Around 2 a.m. of July 11 this year, a boat traveling northbound on Lake Michigan hit a jetty and subsequently capsized. A massive search and rescue operation involving dive teams, boats and helicopters ensued. Due to the impact, a 28-year-old woman was thrown out of the boat. She was then found approximately 400 meters away from the accident site.
Two other adults – a male and a female – were found in the water within the boat’s vicinity. The ejected woman was pronounced dead at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. The other woman was in critical condition, while the man refused treatment at an area hospital.
Being surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes and hundreds of inland waterways, the state of Michigan attracts hundreds of people every year for boating adventures. People flock here for pleasure trips, with recreational boating being among the top outdoor activities of choice. But this enjoyable and relaxing hobby could turn tragic in just one swift and miscalculated move, among others.
Recreational Boating Accident Risk Factors
According to the United States Coast Guard, hundreds of lives are lost and thousands get injured every year because of preventable recreational boating accidents on U.S. waterways. The months of July and August are known as the state’s boating season, although boating accidents happen all year round. In 2017, there were 116 recorded boating accidents in Michigan, 65 of which resulted in injury and 20 resulted in death. The statistics continue to rise annually.
Below are the most common risk factors for boating accidents, according to Coast Guard reports:
- Improper lookout – the boat operator may get distracted and fail to watch out for threats or hazards, often resulting in a crash.
- Excessive speed – the operator is overspeeding, especially at night or when it’s dark and difficult to see ahead. Overspeeding reduces the chance to react to dangers. It usually results in a collision with other boats, watercraft vessels, or objects like docks, sandbars, or in the case above, a jetty.
- Operator inexperience – reported by USCG as the third most prevalent cause of boating accidents. The lack of experience and understanding of the basics of boating and navigation rules as well as situation control can put everyone in the boat in jeopardy.
- Impaired operation – the boat operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It slows reflexes and clouds judgement and is usually the primary factor for the operator to commit a human error that can result in crashes, serious injury, and death.
- Equipment failure – the operator failed to conduct proper maintenance and routine boat check-ups, which is necessary for safe operation. According to USCG, most mechanical failures stem from electrical troubles and defective batteries.
- Weather – ignoring the weather condition, not keeping up with weather updates, or insisting to leave the port in questionable weather puts the operator and his passengers in danger.
- Hitting a wave or wakes – the force of a large wake from another vessel may overload the boat with water and cause it to sink or capsize.
- Boat sinking due to holes – there are different causes for the boat to sink, but most often, it is because of holes that made intentionally. Some boat operators drill a hole for the through-hull fitting in the boat. An ill-fitting or cracked through-hull may fill the bilge with water, and it is a safety risk.
- Lack of basic safety equipment – the boat does not have an adequate life vest for everyone and does not have a fire extinguisher.
What to Look for in a Boat Accident Situation
If you got involved in a boating accident, you must get the operator’s name, address, insurance information, and vessel identification. You must also note down the names and contact information of other passengers and witnesses; they can provide testimony and facilitate the filing of an injury claim.
If possible, document all evidence that is significant to the scene. Take pictures of injuries, both yours and the passengers’, the boat damages, and the surroundings. Even small things like empty beer bottles can be noteworthy. Take as many photos in as many angles as possible.
In an accident, seeking medical attention is the primary concern. After this, you should contact a personal injury right away, especially if the accident is due to the negligence of the operator or another boater such as in this following example:
We Can Help You Take Legal Action for Boat Accidents
If you or somebody you care about has been injured in a boating accident, it’s best to consult a personal injury attorney to help you fight for your legal rights to a compensation claim. This claim could cover your medical costs, compensate for your lost wages, pain and suffering, and even pay damages for the wrongful death.
Let our experienced and committed lawyers at The Clark Law Office be your partner in protecting your rights to personal injury compensation. Contact us, and we can schedule a consultation, assess your case, and discuss your legal rights and options.