One of the most popular activities during the summertime, especially here in the Charlotte area, is boating. Whether you and your family like to fish or just enjoy being out on the water, boating is a really fun and accessible activity for many people.
However, your day out on the water can turn to tragedy if someone falls overboard. Maritime workers and recreational boaters alike are familiar with how easily an overboard accident can happen. Further, overboard accidents are often fatal.
What is an overboard accident?
An overboard accident is a boating accident where one or several people fall overboard the vessel. A person can fall overboard the ship when it is in motion or even when it is at rest. Regardless of whether the boat is moving or not, an overboard accident can end in a fatal drowning. The second that a person falls overboard, their life is in the balance.
What makes overboard accidents so dangerous?
A person who falls overboard has a greater chance of suffering from additional danger once they fall. The person is at risk of drowning, suffering from hypothermia, being attacked by predatory animals, , or essentially becoming a missing person. Depending on the direction in which the boat is traveling, a person can also suffer injuries from the boat itself, like from the propeller. Any of these accidents can result in catastrophic or fatal injuries.
What are some common causes of overboard accidents?
Even though a variety of factors can lead to an overboard accident, negligence is also often the cause. Some of these actions include:
- Failing to provide the proper safety gear. Boaters are required to carry equipment like life jackets aboard their vessels. Life jackets must be the right size and type to be effective.
- Failing to check the weather conditions. An overboard accident can be prevented if boaters avoid traveling in dangerous conditions. Staying alert for weather updates can help keep all boaters and passengers safe.
- Inadequate training. It takes a specific amount of training to safely operate a boat and keep all of the passengers safe. Boaters who lack the appropriate training can make a delicate situation like an overboard accident worse with inexperience.
- Alcohol use. Some boaters consume alcohol before, and even during, boating. Just like car and truck drivers should never operate vehicles while intoxicated, it is illegal to operate a vessel while under the influence.
- Slow reaction times. Every second counts when a person falls overboard. Failing to react quickly to an accident can result in a fatality, especially when other boaters do not follow the correct protocols in case a person falls overboard.
- Crashing into another object. Boater inexperience can also lead to a more serious accident. The inexperienced operator can collide into another boat or object and the impact from the crash can cause one or several boaters to fall overboard.
- Hitting a wave. When a boat hits a wave, the impact can be strong enough to knock other passengers overboard. Federal and state laws require boat operators to remain on the lookout for potential hazards that can affect the boat. However, there are other factors that can determine whether a boat operator will be liable for an overboard accident caused by a wave.
- Hitting a submerged object like a rock or land. If a boat operator does not practice precaution while out on the water and hits a submerged object, they may be held liable for a passenger’s injuries.
How often do overboard accidents happen?
When it comes to commercial fishermen fatalities nationwide, overboard accidents are considered the second leading cause of death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 210 fatal overboard accidents occurred between 2000 and 2014 in the United States.
In 2020, the United States Coast Guard reported that 5,265 recreational boating accidents nationwide. The fatality rate totaled to 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Who can be held liable for an overboard accident in Charlotte?
When you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an overboard accident, you have the right to hold the negligent party liable. One of the negligent parties may be the boat operator. Depending on the nature of your accident, the boat operator’s actions can be deemed negligent.
How can boaters avoid overboard accidents?
Some of the actions that boaters can take to avoid overboard accidents include:
- Using the Buddy system. Do not leave any boater or passenger alone and unattended.
- Being prepared. Boaters should check the condition of the boat and ensure that all safety equipment is present.
- Keeping all passengers in a line of sight. If someone falls overboard, always maintain visual contact until help arrives.
- Sounding the alarm. Inform the Captain and other boaters about all passengers that have fallen overboard.
When you or your loved one have become seriously injured in a boating accident, you should not have to suffer alone. At Price, Petho & Associates, our trusted Charlotte boat accident lawyers are just as passionate as you are about recovering from your injuries. Our team conducts a thorough investigation into your accident to help secure the compensation that you deserve. Call us today at 704-372-2160, or submit our contact form to schedule your free consultation. We help injured clients in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.