With its beautiful beaches and bays, the San Francisco Bay Area is graced with countless opportunities for boating, sailing, water skiing, kayaking, jet-skiing and a host of other water sports. Unfortunately, these activities aren’t without risk. In 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) counted 4,515 recreational boating accidents that involved 651 deaths and 3,000 injuries nationwide. For the same year, California saw 473 accidents, 53 fatalities, and 247 reported injuries.
Causes of California Boating Accidents
The waterways in the San Francisco Bay Area can be overcrowded with sailboats, motorboats, jet-skiers and others all sharing the same space. All it takes is one inexperienced operator or one piece of equipment malfunction to cause a catastrophic collision or other accident. The most common reasons for boating accidents include:
- Inexperienced operator
- Improper lookout
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol/drug use
- Force of wake/wave
- Hazardous water conditions
- Failure to provide enough life jackets
- Overcrowded boats
- Equipment failure
Boating Accident Injuries
Drowning is the most common injury in a boating or watercraft accident, comprising 71% of all boating fatalities in 2012. However, boating accident victims can suffer a range of other serious, life-changing injuries. These can include cardiac arrest, hypothermia, trauma, head and spinal injuries, broken bones, pneumonia and submersion injuries (including severe brain damage and physical deficits).
How to Avoid Boating Accidents
- Avoid alcohol or drug use while boating or using recreational watercraft. The USCG reports that alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents. It was named as the leading cause of death in 17% of boating-related fatalities in 2012.
- Wear a lifejacket or have one readily available. In the 651 boating-related deaths that occurred in 2012, 85% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Children should wear Coast Guard approved, child-sized life jackets that are properly fitted. In addition, children should wear life jackets whenever the craft is underway, except if they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin.
- Don’t risk boating in rough weather. Rough weather or water can make it difficult to operate or navigate a boat. Heavy winds and rains can blow watercraft off-course, cause it to capsize or flood, or damage it. In 2012, 221 boating-related accidents were related to rough weather, with 43 deaths and 103 injuries.
- Adhere to boating rules and regulations. Be sure to sail/boat with someone experienced in navigating the craft and knowledgeable of California boating regulations and safety procedures. There should be an appointed lookout on the boat to watch for hazards, and everyone should remain alert to potentially dangerous conditions inside of the craft. The navigator should always have a clear destination in mind.
How a Boating Accident Attorney Can Help You
Sometimes boating accidents are unavoidable tragic incidents: no one is at-fault. Other times, it is clear that the accident could have – and should have – been prevented. If you or someone close to was injured in a boating accident, call a local boating accident attorney to find out your rights.
An attorney knowledgeable in California boating accidents can initiate an in-depth investigation of the cause of the accident, determine who is responsible, and file a lawsuit on your behalf to receive full and fair compensation for your injuries. If your claim is successful, you may receive reimbursement of your medical expenses and related-costs, lost wages and earnings, damages for pain and suffering, and costs related to wrongful death.
The Walnut Creek boating accident attorneys at the Appel Law Firm LLP are dedicated to helping San Francisco Bay Area residents receive compensation for injuries and wrongful deaths arising from boating and watercraft accidents. Contact us for a free consultation.