Indianapolis Personal Injury Lawyer

By William Bill Hurst

It’s summertime and more people are boating, but often accidents happen with tragic results.  On Sunday, July 22, 2012, at Patoka Reservoir in Southern Indiana, 32 year old Leslie Ash was operating a jet ski in rough waters when a wave knocked her and her 14 year-old minor passenger off the watercraft. Both people were transported to the hospital with severe injuries.

In 2011, over a thousand boat on boat collisions were reported in the United States which resulted in 669 injuries and 40 deaths.  In addition, there were a total of 2758 boating related accidents reported resulting in 406 deaths and 1821 injuries!  For more statistics on boating accidents and injuries see here.

There are a number of basic rules that you need to know prior to enjoying a day of sunshine on your boat. First, make sure that you are familiar with the boating laws in your state. Indiana Boating Laws can be found at this site. For example, Indiana requires that you register your boat with the State prior to using it and that you have enough life jackets on the boat for all persons on the boat. Secondly, it is always a good idea to take a boating safety course and luckily many are offered online.  See course offerings. Finally, have fun and be cautious. Remember, driving a boat is not like a driving a car. One must be extra cautious and attentive of others on the water. For more information on safely driving a boat see here.

In the 1960s as part of The Federal Boating Act of 1958, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) began publishing statistical data from recreational boating accidents, injuries and fatalities. This information has been used to shape the USCG’s boating safety program.  Fatality rates for recreational boating accidents in recent years have declined, indicating that many lives have been saved by the USCG’s efforts since 1960.  Coast Guard statistics demonstrate that smaller boats account for the majority of fatalities (drowning accounts for the majority of all fatalities particularly on smaller boats).  Most drownings are sudden and expected events, typically resulting from capsizing or falls overboard and provide little time to “don” a life jacket.

Life jackets could prevent many if not most of the drowning and as a result of legal requirements in recent years the life jacket wearing rates have increased.  Despite the new laws for adults in open motor boats the overall wear rate was only 5.2%.  However, statistics in 2008 shows that life jackets were worn by only 9% of those who drowned in boating accidents and similar percentages have been reported in Australia and Canada.

Indianapolis Personal Injury LawyerThe USCG data reveals that alcohol is the primary contributing factor for most accidents.  Other causes involve inattention, improper lookout, speed, careless and reckless behavior, passenger or skier behaviors.   According to USCG 58% of all fatal boating accidents occurred in open motor boats while canoes and kayaks were involved in 19%.  Cabin motor boats which are much safer are involved in about 10% of all fatal accidents.  Personal watercraft like Jet Skis were involved in 7% of fatal accidents but a “whopping” 30% of all accidents that caused injuries.  Finally, only 7% of fatal accidents occurred in a rowboat.  Roughly there are 5,000 boating accidents counted by the U.S. Coast Guard each year.  These accidents cause around 750 deaths, 3,500 injuries and around $36,000,000 in damages to property.

Indiana had a total of 538 boating accidents from 1999 to 2003.  While our recreational boating accident statistics are not too current, it is noted that in 2009 the latest USCG statistics showed a 72% increase in recreational boating accidents in Indiana in 2008 as compared with 2007.  The State recorded a total of 255 accidents in 2008 resulting in 8 deaths.  That’s up from 32 boating accidents and 7 fatalities in 2007.  The Coast Guard cites operator inexperience or skier behaviors as the primary causes of these Indiana boating accidents.  Of all of the accidents, 2/3 of the fatalities drowned and of those 90% were not wearing a life jacket; see statistics here.

So given this summertime problem, what can be done to minimize the possibility of a boating accident?  The typical boating accident with serious injuries or death don’t have anything to do with bad weather or hazardous water conditions.  They are typically in smaller open boats on inland waters during daylight hours.  During these ideal conditions passengers fall overboard and many boats capsize, causing over half the boating fatalities.  To help prevent these problems; i.e., capsizing, swamping or falling overboard there are suggested guidelines:

  • Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing life jackets when a boat is underway;
  • Attach an ignition safety lanyard to your wrist, clothes or life jacket;
  • Don’t allow anyone to sit on the back of boat seats, motor cover or any other area not designated for seating;
  • Don’t overload your boat and balance the load;
  • Keep your center of gravity low by not allowing people to stand up;
  • In a small boat don’t allow anyone to lean on a shoulder beyond the gunwale;
  • Slow when turning;
  • Don’t risk boating in rough water conditions or bad weather;
  • When anchoring secure the anchor line to the bow, never use the stern

For small boat owners, you should be especially careful to avoid falling overboard by keeping centered in the boat with your center of gravity low.  Always keep your shoulders between the gunwales.  If possible don’t move around in the boat, but if you do maintain three points of contact.  Evenly distribute the balance of the weight of other persons and gear in the boat, and as previously stated, keeping most of the weight low and centered.  For more tips on how to prevent boating accident click here.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a boating accident on the Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Illinois waterways Contact and experienced personal injury attorney for assistance today and see our website, or in spanish visit  We would be glad to give you a free evaluation if you call 1-800-636-0808.  If we take your case we only charge a fee if you recover.

Indianapolis Personal Injury Lawyer