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Top 7 Causes of Boating Accidents in New Jersey

In Jersey, Spring often means to many of us the beginning of boating season. We, “Garden Staters,” enjoy taking to the water as a great way to relax and have fun with friends and family; however, boats are dangerous when they’re not handled properly – and if other boaters are negligent, too. Too often people on boats, whether a passenger or swimmers, or operators suffer boat-related injuries on our waterways, whether it be on Lake Hopatcong, the Jersey shore, or our many rivers, including the Hudson.   

When we hear the word accident, we mostly think in terms of automobile collisions. The fact is, in New Jersey, negligent boating operation occurs more often than one would think. 

These collisions are not accidents. They are acts of negligence that can often result in dire consequences to the victim.  

In New Jersey, boat-related injury cases are handled the same way as a car or trucking accident. There is one critical decision that makes a big difference. It is best to hire an experienced boating accident lawyer with a proven success record. That means you should hire a lawyer who is licensed to operate a boat and has completed and passed the boat safety course and test.  

As in any negligence case, your chosen attorney must prove the following four elements:

  1. Duty; to exercise reasonable care on the part of the careless boat operator
  2. Breach of Duty; meaning that the at-fault operator was negligent.
  3. Proximate causation; meaning that their negligence caused injuries
  4. Damages: The accident victim suffered physical, emotional, and economic losses, including medical expenses, disfigurement, pain, and suffering. 

In fact, a report from the U.S. Coast Guard stated that there were 4,158 boating accidents across the country in just one year. These accidents resulted in 2,613 injuries and 626 deaths, along with $42 million in property damage. Some of the most common causes of these tragic incidents are listed below.

If you have been injured in a New Jersey boating accident, the personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. want to help you. Our boating accident attorneys have helped our clients recover more than $800 million in compensation for all types of injury cases since we opened our practice in 1981. Our team of highly skilled lawyers is prepared to work tirelessly to pursue the money you deserve to rebuild your life after a boating accident. 

We have the experience of representing an injured pedestrian on a boat that went to trial in Bergen County which resulted in a multimillion-dollar jury verdict.  

If we take your case, you don’t owe us any fees unless and until we collect compensation on your behalf. To learn more, call us or visit our contact page for a free initial consultation.

1. Operator Inattention

Failure to observe and avoid boats or other watercraft ahead and to make appropriate directional adjustments to avoid collision with another boat or swimmer is a common cause of a boating accident.  

At first, handling a boat on the water seems easier than driving a car. There are generally fewer boats on a body of water than there are cars on a highway. You have more room to maneuver. However, just like with cars, it’s important for anyone driving a boat to pay attention to the vehicle they’re handling and the surrounding environment. 

Sudden shifts in the weather, turbulence in the water due to passing boats, unexpected rocks, and other environmental hazards, as well as other boats on the water – are just a few of the things that operators need to watch out for while boating. If boat operators aren’t paying attention and engaging in negligent reckless behavior, it’s very easy for an accident to occur and someone to be injured as a result.

2. Excessive Speed

It can be fun to drive any vehicle fast, and that includes boats. Speeding may seem like less of a problem on a boat. There’s generally more room to maneuver and there are fewer obstacles. But speeding while boating can be extremely dangerous. Speeding makes it harder to avoid obstacles or other boats. It also increases the likelihood of a capsize accident if you have to make a sudden turn. 

Boat captains need to warn passengers walking about their vessel when they decide to suddenly accelerate their watercraft. Sudden, sharp turns can throw passengers overboard at high speeds, injuring or drowning them in the water. Failure to appropriately adjust speed to conditions while boating or making calm, controlled maneuvers pose safety hazards to everyone on the water.

3. Alcohol Use

Just like with cars and other vehicles, drinking and driving a boat is a dangerous combination. Drinking slows your reflexes and cognition, making it harder to recognize oncoming hazards and react to them in time. According to data from the Coast Guard, in just one year there were 330 boating accidents nationwide in which alcohol was a contributing factor, leading to 279 injuries and 128 deaths. 

It’s also important to know that just as there are penalties for drinking and driving a car, there are legal consequences for drinking while operating a boat. These penalties include fines, the loss of your driver’s license and boating privileges, and potential jail time for repeat offenses.

4. Force of Waves/Wake

It’s important to stay alert while boating to watch out for strong waves or the wake from passing boats. The wake from a large boat passing closely by is sufficient to make another boat rock on the surface of the water. If the boater isn’t paying attention, the wake can cause the boat to overturn or lead to passengers being thrown overboard. 

Even if there are only a few other boats on the water, the force from strong waves can also lead to an accident if a boat strikes the waves at the wrong angle. Especially strong waves can even knock passengers over the side of a boat, putting them at risk of drowning. A safe boater knows how to negotiate large waves to maximize stability. 

5. Machinery Failure

Boats are complicated machines made up of thousands of parts and systems that need to be in good condition for the occupants to be safe. Regular maintenance and safety inspections are key to making sure everyone stays safe and has fun out on the water. In particular, issues with a boat’s hull, steering mechanisms, or motor can be very dangerous. 

A failure in the steering system makes it difficult to handle the boat properly and avoid obstacles. An issue with the hull or motor can cause the boat to sink or become stranded on the water, placing everyone on board in serious jeopardy. In extreme circumstances, a mechanical defect could even lead to a fire or explosion on board the boat, which could injure passengers in addition to leaving them stranded or at risk of drowning.

6. Environmental Causes

There are many environmental hazards that boaters need to be alert for on the water. Weather can shift suddenly, bringing conditions like sudden rain, wind, or thunderstorms that place boaters in peril. Rain makes it harder to see where you’re going, wind makes it harder to handle the boat safely and can lead to capsizing, and lightning can injure passengers. 

Boaters who ignore weather changes or fail to take a look at the full day’s forecast place themselves, their passengers, and their boat at risk. Boaters also need to be wary of tidal shifts, sudden changes in the water level, and rocks or other large objects in the water, all of which could cause an accident.

7. Violating Navigational Rules

There are certain rules for navigating waterways, just as there are rules for drivers on the road. Unfortunately, many boaters don’t take the time to learn all the proper rules for navigation on the water. 

When boaters aren’t aware of or don’t properly follow navigational rules, it’s easy for an accident to occur. These rules include what to do if two boats are headed toward each other, which boat should yield the right-of-way if one has to cross in front of the other, and so on. Failure to follow navigational rules can lead to head-on collisions and similar accidents.

Contact Our Boating Accident Lawyers Today

If you’re involved in a boating accident, it’s important to speak to an injury attorney who has experience with these kinds of cases right away. Boating accidents aren’t as common as other kinds of accidents. You want to hire a lawyer who knows what the relevant New Jersey laws are, who the potentially liable parties might be, what sort of compensation you could be entitled to, and how to find the evidence you’ll need to prove your case.

The boating accident lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. have many years of experience in operating boats and handling these kinds of claims. Here’s what we can do for you when you hire our firm to represent you:

  • Fully investigate the accident to find evidence, potentially liable parties, and insurance coverage. We’ll look at police reports, witness testimony, and other evidence to determine who could be liable for the accident. We’ll also look at your boat and the boat of anyone else involved in the accident to see if there was a mechanical defect that played a role in the accident. No matter who is at fault, we’ll work relentlessly to find the necessary evidence to prove they were liable for your injuries.
  • Handle all the necessary communication and paperwork. A boating accident case usually involves negotiating with the liable parties, as well as their lawyers and insurance companies. There’s also a lot of paperwork that has to be filed with the insurance companies or the courts. We can handle these complex and important parts of your case for you. 
  • Negotiate for the maximum possible settlement. Most personal injury claims are settled out of court, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to fight for what you’re owed after an accident. A skilled boating accident lawyer will make the strongest case possible on your behalf, hopefully leading to a fair settlement from the liable party or parties in your case.
  • Represent you in court if your case goes to trial. Sometimes you need to file a lawsuit to get what you deserve after an accident. We’re not afraid to bring cases to trial. We’ll be prepared to mount an aggressive case on your behalf if negotiations break down.

 In New Jersey, you’re given two years from the date of your injuries to file a lawsuit after a boating accident, so time is of the essence. For your free case review, call us or visit our contact page now.


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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.