor to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and just like a DUI, any previous BUIs that a boat operator has received will increase their charges. Suppose a boater is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes a boating accident that results in serious bodily injury to another person, or death. In that case, they can be charged with a felony. Personal injury attorneys will fight hard so that the liable party compensates you for the injuries caused by their recklessness.
Why You Should Call A Michigan Boat Accident Lawyer
Our job is to take the stress of your boat accident case off of your shoulders so that you can focus on healing.
If you have been injured by a boater who was intoxicated, then you should work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Typically the accidents caused by intoxicated operators are very serious and leave the victim and their families with high medical bills and stress. Call All Law, PLLC today to schedule your consultation.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Michigan is three years from the date of the accident. That does not necessarily mean that you should wait that long to reach out to one of the attorneys at All Law, PLLC. We understand that you may have lots of questions about your boating accident, so we are ready to answer them and guide you through the next steps. Survivors of boating accidents are often left with severe injuries, so we handle your case while you focus on recovery. Contact All Law, PLLC today for a free case evaluation.
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