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What You Should Know About Boating Accidents

Boat Accident InjuryThere is nothing quite as nice as heading out onto Percy Priest Lake on a warm, clear day. The gentle waves rocking the boat, the sun shining down over head, the air fresh and clean. However, as with any vehicle, we need to be cautious when operating a boat. Boats can seem secure (after all, you have a whole lake to drive around in, not just lanes and a road), but it is more complicated than that. The dangers of boating are more insidious than driving, as accidents can take people completely by surprise, and when this happens, the nice day of fun becomes a terrible day of tragedy.

To avoid such grief and pain, we’re going to go over the most common causes of boating accidents, and what kind of harm they can do.

How common are boating accidents in Tennessee?

According to statistics gathered by the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2020, Tennessee reported a total of 155 boating accidents, with 86 people injured and at least 30 people dying from these accidents. In total, there were 5,265 boating accidents in the United States, with 767 deaths. The statistics gathered by the Coast Guard also show that Tennessee has some of the highest death rates by boat accidents, showing that there are at least 10 deaths for every 100,000 registered boats. Only twelve other states in the country can claim as high a fatality rate.

How do we as a landlocked state have so many boating accidents, injuries, and deaths? The statistics show that more boating accidents happen on lakes, ponds, reservoirs, dams, and gravel pits than in any other body of water, including the ocean; and more of these accidents happen on calm waters than choppy, though both are quite high. Most accidents happen under bright sunny skies and in warm waters. This probably has to do with the fact that sunny days and calm waters are what call to boaters in the first place.

What are the leading causes of boat accidents?

Nobody should stop boating because of the risk of ending up in a boating accident, much the same as nobody’s going to stop driving because of the risks of car accidents. However, it is important to take the necessary precautions, and follow the boating laws in place so that we can avoid a tragic accident when we’re supposed to be having fun with our friends.  Some common causes of boat accidents include:

  • Operator inexperience: No one should be operating a boat without the proper education and license. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency states that “any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989 must have in their possession a TWRA-issued card showing proof of successful completion of the TWRA administered boating safety exam if operating alone.”
  • Operator inattention: This is not unlike distracted driving in cars. If you are operating your boat, you need to be always in control of the vessel; and when you stop your boat, make sure that you follow proper procedure.
  • Excessive speed: The statistics show that speeding is one of the top causes of boating accidents, with 486 accidents occurring in 2020 due to excessive speed. Slowing down as you drive your boat closer to land is not only a good idea, but part of the law, and unless otherwise marked, “all vessels operating within 300 feet of a commercial boat dock must do so at a slow wake speed regardless of whether or not the area is marked by buoys.”
  • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs: Just as with cars, it is illegal to operate a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While it might sound like a fun time, alcohol and drugs can affect your motor skills, judgment, and reaction times. “Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths.”
  • Water skier mishap: Water skiing within 20 feet of a moving watercraft can prove to be fatal. It is important that you follow the safety procedures when it comes to water skiing, such as being sober, taking breaks, and wearing the correct safety gear.
  • Hazardous waters: This is applicable especially for us Nashvillians. Percy Priest Lake can be hazardous, depending on how much rain fell that year. If there is a drought, the lake’s elevation may be down by a few or several feet, changing the topography and geography of the lake significantly. “Percy Priest Lake has a rock bottom,” said Todd Yann with the Army Corps of Engineers. “And if you don’t know your way around the lake, you want to stay in the channels where the water is deeper.”
  • Equipment failure: You should make sure that your boat is functioning correctly before taking it out on the water. The statistics from the Coast Guard show that boats that were manufactured and built before 2007 were more than three times as likely to be involved in an accident than any other year before 2020. If you have an older vessel, it is critical that you get your boat and its engine regularly inspected by trained professionals or technicians.
  • Weather conditions: The day may look bright and sunny when you head out on the water, but weather can change in an instant, and a thunderstorm can prove to be difficult to maneuver your boat in, especially with high winds and choppy waters.

Always make sure there are life jackets and life preservers on board your vessel. Drowning is the number one cause of death in boat accidents, per the U.S. Coast Guard, and in 2020, 534 people across the country died of drowning. Of those 534 people, only 74 were wearing life jackets; that means in 450 of those deaths, people were not wearing life jackets, underscoring just how important it is that you wear one.

How can a Nashville boat accident lawyer help?

If you have been involved in a boating accident that was caused by another’s negligence, or due to a boat equipment malfunction, the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can help you ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries. In filing a negligence lawsuit, you could receive compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and any other losses. If your boat is to blame, you can file a product liability claim. We will investigate the accident and uncover evidence to support our claim that the defective part of the boat was responsible for the accident.

Call our experienced and dedicated Nashville boating accident attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm at 615-425-2500 or you can fill out our contact form. We can set up a free consultation with you at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville.