Many New Yorkers enjoy taking to their boats in the summer. Unfortunately, as with operating any type of vehicle or machinery, the potential for accidents exists and a variety of preventable situations can cause injuries.
New York Recreational Boating Accident Statistics
In New York, the use of personal watercrafts has been on the rise each year, with little reason for popularity to dwindle. The State of New York boasts an abundance of waterways with more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams.
In 2019, New York State had 440,381 powerboats registered for recreation. The 2019 Recreational Boating Report provides the following data and insight for this industry in New York:
- New York experienced 15 fatal boating accidents in 2019
- When considered against the number of registered boats, New York’s fatality rate measures 3.45 deaths per each 100,000 watercrafts
- Most boating deaths involve smaller boats (less than 21 feet in length)
- Despite a decrease in deaths, there was an increase in total accidents and injuries from 2018 to 2019 from 108 to 135 injuries
- 56% of all accidents are due to collisions between two or more vessels
- Most accidents and fatalities occur in the month of July
What Causes Boating Injuries in New York?
Between 2005-2019, 92% of all boating-related death victims were not wearing a personal floatation device (like a lifejacket). It’s impossible to tell how many people could have been saved if they were wearing a lifejacket, but the potential consequences of not wearing one are obvious.
Unanticipated cold water also has an impact during the early and late boating seasons. There are fewer accidents reported during the cold weather months, but a higher percentage of them result in death. Some of the other most common factors in boat accidents include:
- BUI (Boating Under the Influence): Between 2005 and 2019, alcohol and drug use were identified as the primary contributing factor in 69 fatalities, 22.4% of all boating deaths. In 2019, drugs or alcohol were present in four of the 15 fatalities (26.6%). Illicit substances can impair judgment and reaction time. Alcohol can also cause blood vessels to dilate and lose heat, leading to an increased risk of hypothermia when exposed to the cold.
- Operator Inattention and Inexperience: When novice boaters encounter unfamiliar or dangerous conditions, they sometimes panic and make errors in judgement. In 2019, 70 injuries were attributed to operator error.
- Carbon Monoxide: Boat engines emit carbon monoxide, a toxic gas. Boaters and passengers may be exposed to high levels and lead to poisoning or wrongful death. From 2005-2019, 7 boating fatalities were due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Failure of Equipment: Maintaining a boat properly is vital for operating the craft in a responsible manner. The boat owner must maintain the boat to ensure it is safe for the water, much like servicing and tuning a car to be safe for the road. For example, a rental company may be held liable for injuries if the accident occurred on their boat because they failed to maintain their equipment. Manufacturers may also be liable for defective machinery.
Types of Boating Accident Injuries
Injuries sustained in a boating accident can range from minor bumps and bruises to serious trauma. Boating-related injuries common in New York are:
- Drowning: A person can be pulled under the water or suffer head trauma before falling into the water and be unable to surface for air. Even if someone knows how to swim, he or she may choose not to wear a lifejacket that could easily prevent death. At 70%, drowning is overwhelmingly the cause of most NY boating fatalities reported since 2005.
- Brain/Head Trauma: Brain damage can occur from lack of oxygen when a person is submerged underwater or exposed to carbon monoxide. Head trauma can also occur after impact with a fixed object during a collision. Trauma is the cause of 20% of boating fatalities since 2005.
- Lacerations and Abrasions: A person swimming or diving can be struck by a boat’s propeller blade or other machinery, causing serious lacerations or abrasions. Infections can occur from these injuries, or, in worst cases, amputation of an arm or leg may be necessary.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Injuries (such as paralysis) can be the result of severe impact or spinal compression. Compression can occur when a boat bounces on the water from inclement conditions.
- Whiplash: A sudden impact can force a passenger’s head and body to violently thrust forward and backward. Whiplash injuries can occur on a boat very similarly to how they occur in car accidents.
- Electrocution: Failing to properly maintain electrical systems and appliances can result in electrocution or electrical burns. Standing water on a boat increases the risk of electrocution as well.
New York Boat Accident Lawsuits
When a person becomes injured due to the negligence of a boat owner or operator, they may want to hold him or her liable for the injuries and damages incurred. This is possible through filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Boating accidents are both similar to and different from automobile accidents. Like a car accident, it must be proven that an act of negligence directly resulted in the injury. However, victims of boating accidents need representation from an attorney who understands the laws and regulations that govern the waterways. These rules are complicated and are not the same as standard rules of the road.
Statute of Limitations for Boating Accidents in NY
The statute of limitations on injuries caused by boating accidents in New York is three years, meaning the time limit to file a lawsuit against the responsible party is only three years from the date of the accident. If the accident resulted in the death of a loved one, a claim must be filed within two years of the accident.
What Types of Negligence Can Lead to Boating Accidents?
Negligence refers to the action or inaction that fails to reflect the level of reasonable care a sensible person should exercise in that circumstance. Careless or irresponsible actions are typically considered negligent in a legal sense, as are reckless actions that result in injury. From a legal perspective, the willful disregard for safety and intentionally ignoring safety guidelines is often considered dangerous and neglectful.
Victims may have grounds for a lawsuit if any of the following are discovered during an attorney’s investigation:
- The boat or watercraft driver was not properly trained or instructed for operating the craft
- A collision occurred with other boats or crafts because of inattentiveness, drowsiness, etc.
- The driver exceeded the speed limits
- The driver was intoxicated or on drugs
- Insufficient navigation lights, or lack thereof
- The driver failed to provide life jackets and other basic water safety equipment to passengers
- The craft occupancy exceeded the recommended number of passengers
Compensation for NY Boat Accident Victims
The specifics of each accident and how severe an injury is will determine how much someone is entitled to in a case. Categories of potential compensation can include:
- Medical bills and expenses for past and future treatments or rehabilitation services
- Lost wages due to missed time or the inability to work, included any loss of future earning if the injury leaves a victim permanently disabled and unable to find consistent work
- Pain and suffering cover non-economic damages endured from physical pain and emotional suffering
- Punitive damages are awarded in more extreme cases where the injury was caused by someone’s recklessness or with malicious intent
Boating Accident Settlement Values in New York
Sobo & Sobo does not cite actual settlement values for our clients’ cases, even anonymously, for reasons of privacy. From time to time we may include publicly available individual case histories and ranges of general, US settlement values that are published by reliable sources. These, however, should not be interpreted as representing Sobo & Sobo cases or suggest future outcomes at Sobo & Sobo.
The following are real examples of recent boating accident settlements won in New York:
- $50,000 to a passenger of an inexperienced boat owner and driver, who drove the speed boat too fast, causing the victim to fall out of her seat and sustain a sprain and contusion to her knee.
- $250,000 to an individual who made a claim against a Jet Ski owner for not properly servicing the craft before the victim operated it. The craft malfunctioned and disoriented the victim, causing him to emergency stop, get ejected off the craft and break his ankle.
- $300,000 to a passenger who sustained injuries to his low back after the driver of a boat he was on failed to properly reduce speed before encountering large waves. The victim was flipped into the air as the boat struck several waves.
What to Do After a Boating Accident in New York
There are certain actions to take for protection after a boating injury regardless of the details and type of accident. After a boating accident, victims should:
- Report the accident to the US Coast Guard and proper local authorities
- Obtain pictures of the vehicles and injuries for preserving evidence
- Seek medical attention and preserve all documentation of injuries and treatment
- Report accident to insurance company, but acknowledge that they do now have the same priorities and will try to lowball any payouts
- Hire an experienced attorney to complete all necessary filing and paperwork while protecting the victim’s rights
Speak with a New York Boat Accident Attorney Today
Our attorneys at Sobo & Sobo understand the complexities of local boating laws and will put work into building your case as strong as possible. When determining your eligibility for compensation, we conduct a thorough investigation of your accident to present an accurate representation of how you were injured by someone else’s negligence. Should the other party offer a settlement, we can help determine whether it is a fair offer, negotiating for you if it is not. We are not afraid to take your case to trial if that is what’s necessary to achieve what you’re entitled to.
We have over 50 years of experience serving clients New York City and the Hudson Valley. Contact us online today for a free consultation or call 855-468-7626. We won’t accept less than what we believe you deserve.