According to some reports, boating deaths in SC have increased in recent years, with an average of 30 deaths on the water each year – that’s just deaths and does not include the injuries caused each year by boating accidents.

According to the Coast Guard, recreational boating deaths in SC have not increased (this does not count commercial boating deaths in SC), but the number of recreational boating accidents has increased dramatically.

Why are there so many boating deaths in SC?

If I’m injured or if someone I love was killed in a boating accident, can I sue? How is a boating accident lawsuit different from an auto accident or other personal injury lawsuit?

Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit after a boating accident?

Statistics for Boating Deaths in SC

According to the US Coast Guard, the number of recreational boating accidents in SC has increased over recent years from 104 accidents in 2013 to 151 accidents in 2017, the last year for which data is currently available.

Recreational boating deaths in SC fluctuates from year to year – there were 27 recreational boating deaths in SC in the year 2013. Although the number of boating accidents increased dramatically to 151 in 2017, there were only 13 recreational boating deaths in 2017.

Where do Boating Deaths in SC Happen?

Boating deaths in SC happen wherever people are on the water – it could be the ocean and harbors in Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, and the Charleston area or it could be one of the many lakes and waterways in SC.

For example:

  • Last year, a mother’s family watched as she was thrown from the boat and killed last year in the Intracoastal Waterway near Isle of Palms;
  • A sheriff’s deputy drowned during a training exercise on a SC lake – the instructor did not use a kill switch and when the deputy was thrown from the boat he was tangled in the boat’s propeller before drowning;
  • A person was killed after a boater crashed into a dock on Lake Murray; and
  • A man in Ravenel, SC went missing after his boat struck a bridge near Wallace Creek.

What Causes Boating Accidents in SC?

Some boating accidents are unavoidable, but most boating deaths in SC could have been avoided if the operators had followed SC boating laws and boating safety rules.

Although the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Coast Guard Auxiliary offer boating safety classes, many boaters don’t take them because they are not mandatory.

Should boating safety classes be mandatory before a person can take to the water? The SC Senate found that many boaters “seemed to ignore boating laws or willfully defy them,” yet they have not taken action to require boaters to even know what the boating laws are before they operate a personal watercraft.

Common causes of boating deaths in SC, most of which are the result of boaters not understanding or not following SC’s boating laws, include:

  • Failure to use proper safety equipment like personal flotation devices and kill switches;
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs while operating a boat;
  • Speeding, particularly in no-wake zones;
  • Failing to keep a proper lookout for other vessels, swimmers, or obstructions; and
  • Faulty equipment or failure to properly maintain the watercraft.

Can I Sue After a Boating Accident?

When a boating death in SC is caused by an operator’s negligence or intentional actions, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages just like any other personal injury case.

Your boating accident attorney at Coastal Law will investigate the accident and help you to identify who was responsible for the accident and how to recover your damages. Whether you can recover and how much will depend on how the accident happened, whether the defendant has assets to pay a judgment, and how much insurance coverage is available.

For example:

  • If someone is hurt or killed in a single-boat accident due to the operator’s negligence, they can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the operator of the boat – even if it was a friend or family member driving;
  • When a boat’s operator causes an accident because they were boating under the influence, they are liable to the boat’s passengers and any other person who was hurt because of their negligence;
  • If a boating accident was caused by defective equipment or a company’s failure to properly maintain a rental boat, the manufacturer or the company will be liable for the damage caused by their negligence or by the defective product;
  • When other boaters, skiers, or swimmers are hurt or killed by a boat operator’s negligence, they can file a lawsuit against the negligent operator; and
  • In some cases, insurance may cover injuries to the operator in a single-boat accident.

How are Boating Accidents Different than Car Wrecks?

Boating accidents are different than car wrecks because there is a separate set of rules that boaters must follow, and, in some cases, there is less insurance coverage available. Other than that, boating accidents and auto accidents are both governed by the law of negligence.

If a boat operator is negligent, and their negligence results in another person’s injury or death (or property damage), the negligent operator must pay for the damage that they caused. The same categories of damages are available to boating accident victims and car accident victims, including:

  • Wrongful death;
  • Medical expenses;
  • Future medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Punitive damages when appropriate; and
  • Property damage.

Commercial Boating Deaths in SC

Commercial boating deaths in SC are not included in the Coast Guard’s statistics I linked to above, but rest assured there are commercial boating deaths in SC waters every year.

Whether a commercial boating accident victim can file a lawsuit will depend on the facts of the case – although most accidents will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, there may also be a personal injury lawsuit against any third party who was responsible for the accident, injuries, or death.

SC Boating Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach

If you or your family member was hurt or killed by a negligent boater on SC’s oceans, rivers, or lakes, your Myrtle Beach boating accident lawyer at Coastal Law will help you to determine who to sue and to recover maximum damages whenever possible.

Call the SC boating accident lawyers at Coastal Law now at 843-488-5000 or get in touch through our website to set up a free consultation and case review today.

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