Summer here in Ohio is all about getting outside and enjoying the delightfully warm and sunny weather. Given our proximity to Lake Erie, inland lakes, rivers, reservoirs and other waterways, many Ohioans enjoy summertime in boats and on personal watercrafts (also commonly referred to as the trademarked name, Jet Skis).
Boating and personal watercrafting can be fun activities for the whole family. Yet they should not be taken lightly—boating and personal watercrafting are dangerous activities, and all too often, accidents occur that can cause serious injuries—even death.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft, there were 1,311 boating accidents statewide in 2014, resulting in 43 injuries. Of those, 22 people died as a result of the accident.
The most common types of boat accidents include:
- Flooding, capsizing or sinking of a boat as a result of a collision with another boat or object in the water
- Slipping or falling due to a wet surface. This can also include falling overboard
- The sinking or tipping of a boat
- Fire, explosion, or related accidents while on a boat
- Insufficient safety equipment, including life jackets and poorly maintained equipment
Boating accidents are usually caused by one of three factors: an inexperienced boater, an intoxicated operator or a boat malfunction. In particular, alcohol use, combined with frequent distractions on the water, can be an accident waiting to happen for boats and personal watercraft alike. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 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 21% of deaths. Moreover, it is estimated that boat operators with a blood alcohol content of .10 or higher are 10 times more likely to be injured or killed in a boating accident than sober operators.
Cases in which operator negligence is responsible for a boating or personal watercraft accident often involve one of the following transgressions:
- Boating in restricted areas
- Faulty safety equipment
- Overcrowding and overloading of vessels
- Contact with propellers
- Ignorance of navigational rules
- Impacting a fixed object, such as a navigational aid, pier or bridge
- Operating at unsafe speeds, including hitting a large wave or wake at an unsafe speed or angle
- Failing to keep a lookout while a guest is skiing or tubing
While boating and personal watercraft accidents may be caused by negligence, they may also be the result of product failure.
Whatever the cause, boating and personal watercraft accidents can result in wrongful death or serious injuries that include serious burns, broken bones, traumatic brain injury, neck, back, and spinal cord injuries, and even amputation.
Ohio boating laws are enforceable on all waters of the state, including private waterways. Victims of boating or personal watercraft accidents – whether it’s from the result of operator negligence or product failure – may be entitled to compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with the accident.
Therefore, after any boating accident, it is very important to contact a boating accident attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. An experienced boating accident attorney can bring claims against any necessary parties, including, if alcohol is involved, the bar, restaurant or liquor store that provided alcohol to the intoxicated boater. Specifically, Ohio Revised Code section 4399.18 allows a person who has been injured by an intoxicated individual to seek damages from an alcohol vendor if:
- the injuries occurred on the vendor’s property and were caused by the vendor’s negligence, or
- the injuries occurred off the vendor’s property, and the vendor “knowingly sold” alcohol to a “noticeably intoxicated” person or to a person under age 21.
Important note: Under certain circumstances, personal watercraft can be added to your own auto or homeowners’ policies and may be covered by uninsured motorist laws. This means you may be able to make a recovery for injuries caused by the negligence of an operator of personal watercraft, even if that operator is uninsured. Contact an experienced NRS personal injury attorney to review your policies of insurance in the event of an injury caused by an operator of a boat or personal watercraft.
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If you, a family member or a friend has been injured in a boating or personal watercraft accident, your rights are at stake—you need to seek immediate legal advice. At Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A., our boating and personal watercraft accident attorneys may be able to help you pursue compensation for the pain and suffering that you have been forced to endure. The experienced boating and personal watercraft accident injury lawyers of NRS have handled a variety of boating and personal watercraft injury cases over many years; we fight side by side with injured victims to make sure they and they families receive compensation for negligence that caused them to be hurt. We will aggressively pursue your case and work to help you obtain the medical care and compensation you need to rebuild your life.
In the event you or a loved one sustain a boating injury, contact the Ohio boating and personal watercraft injury attorneys at NRS Injury Law by filling out our No-Risk Consultation form, or call (855) GOT-HURT and speak with one of our trained staff members.
Ohio Division of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft: Ohio Boating Laws
Ohio Division of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft: Ohio Boat Operators Guide