Boat Accidents in RI on the Rise Due to COVID-19

m_FRS330355-300x199Sales of boats and personal water craft like jet skis have experienced a boost this year in Rhode Island, a likely side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. With social distancing in full effect and vacations put on hold, locals are looking for outdoor leisure activities to bring some pleasure and family-friendly activity to an otherwise disheartening summer. Like purchasing a bike lately, finding a boat to buy is tough with demand in high gear. With the boost in traffic on the water in the ocean, local ponds, and lakes, public officials are seeing a corresponding surge in boat accidents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts resulting in injuries and deaths. As a personal injury lawyer at Tapalian Law, this time of year is typically busy with car accidents due to summer travel. This summer, however, is different and we are seeing higher than average numbers of people injured in accidents and boat collisions on the water.

Causes of Boat Accidents

Known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island is always a popular summer destination for boaters. In particular Newport, Narragansett, Jamestown, Block Island, and other coastal cities and towns, experience high water traffic in the summer as do areas of Massachusetts, like Cape Cod. Sales of boats, jet skis, and other personal water craft have surged this summer due to the pandemic – their use also made more attractive by a decline in fuel prices.  Water traffic collisions and mishaps are prevalent each summer, but more so this year. Negligent behavior accounts for a significant portion of boating related injuries and fatalities, similar to the cause of the majority of car accident cases seen as a personal injury attorney. This uptick in boat accidents and water rescues can be attributed primarily not only to the increase in water traffic, but the use of alcohol, drugs, and inexperience.

Boat Accidents in RI & MA

In June, 8 young people were hurt, one seriously injured, in a boat accident in Massachusetts on the Westport River when their 20-foot power boat ran aground. Though officials aren’t clear on this particular incident, they do say new boaters often lack a formal boating education, proper safety equipment, and adherence to the rules of safe water operation like speed and alcohol use. One concern is that the Environmental Police have not been able to provide educational classes due to Covid-19, and have been working with various providers to offer online training. This delay in, or lack of, formal training may exacerbate the problem of inexperienced operators causing injuries due to a lack of knowledge of proper safety rules.

Through late June of 2020, Coast Guard District 1, which covers Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, and northern New Jersey, has reported 18 fatal boat accidents thus far. In comparison, District 1 reported 9 fatal boat accidents last summer.

Hurt in a Boat Accident Due to Negligence

If you are hurt in a boat, jet ski, or other type of water craft incident in Rhode Island caused by the negligence of another person, you may have a valid personal injury claim. Boating operators, jet ski drivers, or other recreational vessel users, who cause serious bodily injury or death due to reckless operation may be charged by the state. This type of lawsuit is very different than a typical private personal injury claim. Due to the legal complexities and variations among localities, a personal injury attorney experienced in maritime laws in RI and MA is highly recommended. Compensation awarded in a boat accident settlement can be similar to that of a car accident settlement and may include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and other related costs. If a death occurs, certain family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the accident that resulted in the loss of their loved one.

Examples of boating negligence include:

  • Recklessness- such as riding at an excessive speed, or allowing too many people on the boat at once making it overcapacity
  • Intoxication- operating a boat or jet ski under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal
  • Distractions- boat operators can be distracted by the same things that distract motor vehicle operators, i.e. cell phones, navigation systems, eating, drinking
  • Inexperience- a lack of training, or improper training, can be deadly
  • Maintenance neglect- an operator fails to keep his or her vessel properly maintained, or fails to carry adequate safety equipment

Contact Tapalian Law for a Free Consultation

A recreational day on the water can take a turn for the worst in a matter of seconds when a negligent driver, such as one impaired by alcohol or drugs, is operating a boat. An inexperienced boat driver acting recklessly, either intentionally or unintentionally, can cause a water accident resulting in serious injuries or death.  Attorney David Tapalian is a highly respected personal injury lawyer in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with over 20 years of personal injury experience. David and his skilled legal team at Tapalian Law will guide you through the proper procedures to move forward with your injury or property damage claim to ensure you have the best chance at receiving compensation for your losses. With offices in Providence, Warwick, and Seekonk, MA, you can visit us, or we can visit you for a free consultation. Call Tapalian Law at 401-552-5000, or contact us online.

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