Boating Accidents in Lake Michigan or Chain O'lakes

Countless numbers of boaters take advantage of Lake Michigan, Des Plaines River, Chicago River, Fox River, Illinois River, Chain O’Lakes and the many small streams throughout the Chicago area. Unfortunately, boating accidents occur too often on these waterways.

Sometimes, these accidents can’t be helped. Some occur because of adverse weather conditions; other times, however, a boating accident may be caused by the driver’s negligence or some defect in the boat or its equipment.

About Our Boating Accident Lawyers

If you were involved in a boating accident that was caused by negligence or a boat defect, you may be entitled to compensation. The Chicago boating accident lawyers at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help. With offices conveniently located in Chicago and Waukegan, we have helped numerous boat crash victims throughout the state.

In fact, our firm recently obtained a $1 million boating collision settlement on behalf of a client who became trapped under a capsized boat. While every case is different, we have the expertise and knowledge about boat wrecks to help you win the largest amount of compensation possible given your situation.

To schedule a free consultation, call our Chicago boating accident attorneys today at 312-372-1227 or use our online form.

Boat Accidents FAQs

My boat was hit and my son injured by an intoxicated boater—who was drinking at a bar nearby. Is the bar responsible?

Yes, in certain cases a restaurant and/or bar may be held responsible. The Dram Shop Act in Illinois, 235 ILCS 5/6-21 creates a cause of action against owners of businesses that sell liquor if the physical injury was caused by an intoxicated person. The injured party must prove that the intoxication was caused by consumption of liquor provided by the restaurant and/or bar and that the injury, property damage, or loss of means of support or loss of society (in wrongful death cases) was caused by the act of an intoxicated person. It is also important to note that the amount that can be recovered from a restaurant or bar in a Dram Shop Action is statutorily capped in the State of Illinois. The Dram Shop liability limits for individuals injured or killed after January 20, 2014 shall not exceed $65,017.86 for each person incurring damages. The cause of action for loss of means of support or loss of society resulting from the death or injury to any person on or after January 20, 2014, shall not exceed $79,466.27.

I was on a jet ski and side swiped by a distracted boat driver and suffered several injuries. Who is going to pay my medical bills?

Although Illinois boaters do not have to purchase boat insurance in order to operate their boat, often times a responsible boater does have adequate boating insurance. After an accident, it is important for all parties to exchange insurance information. In addition to exchanging insurance information, if you are involved in an accident, make sure to get the name and contact information of the boat owner and a copy of their registration and title for the boat.

Our family boat was hit and badly damaged. Should I take pictures of the boat damage?

Similar to automobile accidents, taking photographs after an accident is important. First, the photographs will serve as evidence of the property damage sustained, which can be claimed as an element of damage under Illinois law. You can seek reimbursement for your boat’s damages. Second, in many instances, the path of travel, speed, and direction of the boats at the time of the accident can be determined by looking at the physical damage the boats sustained in the accident. In civil litigation cases, we highly recommend that you take photographs of your boat’s damage as soon as possible after the accident.

What are common causes of boating accidents?

There are a few common causes of boating accidents, including:

  • A distracted/inattentive operator. Like car accidents, many boating accidents are caused by human error. Operators may become distracted by boat passengers. Or they may feel that boat operation does not require close attention because there are not many obstacles on the open water. In reality, bodies of water are unpredictable. Wind, weather, and other watercraft can suddenly appear and cause danger.
  • An inexperienced operator. It is much easier to get a boating license than a driver’s license. However, boat operators still have a legal obligation to know how to safely operate a vessel. This isn’t just knowing how to drive a boat, but knowing basic boating laws, navigation rules, and how to handle emergencies.
  • Intoxication. Operating a boat while above the legal alcohol limit is illegal and highly dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s quite common. Boat passengers are allowed to drink alcohol and have open alcohol containers. If an intoxicated boat passenger operates the boat or the boat operator has too many drinks, an accident can happen. Intoxicated boating accidents more often result in death and severe injury than accidents caused by other factors.

When does a boating accident need to be reported?

Federal law requires reporting your accident in any of these situations:

  • An injury requires medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Someone suffers a fatal injury due to the accident.
  • A person disappears under circumstances that suggest death or injury.
  • Property damage totals $2,000 or more.
  • The boat is destroyed.

What should you do if you are involved in a boating accident?

You should call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

You should also collect contact and boat registration information from any other parties involved in the accident. Collect contact information from any witnesses. Take photos, if you can.

Finally, you should contact a lawyer. Your lawyer will help you through the next steps. This may include reporting the accident to the relevant authorities, investigating your accident, filing insurance claims, and/or filing lawsuits.

How can boating accidents be prevented?

There are some essential steps you should take prior to a boating excursion to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the water. Safety precautions include:

  • Ensure your boat is properly maintained.
  • Monitor weather conditions closely.
  • Ensure there are life jackets available for all passengers.
  • Maintain a safe speed.
  • Make sure the weight of passengers and gear is distributed evenly – don’t overload your vessel.
  • Ensure you are familiar with all navigation and traffic rules.
  • Don’t drink before operating the boat.

Who might be responsible for a boating accident?

If you have been hurt in a boating accident, you may be eligible for compensation. Boat operators have a legal responsibility to safely operate their vessels and minimize the risk of an accident. If they fail to do so, you may be able to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering.

Boat operators are not the only party who may be responsible for a boating accident. Boat manufacturers, dealers, or rental agencies may be responsible for mechanical malfunctions that result in an accident.

What is the statute of limitations for filing a boating accident claim in Illinois?

In Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a boat accident is two years. If you do not file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident, you may not be able to recover compensation for your losses.

Illinois Boating Accident Statistics

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 65 boat crashes occurred in Chicago in 2013. These boat wrecks led to 50 injuries and 14 fatalities. Nationally, there were 4,062 accidents in 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard reports. These accidents caused 2,620 injuries and 560 fatalities – and an estimated $39 million in property damage.

The majority of Illinois boating accident deaths result from drowning, and 12 of the 14 fatalities were not wearing a life jacket.

Also, statistics show that fatal boat crashes more likely occur when boaters lack proper safety instruction. For instance, the Coast Guard indicates that only 13 percent of the fatalities in 2013 occurred on boats where the boat operator had received safety instruction from a course provider offering a course meeting the U.S. Coast Guard recognized national standards.

Causes of Accidents Involving Boats, Jet Skis or Other Personal Water Craft

The U.S. Coast Guard data shows a clear link between deaths and a lack of boating safety knowledge. But there are many causes of boating accidents.

According to U.S. Coast Guard data, common causes of boating crashes include:

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Excessive speed
  • Failure to ventilate the boat or equipment
  • Failing to properly observe other boaters (i.e., improper lookout)
  • On-board navigation lights that do not work properly
  • Boat operator inattention
  • Inexperience of the boat operator
  • Restricted vision
  • Infraction of the rules of the “road,” including right-of-way rules
  • Sharp turns
  • Starting the boat in gear
  • Improperly anchoring the boat
  • Loading the boat incorrectly such as distributing weight improperly or overloading the boat
  • Equipment failure
  • Hull failure
  • Machinery failure
  • Overly congested waterways
  • Hazardous waters, including waves or wakes
  • Bad weather
  • Missing or insufficient navigation aids
  • Fires caused by spilled fuel or vapors igniting.

In some cases, a combination of these factors may contribute to an accident that injures or harms someone.

Recreational Boating Accidents Facts and Figures in IL

Recreational boaters in Illinois love the time they spend on the water. In fact, there were more than 319,500 boats registered in Illinois in 2011, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

IDNR offers free boating safety courses for Illinois residents, but the state does not require them. That’s unfortunate. The IDNR says that in Fiscal Year 2011 (October 2012 through September 2011) 20 out of 21 reported boating accident fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received – or it was unknown whether the operator had received – boating safety education.

The Recreational Boating Report produced by IDNR contains a wealth of information about recreational boating, boating safety and boating accidents in our state. The selected facts and figures below for Fiscal Year 2011 help to illustrate how easily careless and reckless behavior can bring a nice day on a boat to a tragic end.

  • 1,520 citations and 4,581 written warnings were issued to boaters for various infractions of the Boat Registration & Safety Act. Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) made 121 arrests for operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs. Other law enforcement agencies made 55 OUI arrests.
  • 103 boating accidents in Illinois in 2011 involved 136 vessels. In those accidents, 21 people died, including 19 victims of drowning. One person died from blunt force trauma, and one person suffered from a fatal medical condition. Eight fatalities involved alcohol impairment.
  • 70 people were injured in Illinois boating accidents. The injuries included:
    • 16 lacerations (cuts)
    • 14 contusions (bruises)
    • 11 head injuries
    • 8 broken bones
    • 5 dislocations
    • 4 back injuries
    • 4 hypothermia cases
    • 3 carbon monoxide poisonings
    • 1 burn
    • 1 internal injury
    • 1 case of shock
    • 1 dental (teeth) injury.

Seeking Compensation for Boat Accident Injuries

Human error, improper boat maintenance or boat defects are the underlying cause of most boating accidents. If any of these factors played a role in an accident that injured you or caused the death of a loved one, you may be able to seek legal relief.

Possible scenarios include:

  • Being the passenger on a boat driven by a friend or acquaintance who was drunk, failed to obey the rules or otherwise failed to act with the reasonable care that any boat driver should exhibit. You may be able to make a claim against the boat operator for negligence.
  • Being on a boat involved in a collision caused by another vessel, such as a boat or jet ski. You may be able to hold the driver of the other watercraft responsible. This, too, would be a negligence case.
  • A defect in the design or build of the boat caused the accident. You may be able to hold the manufacturer or seller of the boat responsible. In this case, you would need to bring a product liability case against the manufacturer. If the boat malfunctioned when used as intended and caused or contributed to the harm you experienced, then the manufacturer would be strictly liable for your injuries.
  • You trusted someone to perform maintenance on your boat. If that person failed to properly service or maintain it or failed to identify broken or damaged parts, he could be held responsible for negligent maintenance.

The Chicago boating accident lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help. We can determine if one or more potential defendants exists in a boating accident case.

If so, you may be able to collect money for pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages, emotional distress and other damages. If the boating crash resulted in a death, the victim’s family members may pursue a wrongful death claim.

Proving Negligence in Chicago Boating Accident Cases

When you make a claim against a boat operator or one responsible for boat maintenance, you will need to prove negligence to receive compensation. Negligence can typically be proven in one of two ways:

  • Negligence per se – You may make a negligence per se case if the boat operator violated safety laws that exist in Illinois to protect boaters. In these cases, negligence is assumed. The injured victim is not required to prove negligence. For instance, under Illinois boating laws, it is unlawful to operate a boat in a “No Wake” zone at a speed above 5 mph. If a boater was operating his boat in such a zone at a higher speed, then he would be in violation of a safety law. If an accident resulted from his high speeds in the No Wake Zone, he would be assumed negligent in the eyes of the law.
  • Negligence – You may also make a common law negligence claim. This involves showing that the boat operator or person responsible for maintaining the boat was more careless than a reasonable party would have been in his situation.

Our Chicago boating accident attorneys can help you to determine which legal theory or theories are best to make your claim after a boat wreck.

Contact Our Boating Accident Attorneys

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys have obtained substantial recoveries on behalf of clients.

We have recovered more than 260 multi-million dollar verdicts & settlements and collected a total of more than $1.5 billion in damages for our clients. We can put our skills and experience to work for you in your boating accident case.

Contact a boating accident lawyer today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 312-372-1227 or use our online form.