Boating Accidents in Washington State

Washington State has many spectacular waterways for boating enthusiasts to enjoy. We’ve got the Puget Sound, lakes, rivers, harbors, the Pacific Ocean, and more. But with over 250,000 vessels registered in our state, boating accidents are bound to happen.

In this post, we’ll discuss boating accident statistics for Washington as well as steps to take if you’ve been involved in an accident.

How Common are Boating Accidents in Washington?

Thankfully, boating accidents aren’t a common occurrence in Washington. According to a report compiled by the Washington State Parks & Recreation Department, there were a total of 114 reported accidents in 2017 (the most recent year we could find for this report).

Some key findings about boating accident statistics in Washington include:

  • Of 114 reported accidents in 2017, there were 15 fatalities, and 50 injuries
  • A total of $1.28 million in damages resulted from these accidents
  • 59% of the accidents happened in summer months, with July seeing the most
  • Of 76 fatalities between 2013-2017, 54 (or 70%) weren’t wearing life jackets

What are the Most Common Causes for Boat Accidents?

The three most common causes of boating accidents in Washington State are:

  1. Operator inattention. Just as you would when driving a car, you need to have complete focus when operating a boat. There are many potential dangers to avoid from other recreational boats, fixed objects, and swimmers. A distracted boater can misjudge another boat’s speed or path of travel. Or simply, fail to notice another hazard.
  2. Operator inexperience. A newer boater may fail to maneuver their vessel in a safe way or recognize potential dangers in time.
  3. Alcohol and/or drug us. Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents. Not surprisingly, it’s against the law to operate a vessel while drunk.

Other causes of accidents include excessive speed, failure to keep a lookout, and inclement weather. Here’s the most important takeaway: most boating accidents are entirely preventable! Boating while sober, staying on top of education requirements, and following state and local laws will dramatically reduce your chances of causing a crash.

What Makes Boating Accidents Dangerous?

The good news is that statistically speaking, you’re far less likely to end up in a collision on a boat than in a car. Unfortunately, if you do find yourself in a boating accident, there are several factors that can make things dangerous:

  • There’s a possibility of drowning. Wearing a life jacket, which is the law, will greatly reduce your chances of this happening.
  • Boats offer limited protections. Cars, on the other hand, come equipped with seatbelts and airbags to help protect you in a case of a crash.
  • Emergency response may be slower. It could take first responders longer to arrive on the scene to provide critical care.

What Should You Do if You’ve Been in a Boating Accident?

There are a few key steps you should take after a boating accident.

  • Assess all occupants to ensure no one has gone overboard or needs medical attention.
  • Call 911 for any life-threatening emergencies and await further instructions.
  • Exchange information with the other boater involved (if applicable).
  • Obtain witness information (if there are witnesses).
  • Involve an injury attorney if you were injured in the crash due to someone else’s carelessness. (We’ll touch more on this, later.)

Finally, if you’re the boat operator, under Washington State law, you must report the accident if there were any fatalities, serious injuries, disappearances that indicate serious injury or death, or damages over $2,000. You can call the Washington State Boating Program at 360.902.8555 if you have any questions.

Who’s Liable for a Boating Accident?

Depending on the circumstances, several different parties could be held responsible for a boating accident, either singularly or jointly. Some of the crucial questions to ask include: who owns the boat? Who was operating the boat? And how were the passengers behaving on the boat?

A boat accident attorney would help determine if a claim could be made against:

  • Boat’s owner
  • Boat’s operator
  • Another passenger
  • Maintenance worker
  • Boating company
  • State department
  • Or… someone else

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the party or parties who were negligent to keep everyone safe aboard the boat. For instance, driving a boat drunk is negligent. Or a manufacturer could be responsible if they knew their boats had a design defect but kept quiet and didn’t issue a timely recall.

Could a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

The only way to know for certain if a personal injury lawyer can help is to call one! Our team understands the complexities involved in a maritime accident. If we believe someone else’s careless behavior caused your injury, we can file a claim on your behalf and pursue compensation.

Our team works on a contingency basis, which means you only pay us a fee if we’re able to win your case. Please, reach out today to see if we can help.

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