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Boat Accidents Basics

Boating Accident Attorneys in Atlanta Representing the Rights of Victims

America loves boating. Lakes, rivers, the ocean – all beckon, and when the weather is good you can count on thousands upon thousands of Americans taking to their local waterways for a little fun in the sun. There were nearly 12 million recreational boats – including jet skis and other personal watercraft – registered nationwide in 2017.

Boats aren’t like cars. In almost every state, no license is required to operate a privately owned boat – even for motorboats. Most states require teens to take a safety course, and some require teens to have a license. This includes Georgia, where boaters between 12 and 15 years old must have a license.

Boats are unlike cars in other ways, as well. There's a way to steer, and on motorboats, there is a throttle to control speed, but no boat has brakes. Cars going at top speeds take a while to stop – boats take a lot longer. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators found that speed is the third-leading cause of boat collisions with the shore, jetties, seawalls, docks and piers, and other boats. Boater inattention and carelessness are the top two causes. Most boaters don’t hit the water as often as they drive a car – another difference between cars and boats – and are not as experienced as they think. Given that boating is a recreational activity – not a daily chore, like your commute to work – and when you add it all together, you have a situation where accidents are quite likely, and the results can be catastrophic.

If you are injured in a boating accident – and Georgia has abundant waterways that could be the scene of such an accident -- you should consult with an attorney to see how you might be able to recover compensation for your injuries. The Atlanta boating accident lawyers of Slappey & Sadd can help.

Boating can be a Hazardous Activity

In 2017, there were nearly 4,300 boating accidents in the U.S., according to the Coast Guard. Deaths were down from 2016, as were the numbers of accidents and injuries, but there still were 658 boating accident deaths in 2017, and 2,629 injuries, as well as $46 million in property damage. While their numbers are far lower than those for automobile accidents, they are not inconsequential. In cases where information is available, a pattern emerges regarding boating accidents:

  • More than 75 percent of boating accident fatalities resulted from drowning. Of those deaths, more than 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket. In boating accidents – particularly those involving motorboats traveling at high speeds, occupants of the boat often are ejected, as few boaters wear seatbelts, even if the boat is equipped with them. As anyone who has ever done a belly flop can tell you, water is not soft if you hit it flat, and so many people who are ejected from a boat in an accident are knocked unconscious. Without a life vest – which is required nationwide – unconscious people drown.
  • Use of alcohol is the top known factor contributing to fatal boat accidents and is the primary factor in 19 percent of boating fatalities.
  • People who take boating safety classes are much less likely to be involved in a boat accident. More than 80 percent of boating fatalities happened when the boat operator had not taken a safety course. Operators who had obtained an approved boating safety education certificate were involved in only 14 percent of all boating fatalities.
  • The top five primary factors in boating accidents are as follows: failure by the boat operator to pay attention to conditions and traffic, failure to maintain proper lookout for obstacles, people in the water, and the like, inexperience on the part of the boat operator, mechanical failure, and alcohol use.
You can Take Steps to Keep Yourself Safe on Georgia Waters

There are things you can do to minimize your risk of being involved in a boating accident. The first and most obvious step is to only go boating with a properly trained operator, whether it is yourself or someone else. If you own a boat, you should obtain an approved boating safety education certificate. Coast Guard statistics show that having the proper safety training dramatically reduces your risk of being involved in a boating accident.

To maximize your safety and sharply reduce your risk of dying in a boating accident, wear a properly fitted and Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Three-quarters of boating deaths are from drowning, and the vast majority of those involve people who were not wearing a life jacket. Choose a life jacket that fits properly and suits the activities you plan to participate in, as well as water conditions.

Other measures you can take to avoid boating accidents include:

  • Keep a sharp lookout for people in the water. Propeller injuries and fatalities most often occur because of boat operators who aren’t paying attention, are careless, or are inexperienced. All of these causes can be corrected or avoided through training and common sense. If you see a person in the water near your boat, shut down your engines until you can get clear of the swimmer.
  • Check the local weather forecast before you hit the water. You also should keep a weather radio on your boat to keep track of changes in the weather. It also makes sense to know how to spot signs that a change in the weather is coming while you are on the water.
  • Finally, take a boating safety course. Georgia offers such courses, as do the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

If your best efforts fail and you suffer an injury in a boating accident, consider contacting an attorney to see if you are entitled to compensation.

Call Slappey & Sadd Today to Speak With a Boat Accident Attorney in Georgia

If you have been injured in a boating accident, you should consult with an attorney to explore your options for recovering damages. Schedule a free consultation with one of the boat accident lawyers of Slappey & Sadd by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.

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