Boating season is upon us and as happens most years we’ll see an uptick in accident/injury inquiries to our Law Offices, particularly those in Wilmington, Morehead City, Jacksonville, and even New Bern.

According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 4,168 boating accidents reported in the United States in 2019, resulting in 2,559 injuries and 613 fatalities. While not all of these accidents involved injuries, it is clear that boating accidents can have serious consequences. It’s important to take steps to stay safe on the water, including wearing a life jacket, following safe boating practices, and avoiding alcohol. Taken from the same source, here are the most common attributed causes of boating accidents:

  • Inexperienced boat operator.
  • Operator inattention / distractions.
  • Improper observation of hazards and risk assessment
  • Excessive speed.
  • Alcohol impairment.
  • Mechanical failure.
  • Bad weather conditions and or hazardous waters.
  • Violation of navigation rules.
  • Wave or wake force.


Here are some ways to ensure your boating experience is a safe one this summer.

  1. Wear a life jacket: One of the most important things you can do to stay safe while boating is to wear a life jacket. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, unexpected accidents can happen on the water, and a life jacket can help keep you afloat and save your life.
  2. Know the rules of the water: Just like driving a car, boating has its own set of rules and regulations. Make sure you know and follow the rules of the water, including speed limits, right-of-way rules, and safe boating practices.
  3. Check the weather: Before heading out on the water, check the weather forecast. Avoid boating in inclement weather, and be aware of changing weather conditions while on the water. High winds, lightning, and sudden storms can make boating dangerous.
  4. Have proper safety equipment: Make sure your boat is equipped with all the necessary safety equipment, including life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers, and a first-aid kit. It’s also a good idea to have a GPS or navigation system, in case you get lost or stranded.
  5. Avoid alcohol: Boating and alcohol do not mix. Not only is it illegal to operate a boat while under the influence, but alcohol can impair your judgment and reaction time, making it more difficult to stay safe on the water.
  6. Take a boating safety course: If you’re new to boating or want to brush up on your skills, consider taking a boating safety course. These courses cover topics such as navigation, boat handling, and emergency procedures, and can help you become a safer and more confident boater.
  7. Stay alert: When boating, it’s important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for other boats, obstacles, and changing conditions. Avoid distractions, such as texting or using your phone, and always maintain a safe speed.


New Bern NC Boating accidents


What Happens When It Goes Wrong?

Accidents happen in many ways but capsizing is one of the most frightening situations a boater can encounter. If you find yourself in a small boat that has capsized, it’s important to know what to do to stay safe. Here are some steps to follow if your small boat capsizes:

  1. Stay calm: The first and most important thing to do if your boat capsizes is to stay calm. Panic can make the situation worse, and you need to be able to think clearly to stay safe.
  2. Stay with the boat: If possible, stay with the boat. A capsized boat can provide some flotation and shelter from the elements, and it will make it easier for rescuers to find you. Try to climb onto the hull or stay near it if it is still afloat.
  3. Check for injuries: Check yourself and others on board for injuries. If someone is injured, prioritize getting them medical attention.
  4. Stay warm: If the water is cold, it’s important to stay warm to avoid hypothermia. If you have a life jacket or other flotation device, use it to help you stay afloat and conserve energy.
  5. Get back in the boat: If the boat is still afloat, try to get back in. If it’s not possible, try to climb on top of it to stay out of the water.
  6. Signal for help: Use any available signaling devices to help rescuers find you, such as flares, a whistle, or a mirror. Stay visible and make noise to attract attention.

Another common occurrence on coastal and inland waters is collisions with another boat. Here are some steps to follow if you find yourself in an accident with another boat:

  1. Check for injuries: The first and most important thing to do is to check yourself and others on board for injuries. If anyone is injured, call for medical boating in NCattention immediately.
  2. Exchange information: If possible, exchange information with the owner/operator of the other boat. This should include the name of the boat, the name of the operator, contact information, and insurance information.
  3. Document the incident: Take pictures of the damage to both boats and document any injuries sustained by yourself or others on board. This will be important if you need to file an insurance claim or take legal action.
  4. Contact the authorities: If the collision caused significant damage or injuries, you should contact the Coast Guard or other authorities. They will investigate the incident and determine if any further action needs to be taken.
  5. Report the incident to insurers: You should report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They will provide guidance on how to proceed and help you file a claim.

In some cases, you’ll need help in the form of experienced legal representation. If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, and you believe it wasn’t your fault, you may be able to recover damages from the other party. Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys can help. One of the first steps is to schedule a free consultation with an attorney who will go over the details of the accident and help you map a path forward to a claim. Since North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, the lawyer will want to asses culpability to ensure that you didn’t contribute in some way to the accident.

Call our offices today – 1-800-ACCIDENT –  we’re here 24/7 to take your call.

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