Boating Accidents

The lawyers at Ford & Murphy, P.C. live and work in your community. We know very well that recreational boating is alive and well during the spring, summer and fall in Michigan. However, we have also seen tragedy that can occur from reckless and negligent boat owners that turn a blind eye to safety. Our Michigan boating accident lawyers understand that boating is a national past time among many Americans but advise boaters to keep safe during the season. During the hot summer afternoons, we escape to the coolness of local lakes and ponds. But with so many individuals on the water, is it possible to keep safe from boating crashes?

In 2005 alone, 697 fatalities and 3451 injuries were caused by recreational boating accidents, which are accidents occurring in any type of watercraft (motor boats, sailboats, inflatables, or houseboats). A negligent boating operator who is found to have caused the death of another individual will likely face criminal charges as well as a wrongful death suit.

Types of Michigan Boating Accidents

According to the Coast Guard Recreational Boating Accident Report Database, boating accidents must be reported if:

  • Death was a result
  • Injury required medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Damage to the vessel or other property was $2000 or more; or
  • Vessel was not repairable.

Collisions with another boat or with fixed objects such as a marina dock; capsizing, and passengers falling overboard account for approximately 58 percent of all boating accident fatalities. These accidents can happen in a split second and can leave a family devastated and looking for answers to a host of questions. Contact with the propeller, water skier mishaps, explosions, and fire also contribute to the types of boating accidents that occur on our waterways and cause wrongful death claims to be filed in Michigan. Moreover, statistics show that 70 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned mostly because they were not wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket. This can affect a wrongful death claim as the defense may try to claim that failure to wear a PFD contributed to the death of the victim. Trauma is the other leading cause of death in boating accidents.

Negligence in Michigan Boating Accidents

At Ford & Murphy PC, we have seen that negligent boaters tend to be careless or reckless operators that lack a basic knowledge of boater safety rules. They will consistently violate well established rules of the waterways, use alcohol in excess or operate in a way that causes the death of innocent bystanders. Alcohol and boating do not mix and it is one of the main problems found on the Michigan waterways.

We have found that while boaters are consuming alcohol they can tend to have their feeling of intoxication increased by the motion of the boat, the sun, and other factors. When you combine this with the fact that most boaters in Michigan do not have the experience operating a boat as they do automobiles, the results can be tragic.

Michigan Boating Accident Prevention

If you are planning on operating a boat on Michigan waterways, there are some minimum ways that you can stay safe and make sure that those on your boat and other boaters remain safe as well.  These are also factors that our lawyers will look at in discovery when we investigate the background of a negligent boater that may have caused the death of our client:

  • Take a U.S. Coast Guard approved boating safety course. We look at this at the bare minimum for operating a boat safely during the summer months. Many of the classes may be available through CD or online.
  • Make sure you have studied the make and model of your boat, the maximum capacity allowed and the weight limit for safe boating
  • It is highly recommended that every passenger on the boat wear a personal flotation devices. If they refuse, then you must at least have a life jacket available on board for everyone. The Coast Guard and other safety officers can board your boat and will make sure that you are in compliance.

It is also very important to have a PFD that can be thrown to someone who goes overboard. Fire extinguishers are a must as there are many times on a boat where engine fires can occur. Make sure that an extinguisher is in service and in range of compliance. We also recommend that everyone get their boat checked for safety on a regular basis. If you are the person charged with operating the boat, you need to be very detailed with loose boards on the dock, uncoiled rope, hoses that are loose and gas pumps. You should also encourage everyone to wear non-slip shoes when around the water.

If You Have a Boating Accident

You should report the accident immediately and secure the insurance information from the boat owner. Many times friends or family are actually operating the boat so be sure to get as much information as you can about the operator of the boat. We have seen cases where the operator of the boat may have other insurance or umbrella policies that can offer the family a more sizable recovery than initial thought. After you have gathered all of you information, you should contact a boating accident attorney in Michigan immediately to make sure that your rights are protected.

If you have experienced a catastrophic loss due to the negligence of a Michigan boater, contact the lawyers at Ford & Murphy PC at (269) 342-9900. 


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