Boating Accidents & Collisions

Serious injuries or death can result when boats strike people in the water, either with their propellers, sides (if they are moving fast) or their jet propulsion systems. Other boating injuries occur when boats strike each other, submerged reefs, or the shoreline.

Death or injury can also occur on boats because of a build up of carbon monoxide in the cabin area if the engine or generator exhaust gasses are not properly vented. 

Explosive fires can occur in a cabin if the engine and fuel tank are not properly vented, especially with gasoline motors.

Note: Boating collisions and mishaps occurring on the Colorado River or its lakes such as Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Lake Havasu, are subject to both state law and special federal admiralty law. Find out more on the Federal Admiralty Law below.

Major causes of boat collisions include:

  • Operator error
  • Operator intoxication
  • Operator inexperience
  • Faulty equipment 
  • Improper lookout
  • Excessive speed

Nevada & Federal Laws

Violation of a statute that contributes to an injury helps establish liability. The following are some Nevada and federal laws relevant to a Nevada boating accident or collision claims:

  • Anyone born after 1983 must have completed a boating education course to operate a motorized boat or watercraft with 15 horsepower or more. 
  • An orange flag must be raised if a water skier is down and other boats may not come within 100 feet of the flag.
  • Children under 13 must wear a life jacket at all times.
  • it is illegal to operate a motorboat when weather conditions are deemed dangerous.
  • It is illegal to create a wake in a "No Wake" zone.
  • It is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated.
  • A proper lookout must be kept at all times.

Personal Watercraft (PWC) Accidents & Special Considerations

Personal Watercraft, also called jetskis and skidoos, were originally designed with a huge design defect: Lift off the throttle to slow down because you fear a collision or are coming in to dock and now you have lost all steering control. This would be the equivalent of a car whose steering locked in the straight ahead position as soon as you lift your foot off the gas! The reason for this is that the design calls for a steerable jet of water to move the PWC forward. As soon as you lift off the throttle the jet stops and steering is lost.

One simple fix is to install a rudder under the water jet. That way even if the jet stops putting out water there is still steering with the rudder. In 2000 a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded $8.36 million against Yamaha to a person made paraplegic by an out of control jetski whose operator lifted the throttle to avoid a collision and lost all steering. Based on such accidents the Society of Automotive Engineers formed the Personal Watercraft Subcommittee. In 2003 it came out with a standard, SAE J2608, called "Off Throttle Steering Capabilities of Personal Watercraft" which is supposed to apply to 2006 and later model year personal watercraft.

If personal injury results from a PWC lacking off-throttle steering ability there may well be a great defective product case.

Injuries To Seamen

Injuries to seamen who spend most of their time aboard a particular vessel are covered by the federal Jones Act. Unlike typical workmen's compensation statutes, this act is based on fault, but the standard is liberally applied in favor of the injured seaman. Compensation to the injured seaman typically runs much higher than it would under a workman's compensation statute. If the ship is not owned by the federal government but is American flagged the statute of limitations is most likely three years. (More details are needed before one can be certain of the statute of limitations.) The ship's owners can be sued in federal court in any state in which the owners are considered to be doing business.