5 Common Boating Injuries, Their Causes, and How to Prevent Them This Summer

While Florida’s sunny weather makes boating a year-round activity, the arrival of summer means a drastic increase in the number of people on the water in the coming weeks. While a day on the water can be a great way to relax and enjoy the summer sun, increased congestion on Florida’s lakes, bays, and waterways means also means a greater risk of boating injuries in the coming months.

Many people do not realize that most boating injuries and incidents do not result from inclement weather. More often than not, these incidents are the result of human error and negligence. If you plan on spending time on the water this summer, it is important to take a few precautions in order to ensure the safety of you and your party. To help ensure your time on the water is both safe and fun, below we’ll provide an overview of the most common boating injuries and incidents, their causes, and what you can do to prevent them from happening.

Common Boating Injuries:


Unfortunately, drowning is a common occurrence among boating enthusiasts. In fact, the Coast Guard tracked 4,064 boating incidents in 2014, and of these incidents, 610 resulted in fatalities, 78 percent of which were the result of drowning.

While a large number of boating accidents result in drowning, there are simple steps that you can take to prevent this from occurring. One of the most common causes of boating fatalities is people not wearing life vests. According to the Coast Guard’s findings, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life vests. This makes it imperative that everyone in your party wears a life vest, even if they are an experienced swimmer.

Many incidents of drowning are also often caused by passengers falling overboard, particularly when the boat is in motion. In addition to making sure that everyone in your party wears life jackets, you can also prevent drowning by taking precautions to prevent passengers from falling overboard. Make sure that no one rides on the bow of the boat, that all passengers remain in designated seats when the boat is in motion, and be sure not to overload your vehicle’s weight capacity. Additionally, taking care not to take turns too sharply and maintaining reasonable speeds can also prevent people from falling overboard.

Preventing passengers from falling overboard is critical. Even if they do not drown, passengers who fall overboard can suffer from whiplash, concussion, broken bones, or spinal trauma. Overboard passengers can also suffer from lacerations or amputations if they come into contact the propeller.

Collision Injuries

As waterways become more congested, boating collisions become more common. There is often a misconception that boating collisions do not cause as severe of injuries as automobile accidents; however, the speed at which many boats travel, combined with the fact that most boats do not have seatbelts, means that accidents on the water are often just as critical as accidents on the road. Here is an overview of two of the most common injuries that boating collisions can cause.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Traumatic brain injury is the result of the brain hitting the inside of the skull, usually as a result of a hard impact. When boats collide at high speed, passengers are often thrown out of their seats, and they may even be ejected from the boat, which can result in traumatic injury to the brain.

Spinal cord injuries: Being ejected from the boat during a collision can also result in spinal cord injuries, as hitting the water at high speeds can be as hard of an impact as hitting concrete. This can result in spinal compression, herniated disks, or even paralysis that can be temporary or permanent.

Unfortunately, boating collisions are most often caused by human negligence and usually easily prevented. The most common causes of boating accidents include:

Reckless driving: One of the most common causes of boating accidents is reckless driving. Being on a boat often causes people to get carried away and drive more recklessly than they would when driving a car. Unlike an automobile, watercraft can be much more difficult to operate, making corrective maneuvers far more challenging than by motor vehicle.

Intoxication: Perhaps the most common cause of boating collisions is intoxication. One of the most vital things to remember when driving a boat is to treat the boat like a car: under no circumstances should the operator drive while under the influence. Feel free to have a good time when you are on the water, but make sure that you retain a designated driver in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

Severe Lacerations

Severe lacerations are also a common injury that occurs on the water. While collisions and falling overboard can result in lacerations, many severe boating lacerations are caused when swimmers or overboard passengers come in contact with a boat’s propeller. For this reason, it is imperative that swimmers do not enter the water when the boat is running, and watercraft operators steer clear of smaller craft or swimmers. Wait until the boat has been turned off completely before allowing anyone to enter the water; do not restart the boat until all passengers have come back on board, and you’ve verified the water around the craft is free of other persons.

Eye Injuries

Believe it or not, eye injuries are common when boating due to the speed at which boats often travel and the wind this creates. The open construction of many boats in comparison to automobiles also means that passengers are at a higher risk of injury from foreign material traveling at high speeds. This can cause a variety of dirt and debris to enter the eye, which can potentially result in corneal scratches or abrasions. Wear sunglasses when on the water in order to protect your eyes from debris. This will also protect your eyes from sunlight that can reflect off the water and strain and injure your eyes.

Were You Injured in a Boating Accident?

If you or a loved one are injured in a boating accident, it is vital that you get immediate medical attention. Even if you feel fine, your injuries may be more serious than you realize. In particular, head injuries may not immediately show symptoms; however, serious complications can arise as time progresses.

What to do if someone is seriously injured: If someone in your party is seriously injured as the result of a boating accident, one of the first things you will need to do is to stop the bleeding if they have been cut. If you suspect a head, neck, or spinal injury, it is important that you keep the injured person immobilized and comfortable until help arrives. Help to manage their pain until you can get them medical attention, and make sure that they stay hydrated; dehydration can occur quickly when out in the sun, and can make their condition worse.

If the injuries you or a loved one acquired in a boating accident are a result of another boater’s negligence, you should seek legal counsel immediately. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 to learn how our experienced attorneys have been able to help victims of boating accidents, and what compensation you may be entitled to under the law.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

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