Common Boating Accidents in North Carolina

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: How does the law of contributory negligence play a role in my case?


Being out on the open water is an experience unlike anything else. The freedom one experiences while operating a recreational marine vessel can be exciting and liberating. While owning and operating a boat can be a pleasurable activity for oneself and others, it also comes with a large responsibility.  Boating accidents that cause personal injury to others are a serious concern in waterways across the nation.


ferry-boat-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Injury-Lawyer-300x200In North Carolina, the Wildlife Resources Commission notes that there are approximately 370,780 registered boats in the state, accounting for 3.1% of all registrations nationwide. In 2019, there were 134 accidents reported, with 14 fatalities. While this number may not seem high relative to North Carolina’s population, the data do not account for any accidents or personal injuries experienced and not reported.


The United States Coast Guard (USCG) maintains records on all reported boating accidents in the nation. When a boating accident occurs due to another person’s negligence and results in personal injury to one or more individuals, these victims are likely going to want to know their rights as they relate to civil litigation to recover compensation for damages.


While consultation with an experienced local personal injury attorney is always the best course of action in these cases, there are certainly some general points of knowledge to which every boat owner should be made aware.


No Lookout


On every boat, there should be a “lookout,” or a person designated to watch and listen for any signs of threat or danger. When no lookout is assigned and an accident occurs that results in personal injury, a case may be made that the operators of the other vessel were acting in a negligent manner by not taking proper precautions to ensure their surroundings were adequately accounted for.


Going Too Fast


For many boating operators, the open water presents itself as an opportunity to go as fast as they want. However, speeding excessively in a boat could be considered negligent behavior. While there is always the risk of personal injury due to a high speed collision with another vessel, there are other risks as well.


For example, when a boat is going at a high speed against choppy water and wakes created by the current, it will begin to bounce up and down. At high speeds, this bouncing can be at such a high force that it causes passengers to be thrown about the cabin, or even ejected from the vessel entirely.




While many North Carolina residents are likely aware that drinking and driving an automobile is against the law, for some reason the recreational nature of boating seems to make some occupants and operators ambivalent to due consideration of alcohol use onboard. However, North Carolina law clearly states that operating a boating vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law, and thus likely to be found as negligent behavior in the eyes of a court.


When to Contact an Attorney


If you have been involved in a boating accident and you believe the underlying cause was the other operator’s negligence, it is important to understand your rights. For years, the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have been helping personal injury victims in Charlotte and North Carolina build their case for fair compensation. Call (704) 370-2828 to receive a video, phone or in-person consultation with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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