The COVID-19 pandemic saw an uptick in boating activity, as evidenced by increased boat sales, insurance claims, insurance policies, and towing assistance calls. The 2020 Boating Safety Statistics Report of the US Coast Guard revealed 767 boating fatalities in 2020, a 25.1% rise from 2019.

As the number of boat-related accidents and boating-related deaths increases nationwide, lawyers are seeing more and more claims of wrongful death and personal injury resulting from negligence and misdemeanor.

wrongful death boat accident illinois

Was your loved one a victim of a fatal boat crash? You have the legal right to seek compensation from the negligent party. Speak with the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, to see if you have a case for a personal injury claim or negligence lawsuit.

Call our boat accident lawyers at (888) 424-5757 or fill out this online contact form on our website to discuss your legal options today.

What Can Cause a Fatal Boat Crash?

The leading cause of death in boating accidents is collisions with another watercraft or a stationary object (e.g., rocks, buoys, etc.). In accidents where the cause of death is known, 75% of boating accident victims died by drowning, and 85% of those victims were not wearing a life jacket.

But what causes boating accidents in the first place? Here are the leading causes of boating accidents in the US:

Alcohol Intoxication

Alcohol intoxication has always been one of the leading causes of fatal boating accidents. An inebriated operator is less likely to handle a watercraft properly, and is much less able to react to hazardous situations on time. The same goes for operators who are under the influence of illegal substances.

The legal limit to operate a boat is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% g/dL. This legal limit applies to any craft, including rowboats, kayaks, and canoes.

Lack of Experience or Instruction

It is not easy to drive a boat, regardless of its size. For this reason, someone without proper boat training is more likely to cause a crash due to inexperience.

Faulty Equipment

All types of watercraft require proper maintenance to remain safe and fully operational. Faulty equipment is a leading cause of boating accidents since it can cause a breakdown. In worst cases, faulty equipment can cause explosions, fires, or capsizing even with the slightest impact on another object.


Some boaters are killed simply because the operator was not paying attention. Boats are not meant to drive themselves, and, unfortunately, many operators make the mistake of thinking that a boat can be left unattended.


Sometimes, a fatal crash can result from conditions out of an operator’s control. Examples include high winds, strong waves, sand bars, and other unforeseen dangers. Nevertheless, experience and presence of mind can help an operator survive in case of an environment-related crash.

Excessive Speed

Like driving on the road, speeding on the water can lead to a fatal crash. Using excessive speed on a vessel gives an operator less time to react in hazardous situations (e.g., failing to avoid a sand bar in time).

What Are Other Types of Boating Accidents?

Aside from collisions, here are other situations that can lead to boating injuries or death:

Explosions or Fires

Explosions and fires are rare due to spark-protected mechanical systems and double-clamped fuel lines on newer boats. Nevertheless, it is crucial to check for fuel fumes, leaks, and spills before operating a boat.

Falling Overboard

Falling off a boat, especially without a life jacket, is a common cause of drowning in the US. A passenger or operator may fall off a boat due to a collision, a giant wave, or plain intoxication.

Aside from the risk of drowning, a person thrown overboard may also be injured or killed by the boat running them over.


Many factors can lead to a boat capsizing, such as loose through-hulls, instability, bad weather, and damage. A capsizing boat can lead to severe injuries and even deaths, especially if passengers are not wearing life jackets.

Running Aground

Grounding or running aground is when a vessel contacts the seabed, port, or waterway side. Sometimes, it is intentional. But for recreational boats, it is often accidental.

Illinois Boating Accident Facts and Figures

Illinois has a wealth of lakes and rivers, making boating a popular pastime. However, it is also one of the most dangerous. Here’s what the data shows:

  • Hundreds of boating vessels are involved in fatal boating accidents yearly in Illinois.
  • Dozens of people die annually in boating accidents across the state of Illinois.
  • Intoxication is a chief contributor to about one-quarter of all fatal Illinois boating accidents.
  • Most boating accidents result from boat impact, struck propeller, fixed object collision, element exposure, alcohol intoxication, etc.

Filing a Boat Accident Lawsuit

Unless you or your loved one is entirely at fault for the accident, you may be able to file civil legal cases for your losses. However, you must meet certain required legal conditions:

  • First, the boat operator who caused the crash must have acted negligently. If it was not their fault, if it was someone else’s fault, or if it was your fault, you will not be able to hold them liable after you are injured.
  • Second, the law demands thatthe person bringing the case suffer actual injury, which causes damages. These can be many different things, both tangible and intangible, such as medical expenses, suffering, lost companionship, and property damage. However, you must plead and prove them to prevail in court.
  • Third, the defendant who acted negligently caused your damages.You must prove that the negligent party was the one who caused injuries. Otherwise, they may argue that it was someone else who was responsible.

Collecting Evidence

Collect as much evidence as possible to increase your chances of winning in court. Here are some of the most essential tips to take into account:

  • Take a written statement from any witnesses present; witnesses can also help you identify factors that investigators may have missed
  • Record videos and take pictures to capture the damages made to your boat
  • Make it a point to go to the hospital after the incident, even if you feel healthy; injuries may take days or even weeks to manifest, and it’s crucial to have a medical record as soon as possible.
  • Complete an incident report for the Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources
  • Take the information of the other party, including boat insurance information.


If you or a loved one have been a victim of a boat accident, you could seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses. You could pursue damages to cover bills for hospitalization, surgery, emergency transportation, life support, etc.
  • Lost income. If you missed work while recovering from your injuries or your loved one’s death, you might also sue for lost income, including tips, bonuses, and commissions.
  • Loss of consortium. Losing a spouse also gives you the right to sue for loss of consortium, which would compensate you for the hardship of adapting to living without your spouse.
  • Funeral service. If your loved one passed away, you might also be able to pursue the expenses of laying your loved one to rest.

How to Avoid Boat Accidents

Do your part in preventing injuries and deaths on the sea, lake, or river. Here are essential safety tips to keep in mind when operating a boat:

Plan Ahead

Determine how much fuel you need for the trip to avoid running out of gas. Watch out for bad weather.

Tell someone where you’re going and when you should be expected to return if you are traveling alone. In many cases, missing boaters who told a friend where they were going were eventually found.

Check Your Craft and Emergency Gear

Check for fuel leaks, holes, and other signs of damage before sailing. Make sure your life jackets, fire extinguisher, flashlights, flares, and first-aid kit are complete and operational.

Depending on the age of your craft, you may also need to get frequent tune-ups.

Wear Your Life Jacket

Even if you are a great swimmer, always wear your life jacket when on a boat. Remember that the most common cause of boat fatalities is drowning, and most of those deaths could have been prevented with a life jacket.

Seek Legal Counsel for Your Boating Accident Lawsuit

There have been hundreds of fatalities from boat accidents this year alone. Those who survived may be lucky to keep their lives, but injuries can keep them from returning to their everyday lives for weeks or months–maybe even forever.

Did you get injured or lose a loved one from another boater’s negligence? If so, you might be able to seek compensation for your losses. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers is one of the leading law firms defending victims’ legal rights in these tragedies. Our attorneys can help you keep track of the investigation, gather relevant data, and win the case.

Start discussing your legal options today by calling (888) 424-5757 or filling out this online contact form on our website.


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