What Is the Cause of Most Fatal Boating Accidents?

A day on the water can turn deadly in an instant when a boat operator does not exercise the proper level of care. If your loved one died in a boating accident in South Carolina, you may have a legal cause of action in a wrongful death case.

Depending on the facts, you may be able to sue the operator of the boat on which your family member was riding or the operator of the other boat involved in the crash. To learn more about your legal rights, make an appointment with the West Law Firm. Our Moncks Corner boat accident lawyer can help you take action.

Deadly Boating Accident Statistics

The number of boating accident fatalities has risen in South Carolina in recent years. In 2022, 22 people lost their lives in boat incidents, up from 15 in 2018.

The number of serious accidents is also on the rise. Some of the increase in boating fatalities results from the fact that there are more registered watercraft in the state, more than 360,000 at the last count. The rest of the increase can be attributed to a lack of regard for safety and more careless boating habits.

Causes of Fatal Boat Accidents

Here are some causes of boating accident fatalities in South Carolina:

Alcohol related accidents

You have no control over what someone else on the water does in their own boat and whether they follow the law. Even if the operator has not been drinking themselves, others on the boat may have been.

Alcohol plays a factor in roughly 7% of boating accidents each year. Alcohol distorts the boat operator’s perceptions and may cause them to take unnecessary risks. They may not have the depth perception to see where other boats are on the water.

Boater inexperience

It takes some time to figure out how to properly operate a boat. South Carolina allows people as young as 16 to operate a boat without any restrictions or supervision.

Boats require much more caution and skill than driving a car, yet the state still allows younger people on the water in complex and dangerous watercraft. The only training that someone needs to get a boating license is a three-hour class online, meaning that many may get behind the wheel of a boat with little idea of how to handle a craft in crucial moments, even with required safety training.

Improper lookout

Not having someone designated as the lookout on the boat is the second-leading cause of boat accidents. Based on their position in the boat, the operator may not be able to see every hazard in the water.

Someone else on the boat should be given the task of serving as the lookout to spot debris and other potential challenges and obstacles. They should relay the information to the operator, who then takes whatever action is necessary to keep everyone else safe. Otherwise, the operator may never see other boats and hazards in time to avoid them.


Boat operators may think that they can speed because the water is not as congested as the roads. Excessive speed is the fourth-leading cause of boat accidents in the country.

When a boater is speeding, they often cannot see what is around them in time. The operator may not spot other boats or obstacles in the water. The driver has little time to react to the danger and cause a collision, or they may also lose control and capsize in the water, endangering their own passengers.


According to the Coast Guard, operator inattention is the most common cause of boat accidents. There are many things on a boat that can take away from the operator’s attention level.

Noise and other activities on the boat could distract the driver and take their attention away from the water. In other cases, the driver may be on their mobile device and not looking around them.

Distracted boating is every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.

Proving liability in a boating wrongful death case

In any wrongful death, you must prove the “wrongful” element of your case. Wrongful means that someone else’s actions caused the death of your loved one, whether it was negligence or recklessness.

You must gather evidence that proves that the defendant was to blame for what happened.

Although you do need to know the exact cause of the accident, it helps to know the reason behind what happened. A plaintiff needs proof that someone else’s boat struck that of your loved one or otherwise caused the accident.

One of our attorneys can gather proof that shows the other boater did something that would be considered unreasonable under the circumstances. This evidence, in turn, becomes the foundation of a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.

Contact a Moncks Corner Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If you have lost a loved one in a boating accident, or you have also suffered injuries yourself, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The attorneys at the West Law Firm fight for injured people in Moncks Corner and throughout the Charleston region.

Seek the justice you deserve. Call us today at 843-483-8630 or send us a message online to schedule your free initial consultation.

West Law Firm Logo

Contact Us

Call us now at 843-483-8630 or fill out the form for a free consultation.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
100% Secure and Confidential