Only about one in ten Wisconsin residents owns a registered boat. Yet, a number of family, friends and neighbors may occupy the watercraft at any given time. Other boats share the same bodies of water, and may carry additional occupants. When human error, negligence, substances, mechanical defects, or other external factors are considered; events can change from fun to tragic quickly. Thankfully, boating incidents on our rivers and lakes have been fairly rare. But because the sport involves people and various scenarios; anything could happen. For these reasons, you could witness or be involved in a boating incident, or a boat accident, at any given time. First and foremost, we want you to be informed.
Difference between Incident and Accident
The terms “incident” and “accident” are often used interchangeably. All accidents are incidents but all incidents are not accidents. A boating incident is more common than an accident and is more likely to involve just one watercraft. Whereas a boating accident may involve more boats, and is more likely to involve serious injuries or death. When it comes to personal injury or liability lawsuits, you’re most likely referring to an accident. However, both are unplanned and both can involve damage to property or lead to injuries. Because folks use the terms interchangeably, it’s good to be an incident may be referred to as an accident.
How Boating Compares
Any recreational sport that involves a motor and potential for high speed has a higher risk of serious injuries. Overall, state and federal data indicates that boating is a safer choice than other outdoor water sports. (For example, snowmobiles and ATV’s have higher rates of incidents in Wisconsin.) Other recreational vehicles also have a higher number of accidents, injuries and fatalities. Especially when it comes to fatalities, each loss of life is tragic and often avoidable; regardless of the machine.
According to 2018 reports from Wisconsin Recreational Vehicle Safety Education and Enforcement:
• 380 recreational vehicle incidents reported or investigated
• 67 fatalities and 325 people were injured from those incidents
• of those fatalities; 21 were boating fatalities
When it comes to a boat incident; mechanical failure, operator error, inattention, speed and other reckless behaviors are top contributing factors. Surprisingly, alcohol or drugs, (boating under the influence), is less of a contributing factor in WI than what is reported at a Federal level. Regardless of the reason, there are laws to consider and certain steps that may need to be taken after a boating incident. Start by determining if your boating incident needs to be reported. Boating Crash Incident Reports.
Part of Wisconsin’s boat incident law states that the boat owner must submit an incident report if there is:
• loss of life
• injury or injuries requiring more than basic first aid
• property damage which exceeds $2,000
• a complete loss of vessel
If you are an innocent victim seriously injured during a boating accident which was caused by someone else, you may be eligible for compensation. A boat owner or operator who suffers injuries due to equipment failure or mechanical defects may also be eligible for compensation. Injuries could be anything from burns to dismemberment, to head injury or death. A lawsuit may be attributed to the manufacturer of the watercraft as much as it can be attributed to human negligence. According to research, the leading contributing factor in boat fatalities is largely unknown. When injuries or wrongful death are the result of negligence or defective manufacturing, the challenge will be to prove who is at fault and liable. Additionally, depending upon the type of boat or product liability, there may or may not be insurance companies to deal with.
Consult An Injury Attorney
When there are questions pertaining to the opportunity to obtain monetary compensation, the next step is to consult with an injury attorney. Action Law Offices offers a free case evaluation. During the consultation, discuss the event with an attorney and ask any questions that you may have. The experienced injury attorneys will know fairly quickly if you may be eligible for monetary compensation.
Data Sources: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin Recreational Vehicle Safety Education and Enforcement
DISCLAIMER: Blogs and articles cover very basic accident and injury topics for education and awareness such as statistics, Wisconsin Laws, injury areas, compensation and injury victim rights. Information not intended for legal advice; consult with an attorney directly.