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Boat propellers provide thrust and power to the boat and can also be incredibly dangerous. Propellers are responsible for injuring and killing more people than any other recreational boating hazard.

Are you a victim of a boating accident? You may be entitled to compensation. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys specialize in helping victims obtain the compensation they deserve.

Boat Propeller Accidents

Contact our Chicago, IL boat accident lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Boat Propeller Safety Concerns

Boat propeller accidents can lead to serious injuries or even death. The propeller on any motorized vessel (even on a rental boat) often resides under the water line, making it invisible to the boat captain, skier, swimmer, or passenger.

According to the United States Coast Guard’s Annual Recreational Boating Safety Reports, approximately 185 to 265 boat propeller accidents are reported yearly. However, the United States Coast Guard admits that many propeller injuries are underreported. Their data may represent only 10% of all boating injury accidents annually.

Propeller accidents can happen quickly, causing fatalities, blood loss, lifelong injuries, or body disfigurement. Many victims are caught in the boat propeller and cannot disentangle. Others were simply relaxing or about to jump out onto their jet ski.

Furthermore, when boat operators lunge their boat forward, passengers can fall overboard and into direct contact with the boat propeller at the back end of the boat. You need to be aware of everything that can go wrong on a boat and what to do if you or a loved one are in the middle of a boat accident!

How to Safely Handle an Overboard Incident Safely to Avoid Propeller Injuries

Often, a propeller strike event involves a crew, operator, or passenger overboard incident. The operator should immediately turn the boat toward the individual in the water while simultaneously shifting the engine into neutral.

This maneuver pushes the stern of the boat in the opposite direction while stopping the propellers from spinning.

Circle of Death Strike Event

A circle-of-death strike event occurs when the boat operator loses steering control and goes overboard. Nearly all propellers on inboard and outboard engines are designed to spin clockwise automatically.

The prop pitch produces a “prop walk,” which will cause the watercraft to circle if the steering is lost while the throttle is still applied.

Unfortunately, this circling action increases the chance of a catastrophic scenario because the boat commander can be run over by the boat and injured by the propeller after falling into the water. These circle-of-death events can happen quite often and cause severe blood loss, especially when the person comes in direct contact with the boat propellers.

Causes of Propeller Accidents

Accidents involving boat propellers are too common in the beautiful waters surrounding the Chicago area, including Lake Michigan.

However, severe injuries can happen to others when boat operators are distracted, intoxicated, or inexperienced at handling the boat passenger.

The negligence of the boat operator often leads to significant propeller blade injuries. Many common occurrences involving a boat prop include:

  • Reckless Steering– Often, reckless steering causes passengers to fall into the water over the transom and into the spinning blades of the boat propellers.
  • Revving the Throttle– Individuals in the water can suffer injuries caused by a propeller when the throttle is revved.
  • Operator Inexperience– Severe boat propeller injuries can occur when operators forget to wear the cutoff switch lanyard that shuts the engine off automatically. The mishap is usually made worse when the operator is inexperienced in how to shut the engine off quickly during times of emergency.
  • Tripping– If a boat passenger trips over the tow ropes or other lines that become entangled, they can easily fall into open water and directly on the moving propeller blades of the outboard engine.
  • Improper Boating– Inexperienced can cause propeller injuries when a safe distance is not maintained from “diver down” flags in inlets, navigational channels, and rivers. Another improper boat operating procedure includes allowing individuals near the prop or stern when launching or ungrounding the boat.
  • Unsafe Boating Practice– Passengers and swimmers allowed onto a slippery swim platform can become victims of propeller accidents when the engine is in gear. Other unsafe practices include reversing the engine when a water skier, diver, or swimmer is behind the boat or putting the engine in gear before confirming that every passenger is back on the boat.
  • Poor Water-Activity Procedures– Water skiers often become victims of such events when the boat captain runs them over while circling back for a pickup without first cutting off the engine. Additionally, gunning the engine without first looking back to ensure that no one is swimming or floating behind the boat increases the potential of prop accidents.
  • Negligent Boating– When boats are steered without caution, they can harm divers and swimmers in the area. Swimmers that are behind the boat can get hurt when negligent boat drivers put the gear in reverse. Jet skiers often are injured by boat propellers when the boat operator circles around to pick them up without cutting off the engine first. In addition, swimmers and divers can become the victims of a boat’s propeller when boaters disregard buoys and enter swimming zones.
  • Falling Overboard– If passengers are standing or sitting at the edge of the boat or the stern, they can easily fall overboard into the boat propellers when the boat captain jerks the vessel forward. Don’t allow people to ride on the bow. When boat drivers steer recklessly, people can unexpectedly fall into the water. Other tragedies can occur when people attempt to hop onto their jet ski from the back of the boat and end up sliding into the water and hitting the propeller.

How the Boat Operator Can Prevent Propeller Accidents

The following are guidelines to help you be more attentive to protect yourself and your passengers from a boat accident:

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

When steering a boat, never assume that the water around your vessel is free of swimmers and people practicing water sports. Boat operators should always check the perimeter before turning off the engine.

Fog, waves, and solar flares can interfere with your ability to see other people in the water, so it is vital to do a thorough check before starting your boat. In addition, boaters should keep a significant distance from all swimming zones.

Do Not Drink Alcohol While Operating the Boat

Never drink alcoholic beverages while operating the boat. Alcohol can impair your vision and ability to control your movements. Therefore, drinking on the boat can affect your ability to see swimmers in the water, make fast decisions, operate the vessel properly, and cause many other issues.

Ideally, passengers should also refrain from consuming alcohol because they may accidentally fall off the boat into the propellers.

Use a Kill-Switch

A kill switch is a device with a wire to shut off the boat engine directly. If a passenger unexpectedly falls overboard or the boat operator suddenly spots an approaching swimmer, using the switch can stop the propeller and avoid a boat accident.

As a result, if your hands come off the wheel, it will not spin The boat will not begin to turn dangerously.

Even when the propeller is not moving, the propeller blades are incredibly sharp and dangerous. If you or your loved ones have been seriously hurt in a propeller accident or lost someone from a boat propeller fatality, you are likely entitled to file a claim for financial compensation.

Propeller Guards

Guards are not necessarily a solution for all but might not be appropriate for high-performance boats. Propeller guards appear to be the perfect fit for boats like those for recreational, tourism, and sailing programs, where the additional safety gained is far more important than allowing the boat to travel faster.

Educate Your Passengers

One of the simplest ways to prevent such events is to inform your passengers on how to protect themselves from the propeller. For example, boat operators should tell everyone to stay clear of the propeller in the water.

Additionally, inform people how hazardous it is to ride on the bow, gunwales, or transom. It only takes one sudden movement for passengers that have fallen overboard to suffer a boat propeller injury.

What Evidence Should I Collect After a Boating Accident?

Take photos of your injuries, the scene where the boat accident occurred, and any other damage caused by the disaster. The contact information of any witnesses and documentation of any medical records will also help strengthen your injury claim.

What Is Necessary to Pursue a Product Liability Case Against a Boat Manufacturer?

To pursue a product liability case against a boat manufacturer, the victim must prove that the boat was faulty and defective. This defect must have been the cause of the victim’s injury.

Under strict liability laws, the claimant might not necessarily show that the manufacturer’s negligence led to damages but only that the defective product could lead to injuries or death.

Does the Absence of Safety Equipment on Board Constitute Negligence?

Even small vessels are required by law to have necessary safety devices on board. These safety devices may include navigation lights, life jackets, throwable life rings, loud whistles, flares, and fire extinguishers.

The absence of safety devices could create a hazardous environment that could slow down post-accident rescue efforts and lead to serious injuries or even death.

Injury Attorneys Handling Boat Propeller Accident Claims

When you are injured in a boat propeller accident, it is essential to know your rights and what steps you should take to protect yourself and the future of your injury claim. You may incur significant expenses while not working as you recover.

Lawsuits resulting from boating accidents, motorboat accidents, propeller accidents, personal watercraft accidents, or boating under the influence are complex cases that require competent legal advice. Lawsuits can involve maritime or admiralty law violations and can also include hiring accident reconstruction experts to assist in your case.

Many victims of Illinois boat injuries lose limbs, suffer significant severe lacerations, or experience serious internal injuries, body disfigurement, or even death. Many of the injuries cause permanent disability. Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC at (888) 424-5757 offers legal advice during a free, no-obligation consultation on how to proceed with an Illinois boat injury case.

Resources: [1] Boat US Foundation

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