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Boating Accidents

With the abundance of lakes in Michigan and the significant rise in the number of personal watercraft, boating accidents are all too frequent. In 2020, Michigan recorded 181 boating accidents including 33 fatalities, 20 drownings and over $2,000,000 in property damage. Sadly, of the 33 fatalities, only 21% were wearing life jackets. The United States Coast Guard's 2020 Boating Safety Statistics Report found that from 2019 to 2020, the total number of boating accidents in the United States increased over 26 %. These increases are believed to be fueled by the pandemic where only outdoor activities were deemed safe for many months. With increased activity however, the risk of death, injuries and accidents also increased.


  • 75% of all fatal boating accidents involved drowning (86% were not wearing personal flotation devices)
  • Alcohol was involved in 18% of boating fatalities and listed as the leading factor.
  • 77% of all boating fatalities occurred on watercraft where the operator had not received boating safety instruction
  • The highest percentage of deaths occurred in the following vessels:
    • Open Motorboats 46%
    • Kayaks 15%
    • Pontoons 9%

The most common types of watercraft accidents involve:

  • Collisions with other watercraft
  • Collisions with a fixed objects such as docks
  • Flooding/Swamping
  • Grounding
  • Skier Accidents

The most common factors contributing to watercraft accidents are:

  • Alcohol use
  • Operator inattention
  • Careless / reckless operation
  • Operator inexperience
  • Excessive speed
  • Hazardous waters
  • Passenger / skier behavior
  • No proper lookout
  • Machinery system failure
  • Weather

Boating accidents can be prevented if simple rules and common sense are followed:

  1. Wear a life jacket
  2. Do not drink and boat
  3. Before going out on the water, check the boat out to make sure it is in good working condition and properly equipped.
  4. Let someone not boating with you know where you are going, how long you will be gone and give them phone numbers for local emergency centers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
  5. Pay attention to the water and be on the lookout for swimmers, other boats and objects in the water.
  6. Make sure you have a working cell phone or marine radio.

Just like driving a car, it is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations of boating before you go out on the water. Click here for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Handbook of Boating Laws.

Just like car and truck accidents, boating crashes and/or incidents can cause serious injury or death and can have devastating effects on an individual and his or her family. It is important then to partner with an attorney that will take the time to get to know you, prepare your case and maximize recovery so that you are compensated fairly.

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For a thorough case review for personal injury and accidents in the State of Michigan, click here or simply call 248-865-7740 to schedule a consultation. Remember, no payment is expected up front and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

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