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Accidents, Injuries, and Death on the Water

Boating is a popular American pastime, particularly in the summertime. In many parts of the country, boating is only possible once the days get longer and the weather warms up.

Taking to the water has risks

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that there are nearly 12 million boats registered in the fifty states. When used in a careful and responsible way, these boats can provide a unique and memorable setting for any number of recreational activities, or for merely escaping terra firma for a short while. Boats can turn an otherwise uneventful day into something that feels like it belongs in a Jimmy Buffet song.

But boats can also turn deadly, as well. Anything that involves speed, user inattention or recklessness, and alcohol has the potential for catastrophe. A well-known 1993 boating accident in Florida, which claimed the lives of two pitchers for the Cleveland Indians on an off-day in spring training, indicates how a variety of forces can come together and produce a shattering result.

The numbers alone are shocking. The Coast Guard counted more than 4,000 boating accidents in 2015, resulting in more than 600 deaths and 2,600 injuries. And those figures are likely inflated by other accidents that are not reported to any authorities.

Many factors can be involved

Boating fatalities begin climbing each year in April, and they remain high through the end of October. July was the deadliest month in terms of boating accidents in 2015, and this is likely true for most other years, as well. The Fourth of July holiday is almost certainly the cause, as people take their revelry offshore and out onto the open waters.

As you might expect, the combination of boating and alcohol can be a deadly one. Piloting a boat is not easy under the best of conditions, and when an operator has impaired judgment, the task can quickly become unmanageable. It is imperative for anyone getting on a boat to first know who is at the helm, and whether or not they could become intoxicated along the way. The best solution, if you should have any doubts, is to keep yourself on dry land.

But there are other examples that are even more prevalent when it comes to boating accidents and injuries. Operator inattention and inexperience contributed more than 25% of all boating accidents in 2015, with improper lookout and excessive speed also listed as significant causes. In all, 56% of boating accidents reported in 2015 were the result of how the boat was being operated.

Accidents and injuries are down

People looking for positive news will be glad to learn that the number of accidents has fallen significantly in recent years. In 1997, there were over 8,000 boating accidents, and that number has fallen by nearly 50% in the years since then. Injuries have also fallen, from about 4,500 yearly in the late 1990s to 2,613 last year. Unfortunately, the number of deaths from boating accidents has remained relatively flat since that time.

As might be expected, given the year-round boating opportunities that exist in Florida, the Sunshine State is far and away the leading state for boat fatalities, with nearly twice as many boating fatalities as California, and more than 100 times as many as Vermont. It can correctly be said that boating accidents, injuries, and fatalities all come with the territory in Florida’s waters.

Receiving treatment and compensation

Boating accidents can be a painful and life-altering experience.  An experienced lawyer can assist you with identifying the responsible party, and determining the amount and type of liability insurance available to pay for medical damages and other losses.  At Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian in Tampa, our experienced personal injury lawyers are available to help.  Call toll-free at 1 (800) 227-2275 for a consultation today.

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