COVID-19 Update: We are open and serving our clients. Learn More >>>
Member of:
Justia Lawyer Rating
American Association for Justice
Union Plus

New York Boat Accidents

Because there are so many waterways in and around New York, recreational and commercial boating are thriving industries in the area. Largely due to negligence, boating accidents are not uncommon. Such accidents often leave victims with a variety of serious injuries such as injuries to the back, head, neck, and spinal cord. Broken bones, bruises, and serious cuts are also common. Some accidents involve pleasure craft such as sailboats, speed boats, and jet skis, while others involve commercial vessels such as cruise boats, water taxis and barges. Just like other types of accidents such as car accidents or construction accidents, victims of boat accidents have the legal right to demand that the negligent person who caused the accident pay compensation. However, the laws that apply to boat accidents are complex, and can involve international, federal and state law. Where the accident occurred will impact what law applies. For a boat accident that occurred on non-navigable waters such as a pond, New York state law will apply. If the accident happened in navigable waters, maritime and admiralty laws will apply. If you were seriously hurt in a boat accident, it is important that you immediately contact an experienced New York boat accident lawyer who will help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.

Causes of boat accidents

Each year in the United States there are over 4000 recreational boat accidents and nearly 800 boat-relate deaths. Just like car, truck and motorcycle accidents, the vast majority of boat accidents are caused by negligence.

  • Operator inattention. Just like driving a car, if the operator of a boat is distracted, then the likelihood of a mishap increases dramatically. Particularly when the boating is for recreational purposes, there is a lot that could distract the operator. The boat operator can be easily distracted by activity on the boat such as conversations with passengers, or trying to make sure that passengers are safe and behaving properly. Another reason for operator inattention is the use of alcohol and other intoxicating substances. Alcohol and drug use by the operator or around the operator can cause the operator to be distracted and unfocused. Recreational activities on and around the boat can be distracting. For example, towing sports as well as games and partying on the boat can pull the operator’s attention away from focusing on his duties. Similarly, other watercraft can distract and cause the operator to miss smaller watercraft, leading to an accident. .
  • Improper lookout. Improper lookout refers to failing to keep a close eye on the boat’s surroundings. In some cases the boat operator serves as his or her own lookout, while in other cases another person is assigned the task of being the lookout. The lookout keeps an eye out for people in the water and other watercrafts. In addition, a lookout must immediately alert people in other boats of individuals engaging in water sports such as waterskiing, swimming, tubing, or wake boarding.
  • Operator inexperience. According to statistics, operator inexperience is a leading cause of boat accidents. Inexperienced boaters may not understand how to manipulate the boat given particular weather or water conditions. In addition, they may not understand how to manage mechanical problems or how to use navigation systems.
  • Excessive speed. Excessive speed is one of the most common contributing factors for accidents involving motorized boats. Boat operators often run into trouble when they are operating the boat at excessive speed and then hit a big wave or rocks. Boats colliding into each other is also a very common type of boat accident caused by excessive speed.
  • Mechanical failure. Even boats that appear relatively basic must be designed and manufactured in a manner that does not lead to people suffering injuries. Whether the boat’s mechanical system is simple or complex, if any part is defective or malfunctions, the consequences can be serious—even deadly. Common types of mechanical failures that can result in boat accidents include engine failure, electrical failure, gear shift failure, steering system failure, and fuel system failure. When mechanical failure is involved, a skilled New York boat accident lawyer will investigate to determine if product liability is implicated and whether the manufacturer of the boat or its parts should be held legally liable.
  • Alcohol use. In fact, alcohol is a factor in more than 15% of recreational boating deaths. In New York, just like it is illegal to drive while intoxicated, it is illegal to operate a motorized boat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. If someone makes the choice to operate a boat while intoxicated and as a result causes an accident that leaves injured victims, that person would be legally liable (and perhaps criminally liable).
Common boat accident injuries

There are a variety injuries that those involved in a boat accident may suffer. Only injuries that are deemed serious are compensable. Common serious boat accident injuries include back injuries, neck injuries, brain injuries, broken bones, internal injuries, burns, and paralysis. Each of these serious injuries will have a significant impact on your overall well-being and your ability to work. For example, a back or neck injury can lead to chronic pain and limited mobility. A brain injury can cause permanent memory loss, cognitive problems, dementia and headaches. Broken bones can take weeks to heal and frequently have complications. Paralysis requires lifelong care.

Pursuing damages

Being seriously injured in a boat accident is devastating as you are left in physical pain, are unable to work and you may be facing financial problems. A big step toward recovery is holding the person whose negligence caused your injury legally accountable. You can do this by filing a personal injury claim. You may be awarded damages for:

  • Past medical bills. If you are seriously injured in a boating accident, there is a good chance that you had to receive treatment. If the accident was caused because of another person’s negligence, you are entitled to file a claim and demand compensation for the medical expenses you incur because of the injuries you suffered in that boat accident. You can demand reimbursement for past medical expenses as well as payment for future medical expenses. Proving past medical expenses is a relatively straightforward process. You will need to provide documentation such as bills and receipts for expenses such as ambulance service fees, doctor bills, hospital bills, emergency room treatment bills, nursing services, costs of medication, and fees for physical therapy. You must not only show documentation of expenses, you must also be able to tie the medical services to treatment of the injury caused by the boating accident.
  • Future medical bills. Future medical costs are expenses for medical care related to the injury that will be not occur until after the personal injury case has been resolved. This typically happens not because as case is filed very quickly, but because the victim’s injury is so serious that treatment is expected to last weeks, months, and every years into the future, or the injury is permanent and the treatment is expected to continue throughout the life of the victim. For example, a head or neck injury may leave the victim with permanent paralysis, requiring lifelong care. Similarly, a severe brain injury may require treatment for an extended period of time—perhaps years.
  • Lost income. Lost wages, missed bonuses, missed promotions, lost benefits, and loss of earning potential. In order to prove the amount of lost income, you must have records to prove the amount of time that you missed as a result of the boat accident and the amount of money you would have made during that time. Records from your employer or supervisor showing your position, rate of pay, normal working hours, and the amount of time missed from work would be sufficient to prove lost income if you are salaried or work fairly regular hours. It may be a bit more challenging if you work irregular hours or are self-employed. For example, if you are self-employed, you may need to show evidence of bills, invoices, revenue, missed appointments, and missed meetings or conferences.
  • Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refers to physical pain and suffering as well as mental pain and suffering. Chronic pain, disfigurement, depression, other emotional suffering. Physical pain and suffering refers to the physical pain and that a victim suffers as a result of the serious injury. In some cases this type of pain is relatively temporary and goes away once the injury has healed. In other cases the pain and suffering is long term due to chronic pain and discomfort caused by the in defendant’s negligence. On the other hand, mental pain and suffering refers to mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, fear, anger, humiliation, anxiety, and shock that is a result of the injury and the experience that resulted in the injury. Mental pain and suffering is often more prevalent and more severe in cases where the victim suffered permanent disfigurement and other permanent injuries. Other symptoms of mental anguish include sleeplessness, sleeping too much, sexual dysfunction, anger, mood swings, depression, and loss of appetite. In some cases victims of horrible accidents such as boat accidents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If a loved one was killed, you should contact an experienced boat accident attorney in New York about filing a wrongful death claim in order to recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, loss of support, loss of consortium and other losses.

Commercial boat accidents. If you work on a boat and suffered an injury while working, you may be entitled to compensation under a special federal law called the Jones Act. The Jones Act provides certain rights for mariners who have been injured aboard a ship. In order for qualify for Jones Act protection the injured victim must meet the qualifications established by the US Supreme Court. Under the Jones Act, injured mariners are entitled to sue his (or her) employer for negligence and are entitled to sue the owner of the vessel on which he was injured for damages under the doctrine of unseaworthiness. If you have questions as to whether or not you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced New York boat accident lawyer who can share more information on what rights are available to you.


Five young adults were spending the after in a runabout boat on a lake. Jason was operating the boat during a period of low visibility and without any navigation aid such as GPS. Witnesses state that the boat was moving at an excessive speed when it hit a rock bluff. Two occupants of the boat, Sally and Brett, were ejected from the boat and were killed. Two other occupants of the boat, plus Jason, were seriously injured, but survived. It was later determined that Jason was intoxicated. In addition to facing criminal charges, Jason faced 2 wrongful death lawsuits and 2 personal injury lawsuits.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Boat accident cases are extremely complicated and may involve state, federal as well as international law. To make sure that your case is properly handled it is critical that those who represent you are experienced handling boat accident cases. Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. Our boat accident attorneys serving New York are experienced in handling claims from people injured on a variety of watercraft including personal watercrafts, yachts, tenders, fishing boats, water skis, cruise ships, jet skis, canoes, inflatable and semi rigid inflatable boats, go-fast boats, commuter ferries, runabouts, cabin cruisers, kayaks, paddle boards, and sailboats. We are here to help. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Bronx, Nassau County, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Queens, and Westchester County.

Client Reviews
When my mom, who is suffering from dementia, faced a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit, I contacted Stephen Bilkis of the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. Not only did he provide a strategy for defending the claim, he also advised me on steps to take to avoid future personal liability. Whether you are the defendant or plaintiff in an injury case, I highly recommend Mr. Bilkis. S.M.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
I had my first encounter with Mr. Stephen Bilkis three years ago over the phone. He and his staff have been nothing but courtesy and professional. Their hard work ended with a large six-figure settlement for my case. I would highly recommend you contact his office. I want to give a special THANK YOU to Ms. Tricia Krapf. She always made me feel like a priority and was always kind and professional over the phone and email. I highly recommend them to anyone in need of legal representation. Celesta