Morristown personal injury attorney F. Braxton “Brack” Terry this week cautioned East Tennessee residents to keep boating safety rules in mind as they take to the region’s plentiful recreational waters during June’s National Safety Month and throughout the summer.
“People tend to forget that the ‘rules of the road’ apply when we operate motorized vehicles on the open waters,” said Terry, whose East Tennessee personal injury law firm, Terry, Terry & Stapleton, represents victims of serious injury and wrongful death resulting from the negligent acts of others.
“Most important is the rule that tells us not to mix alcohol with operating a boat or jet ski, just as we do not drink and drive a car,” Terry said.
Terry pointed to the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual Recreational Boating Statistics report for 2010, which says alcohol contributed to 19 percent of boating deaths last year, making it the “leading contributing factor” in all fatal boating accidents.
The 2010 figure was up three percentage points from 2009, when alcohol was cited as the leading contributing factor to 16 percent of boating deaths.
The Coast Guard says the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents for 2010 were alcohol, excessive speed, operator inattention, improper lookout and operator inexperience.
“In each of the five top contributing factors to boating accidents, a person was negligent and at fault, either through their actions or inaction,” Terry said. “We’ve also seen many East Tennessee boating crashes causing death and injury that were the result of manufacturer defects in the watercraft – a boat or jet ski.”
In 2010, the Coast Guard counted 4,604 accidents that involved 672 deaths, 3,153 injuries and approximately $35.5 million in property damage as a result of recreational boating accidents.
“It often takes an investigation to determine what really happened in a collision or other accident on the water,” the Morristown lawyer said. “And the investigator must be someone who is working on behalf of the accident victim, not someone whose primary concern is for the insurance company.”
If an East Tennessee resident has been hurt or a family member has been seriously injured or killed as a result of a wreck involving a boat or jet ski, it is extremely important to get sound legal advice – even before contacting their own insurance company, Terry said.