It’s hard to argue about how much South Carolinians love being out on the water. In addition to an excellent coastal location that gives us direct access to the Atlantic, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources lists well over 160 rivers, lakes, creeks, reservoirs, and other waterways for residents to enjoy. The United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) National Recreational Boating Survey of 2012 shows that nearly a third of all households in the state participated in some form of recreational boating that year. That includes powered boats, yachts, sailboats, recreational fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, jet skis (also called personal watercrafts, or PWC), as well as other man-powered row or paddle-powered vessels.
Recreational Boating Accident Statistics
Unfortunately, being out on the water doesn’t come without risk. The USCG reports that in 2014 there were over 4,000 recreational boating accidents and 610 deaths. That’s over five deaths per 100,000 registered vessels, a nearly 11 percent increase over 2013’s statistics.
Of all of the recreational boating deaths in 2014, 78 percent were caused by drowning. The numbers show how vitally important it is that all recreational boaters wear proper safety equipment, because 84 percent of those victims were not wearing life vests. With just one simple piece of inexpensive safety equipment, many lives could have been saved.
Even more lives could potentially have been saved if boaters had chosen to be more responsible in regards to alcohol use—a full 21 percent of those deaths show that alcohol was a leading factor in the accident. Other leading causes of death included operator inexperience or inattention, speeding, and improper lookout.
In addition to 610 deaths on the water, 2,600 people were injured in recreational boating accidents during 2014. The total sum of property damage due to boating accidents was a stunning $39 million dollars.
Types of Recreational Boating Accidents
There are many ways to get hurt on the water, but there are several leading types of accident that you should be aware of and prepared for on the water. Some of the most common reasons for injury or death include the following:
- Collision with a structure or another vessel
- Capsizing, when the vessel overturns in the water
- Passengers or operators falling overboard, particularly without proper safety gear such as a life vest
- Taking on water, flooding, or sinking
- Fire or explosion onboard
It’s vital that operators are trained how to properly handle their vessels and know what to do should an emergency situation happen.
Recreational Boat Safety
There are a number of safety steps that all operators and passengers on recreational boats can take to minimize the risk of accidents, severe injury, and death out on the water. Some tips for operators include:
- Know how to operate and maintain your vessel in good working order
- Maintain your required safety equipment to USCG guidelines
- Educate your passengers about the location of safety equipment and what to do if there’s an emergency
- Ensure that everyone is equipped with life vests and any other appropriate safety gear
- Take a USCG-approved boating safety course
- Don’t operate any vehicle while intoxicated, whether on land or on the water
If you’re a passenger, make sure that you’ve got your life vest and dress appropriately not only for the weather but for the water temperature. Always plan as though you could go overboard. Ask the boat’s operator about safety features and what to do in an emergency, and follow his or her safety instructions. With just a little bit of knowledge and preparation, tragedy can be prevented, and everyone can have a great time.
Seeking Compensation for Recreational Boating Injuries
When safety precautions aren’t taken and someone has been hurt on the water, the big question becomes “who is going to take responsibility for the costs?” The good news is that liability insurance is available to boaters, which means that the insurer will bear the financial burden when someone has been hurt, killed, or suffered damaged property. This kind of insurance isn’t too different than insurance on an automobile.
Unfortunately, unlike automobile insurance, boat insurance is not mandatory—meaning there may be no coverage at all. Some plans also have restrictive limits on medical costs, as well as plenty of other restrictions that all work to prevent the insurer from having to pay out on a claim without a fight. But there are no excuses: when a boater is careless or negligent in his or her duty to operate a vessel safely and someone is hurt or killed, that person and his or her insurance company need to be held responsible.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Whether it’s coverage for a home, an automobile, or a recreational boat, the one thing that all insurance companies have in common is this: they don’t make money by paying out claims. Insurance companies will often fight tooth and nail to use every rider, exclusion, trick, or excuse to pay the full amount on a claim. You may need the services of an injury attorney to help you fight them and get the full compensation that you’re owed for medical bills. Sometimes it’s even necessary to file a “bad faith” claim against your own insurance company just to get paid! While you cannot file this type of claim against someone else’s insurance, there are other legal methods you can use to help secure your right to pursue fair compensation.
Get Legal Help With Your Claim
Dealing with boating accident claims and insurance companies is a legal skill that’s only learned with experience. When you’ve been in an accident on the water, you need to find an injury attorney that you can trust to know the laws and help you get the compensation that you’re owed. At the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger, we have the experience that you need. We are ready to protect your legal rights and stand up against the insurance company and help you recover from your accident. Call us today to arrange a consultation in our Columbia office at 803-790-2800, or use our online contact form and our legal team will reach out to you for details about your case.