Back to Recreational Boating Accidents
Back to Maritime Attorney Homepage
Back to Kayaking & Canoeing Resources
Back to Maritime Litigation - Maritime Arbitration
Coast Guard, a recreational boating
accident means a recreational vessel,
numbered vessel, or documented vessel is
being used by its operator for recreational
purposes and one or more of the following
events occur involving the vessel and its

▪ Grounding
▪ Capsizing
▪ Flooding/Swamping
▪ Falls within or overboard a vessel
▪ Person(s) ejected from a vessel
▪ Person leaves a vessel that is underway
to swim for pleasure
▪ Person leaves a vessel to retrieve a lost
item, another person, or vessel
▪ Sinking
▪ Fire or Explosion
▪ Skier Mishap
▪ Collision with another vessel or object
▪ Striking a submerged object
▪ The vessel, propeller, propulsion unit or
steering machinery strikes a person
▪ Carbon monoxide asphyxiation
▪ Electrocution

As a general guideline, if any of these
events occur and there is a reasonable
likelihood that as a result of the event(s) -
an injury, death, or property damage
occurs, the incident is a recreational
boating accident.
Weather can also be a
critical and relevant factor in boating
accidents. With the July 2018 accident
involving the Ride the Ducks DUKW
passenger vessel, meteorological factors,
including the vessel's ability to remain
seaworthy in certain weather conditions
are coming under scrutiny. Maritime
attorneys have filed wrongful death
lawsuits following the tragic sinking.

Regardless of how you define a boating
accident, one thing is certain…it would be
nice if there were less of them. To
understand how they might be prevented,
one might look at the causes of boating
accidents. In its accident statistics, the
Coast Guard lists the top ten contributing
factors to pleasure boat accidents.
Ranking from highest to lowest, in 2004
these were:


Going back to the Coast Guard study, they
identified the top five types of boating
accidents. In 2004, starting at the highest
rate of occurrence, these were (1.)
Collision with Vessel, (2.) Collision with a
Fixed Object, (3.) Falling Overboard, (4.)
Capsizing and (5.) Skier Mishap.

Since boating accidents impact peoples’
lives in such terrible ways, it’s worth
doing all that we can to avoid them. While
some accidents might not appear
preventable, there’s something we can all
do to make boating safer. We can use our
lifejackets. This may seem like tiresome
advice you hear from every boating safety
expert out there. But when you look at the
Coast Guard reports, the statistics show
that fatalities were always lower where the
boater wore a life jacket.

To see how the Coast Guard collects and
manages information related to boating
accidents, click
Recreational Boating
Accident Statistics.

Source: “You’re In Command, Boat
Responsibly” - Boating Statistics 2004
United States Coast Guard Pub. P16754.18
Causes of Recreational Boating Accidents
New Jersey Boating Accident Attorney - Boating Accident Legal Information - Boating Injury - Injured by Jet Ski -
Careless or Reckless Operation
Operator Inattention
Operator Inexperience
Excessive Speed
Hazardous Waters
Alcohol Use
Passenger-Skier Behavior
Machinery System Failure
No Proper Lookout
Rules of the Road Infraction
Contributing factors of
boating accidents
cited by the Coast
Guard often boil down
to negligence.
Negligence means
that someone had a
duty to follow a
certain standard of
care in operating a
vessel. They failed to
follow that standard
and as a result,
someone was injured
or something was
damaged. If the injury
was causally related
to the departure from
that standard of
care…and the injury
was foreseeable, then
the offender is liable
for negligent
operation of a vessel.
If the level of
negligence is so
gross…the departure
from the standard of
care so great…the
offense can rise a level
of criminal negligence.
In criminal negligence,
the vessel operator
fails to recognize a
very serious risk.
Compare this with
recklessness, where
the crime results from
the vessel operator
recognizing a risk…but
disregarding it. An
example could be two
speedboats racing
through a flotilla of
children engaged in a
sailboat race. The
speedboaters couldn’t
argue that they failed
to recognize a risk….
that would be absurd.
They clearly
recognized the
risk…they created it!
But they ignored it
because they wanted
to have a race.
Criminal liability is
defined by
depending on where a
serious boating
accident occurs, the
penal codes can be
worded differently from
state to state.