Capsizing is among the most common accidents to happen on a boat, and it’s the leading cause of fatalities that involve small boats. After all, being plunged into the water following capsizing, people are more susceptible to drowning because of currents, objects under the water, or sheer panic. According to U.S. Coast Guard data, there were over 100 fatalities on recreational boats in 2019, which led to more than $1 million being paid out in damages.
What Does Capsizing Mean?
Capsizing happens when a boat is flooded with water, and it lifts up by 90 degrees or more. However, many people associate capsizing with boats turning over 180 degrees, which happens in many circumstances.
Following a capsize, the risks associated with boating become extremely clear. Boats can suffer structural damage, sinking, and flooding. If a boat is kitted out with electricity, there’s a high chance of electrocution because of the enormous body of water.
Capsizing can be caused by a number of issues including volatile waves, uneven distribution of weight (people and equipment), and leaks.
What Boats Are Prone to Capsizing?
Small boats are more susceptible to capsizing – think kayaks, canoes, and sailboats. The main reason is that they’re only designed to hold a certain weight and they’re more likely to become unstable. However, it’s important to note that even large boats can capsize under certain conditions. For example, the HMHS Britannic (RMS Titanic’s sister ship), was struck by a German mine in 1916 and began to capsize to the starboard side.
Unlike boats the size of HMHS Britannic and RMS Titanic, small boats often stay afloat after they capsize. This is a blessing because it provides passengers with something relatively stable to hold on to while they wait for support. As well as this, kayaks and canoes are typically manned by one person, which means rescue efforts don’t require as much manpower.
How to Prevent Capsizing
Capsizing happens more often when on small boats, but it’s nowhere near as catastrophic an incident involving large boats. To make sure a small boat journey is safe, there are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent capsizing, including:
- Ensure all passengers wear a personal floating device (PFD) vest while the boat is in transit.
- Don’t overload the boat – this includes spreading weight evenly between cargo and passengers.
- Place the engine’s cut-off switch on a lanyard and attach it to the PFD or a wrist.
- Ensure nobody sits on seat backs, bow, motor cover, gunwale, or any other areas not designed for sitting.
- Stabilize the boat’s center of gravity by telling passengers to stay seated.
- Never attach the anchor line to the stern – always the bow.
- Avoid heading out in rough conditions – strong currents and waves can lead to capsizing.
- Maintain safe speed while the boat is making turns.
- Keep passengers from leaning over the edge of the boat below the gunwale.
What to Do If You’re Injured on a Capsizing Boat?
If you’ve followed the safety precautions and the boat capsizes, the very first thing you need to do is stay calm. The next step is making sure all passengers are accounted for, and then locating the emergency kit and signaling for help.
While you wait for emergency support, everything you do is about staying afloat. Look for something stable to hold onto – your boat will likely be sitting on the surface of the water. If you need to take items of clothes off to make it easier to stay above the water, then so be it.
When you’re back on land, make sure you get checked over by a medical professional and keep any records. If the boating accident wasn’t your fault, you can contact our boating accident lawyers to file a claim for compensation.
If the incident leads to one of the following, you must report the incident to the relevant boating authority:
- An injury in need of medical attention.
- A fatality.
- A missing passenger.
- Damage more than $2,000 if another boat was involved.
- The boat’s destruction.
Elements to Consider in a Boating Compensation Case
To file for compensation, our personal injury lawyers conduct a free consultation to establish various elements and collect relevant evidence. To start with, we need to know who the boat belonged to, e.g., yourself, a rental company, or a commercial company. If the boat was rented or commercial, we’ll begin to investigate any companies involved to determine any defects, subpar repairs, and any other negligent actions.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a small boat capsizing accident that wasn’t your fault, visit Denmon Pearlman Law at the following location:
- Tampa – 2504 W Crest Ave, Tampa, FL 33614
- Petersburg – 520 2nd Ave South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
- New Port Richey – 5703 Main Street, New Port Richey, FL 34652
- Brooksville – 1790 E Jefferson St., Brooksville, FL 34601
- Seminole – 5290 Seminole Blvd. Suite D, St. Petersburg, FL 33708
Or call now for a free consultation on (800) 800-4300.