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Mississippians enjoy an active outdoor life. With over two dozen beautiful state parks, hundreds of lakes and the very active Mississippi River, much of that outdoor activity happens on a boat.

Recreational boats allow Mississippians to enjoy some of the best local views under sunny skies. This enjoyment is not without risk, though. If a boating accident happens, what legal steps should Mississippians take?

Boating accidents by the numbers

Under certain conditions, boats can be dangerous. Water can give the illusion of safety but can become as hard as pavement at high enough speeds. Drowning remains a constant threat, especially for children and pets. Many people also suffer whiplash, head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and even electrocution. Without a trained operator at the helm, boats can be deadly, especially since medical personnel may have difficulty reaching the accident site.

Recreational accidents happen more frequently than many imagine. The U.S Coast Guard publishes annual data on recreational boat accidents from all 50 states. In 2019, 4,168 boating accidents occurred. Of those accidents, 613 people lost their lives, 2,559 sustained injuries and property damage totaled over $55 million.

Boat injury liability and negligence

Standard personal injury law applies in most cases. The boat’s owner or operator may be at fault for failing to provide reasonable safety to their passengers. The fault may lie with the manufacturer for accidents caused by defects. The law may also find passengers who act recklessly at fault if their actions injure another.

Where the law gets complex has to do with the body of water on which the accident occurred. Accidents that occur on closed lakes are subject to state law. Accidents on “navigable waterways” fall under federal jurisdiction. Federal law defines a “navigable waterway” as “waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.” For example, accidents that occur along the Mississippi River fall under federal jurisdiction.

Seek legal counsel

Those with questions about injuries sustained on a boat can reach out to a local attorney familiar with personal injury. A lawyer will assess one’s case, work with federal or state law enforcement and draft settlement agreements.