• Jinks Crow & Dickson

What to Do if You Lose a Loved One in a Fatal Boating Accident

Updated: Jun 14


Each June, National Fishing and Boating Week is celebrated. The promise of getting out on the water is appealing when the temperature gets hot. Unfortunately, boating accidents are common and can sometimes be fatal. Like car accidents or truck accidents, if you lose a loved one or are injured in a fatal boating accident, you can hold the person who caused the accident responsible. Boat defects have also contributed to fatal accidents. Boat manufacturers can be held responsible for the defective products they produce.


The boating accident attorneys at Jinks Crow & Dickson are very familiar with representing individuals and family members who have lost a loved one in a fatal boating accident. Contact us today for a free consultation.


What is the main cause of fatal boating accidents?

Wrongful deaths and serious injuries can result from boating accidents involving:

  • Operating under the influence

  • Inattention

  • Improper operation

  • Inexperience by the operator

  • Defective equipment

  • Collisions

  • Ski boats

  • Pontoon boats

  • Water skis

  • Towed inflatables

  • Personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis©, Sea-Doos©, and WaveRunners©


Are boating accidents common?

In the past few years, the total number of accidents, injuries, and deaths due to boating accidents has increased substantially. This increase is due to several factors.


How many boating deaths per year?

The U.S. Coast Guard has released its 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, revealing the following:

  • There were 767 boating fatalities nationwide in 2020, a 25.1 percent increase from 2019.

  • From 2019 to 2020, the total number of accidents increased 26.3 percent (4,168 to 5,265), and the number of non-fatal injured victims increased 24.7 percent (2,559 to 3,191).

  • There is evidence that boating activity increased significantly during the pandemic, from reports of increased boat sales, purchased insurance policies, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance.

  • With the increased exposure (i.e., more boating hours), there was a greater risk of deaths, injuries, and accidents.


How many boating deaths are alcohol related?

Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2020, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 18 percent of total fatalities.


The report also shows that in 2020:

  • The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, the highest in the program’s recent history. This rate represents a 25 percent increase from last year’s fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

  • Property damage totaled about $62.5 million.

  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.


What is the leading cause of death in boating accidents?

Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket. “It’s crucial for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life if you enter the water unexpectedly,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “The Coast Guard reminds boaters to make sure that life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, and correctly fastened.”


Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards prior to getting out on the water.


The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (50 percent), kayaks (15 percent), and pontoons (9 percent).