How Boating Accidents are Treated in Personal Injury Cases

Boating accidents in Georgia are treated the same as any personal injury case: Someone is injured because of the negligence of someone else and seeks to recover damages as a result of that negligence. The harder part of a boating accident is proving who’s at fault. The negligent operator is an obvious possibility.

But in Georgia, the owner of the boat also may be held liable in certain circumstances. See O.C.G.A. § 51-1-21 and 51-1-22. Under these statutes, it is important to determine if the boat or other watercraft (such as jet skis) is being operated with the owner’s consent.

According to the US Coast Guard, the most common types of recreational boating accidents include the following. For each of them, I’ve listed examples of things to consider when determining negligence:

  • Colliding with another vessel – Was the driver speeding, driving recklessly or drinking alcohol?
  • Flooding/Swamping – Was the boat overloaded with passengers, were there enough life jackets on board the boat? Was there a defect with the boat?
  • Colliding with a fixed object – Was someone supposed to be looking for objects in the water, and could the object have been avoided?
  • Grounding – Was it due to operator error and could it have been avoided?
  • Skier Mishaps – Was the driver speeding, driving recklessly, was there a lookout other than the driver, was there a defect with the ski equipment, etc.

These are just some of the types of accidents that can occur and things to consider when determining negligence. There are many other possibilities.


In 2014, the US Coast Guard reported 4,064 recreational boating accidents nationwide. Of those, 610 resulted in death, with 2,678 injuries. Of the total fatalities, 78% were the result of drowning, with 84% of those wearing no life vest. In Georgia, there were 92 accidents, with 12 fatalities, and 47 non-fatal injuries.

The top reasons boaters wrecked were due to the following:

  • Operator not paying attention
  • An improper lookout – someone other than the driver needs to be watching
  • An inexperienced boat operator
  • Speeding
  • Alcohol Use


  • Know the boating laws in your state – Georgia’s laws can be found at: They have a handbook you can purchase, or scroll to the bottom of the page for a free PDF version.
  • It is recommended to get a Boater Education Card. It can be obtained by taking an online course at
  • Have US Coast Guard approved life jackets for everyone in the boat, as well as life saving devices, such as a flotation ring
  • Have a proper lookout at all times
  • Don’t speed or drive recklessly
  • Know CPR
  • Know your boats passenger capacity and don’t overload it
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions
  • Know boating navigation rules
  • Don’t drink and boat or text and boat

As expected, summer months have the highest number of boating accidents and fatalities. However, if you use caution and following the laws of the water, you and your passengers can safely enjoy one of summer’s most enjoyable pastimes.