According to the United States Coast Guard, boating accidents claim in excess of 500 lives per year and are responsible for thousands of additional injuries. As one would expect, the summer months across the country see the highest rates of boating related accidents. Given Missourians love of the water, coupled with Missouri’s 69 major lakes and numerous rivers, our state sees more than its share of preventable boating tragedy.
Primary Causes of Boating Accidents in Missouri
The causes of boating accidents vary greatly. Some of the most common causes of boating accidents are:
- Alcohol Use
- Drug Use
- Excessive Speed
- Failure to Ventilate
- Improper Lookout
- Improper Navigation Lighting
- Operator Inattention
- Sharp Turns
- Starting in Gear
- Improper Anchoring and Loading
- Machinery/Equipment Failure
- Congested Waters
- Ignition of Fuel Vapor
- Striking Foreign Objects
Boating tragedies take many different forms. For example, a young man was recently killed in a Missouri boating accident at the Lake of the Ozark’s after his boat was stopped by water patrol for suspicion of drinking and driving. The water patrol officers handcuffed the young mans hands behind his back and allowed him to fall into the water while attempting to transfer him from one boat to another. The helpless young man drowned. (It needs to be noted that in cases like this, regardless of the reason this young man was pulled over or what he did, the water patrol officers had a duty to ensure his safety after they handcuffed his hands behind his back and took away his means of survival in the water. This extremely negligent act by the water patrol is unacceptable.)
Boating is also a pastime that is typically not practiced as much as the art of driving a car or truck. All too often accidents are the result of overconfidence and inexpierence. Groups of friends meeting for a weekend trip to the lake jump on their boat without slowing down to consider the necessary safety rules. The owner/captain of the ship is often the person responsible for the immediate enforcement of these safety rules. The owner of a boat should not even be driving the boat unless the occupants are properly secured.
NOTE: The United States Coast Guard states that 88% of boating accident drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Active Missouri Waterways
The State of Missouri is home to numerous lakes and waterways. The 54,000 acre Lake of the Ozark’s is one the largest man made lakes in the United States and is visited by over 5 million people every year. The large number of visitors and heavy summer traffic result in numerous boating injuries and deaths. Other heavily trafficked waterways in Missouri include:
- Table Rock Lake
- Meramec River
- Pomme De Terre Lake
- Gasconade River
- Salt River
- Stockton Lake
- Wappapello Lake
- Truman Lake
- Osage River
Countless private estates across Missouri also contain smaller bodies of water where boats and jet skis are used.
Missouri State Water Patrol Division
The Water Patrol Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol is the entity responsible for the safety of our waterways. The Water Patrol is charged with keeping Missouri’s waterways safe through educational programs, law enforcement, watercraft registration, licensing and inspection. The Missouri State Highway Patrol publishes Missouri boating accident reports to the public. The Missouri State Highway Patrol also encourages all boaters to become familiar with the Official Missouri Boater Safety handbook prior to operating a watercraft.
Boating Safety and Accident Prevention
Put simply, most boating accidents do not occur due to freak storms or rouge waves, and are therefore preventable. Some common sense can go a long way when it comes to the operation of any watercraft. Most importantly, operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol and drugs is never acceptable. It is also extremely important to calm down and not allow excitement of a lake getaway overpower your sense of caution and safety. Also remember to:
- Wear a life jacket
- Only ride with an experienced driver
- Do not allow passengers on the bow or stern when operating
- Never go out in bad weather
- Have a radio to call for help
- Ensure your boat is properly maintained
Boating Accident Lawsuits and Injury Claims
Watercraft accident victims and the families of those wrongfully killed in boating crashes face a similar journey of those hurt and killed in auto accidents. The owner/driver of the boat will likely have a liability insurance policy to provide compensation for the injuries sustained by the victims. However, like any insurance company whose goal is to pay out as little as possible, you will be forced to fight for the full reimbursement of your injuries.
Boating injuries have the potential to completely disrupt the normal routine of the victim. The nature of boating accidents carries added dangers over that of a car crash, as a simple bump to the head can result in a drowning death. Regardless, boating injury victims are entitled to compensation for their past and future medical expenses, lost wages, suffering, inconvenience, and all other damages you sustained as a result of the crash. If a loved one dies as a result of the negligent operation of boat or watercraft, the families of those left behind are entitled to reimbursement for their loss and the future wages of the deceased.
Boating accident claims require an immediate investigation to ensure the preservation of all available evidence. An attorney for boating accidents will perform an extensive investigation, some of which will include:
- Gathering all liability evidence of the crash
- Speaking to witnesses
- Obtaining photos and digitially recreating the crash
- Inspecting the boat before it is salvaged or destroyed
- Speaking to experts
- Researching the history of the vessel and other similar crashes
- Reviewing state laws relevant to the crash
Boating injury lawyer Christopher Dixon has earned entry as a Lifetime Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association, and named a Super Lawyer Rising Star. Call today to speak to Chris about your case.