Marasco&Nesselbush personal injury lawyers

Rhode Island Boat Accident Lawyer

Rhode Island’s beautiful coastline and waterways offer fantastic recreational and commercial boat opportunities for all of us. There are 38,406 boats registered with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Commercial fishing vessels haul in delicious lobsters, soft shell clams and other shellfish from Rhode Island waterways.

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    All this boat activity creates risks of accidents if care is not taken. According to data from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, from 2019 to 2020, the total number of boating accidents in Rhode Island increased by 35.7 percent.

    If you have been injured in a boat accident in Rhode Island, you may be able to secure compensation from the culpable party. If you have suffered the loss of a family member to a boat accident, a wrongful death lawsuit may be in order. Our Rhode Island boat accident lawyers would be honored to represent you in court.


    There were 57 recreational boat accidents in Rhode Island in 2020. ln the United States, boat accidents caused more than 3,000 injuries.


    • Collisions. Collisions accounted for the majority of boat accidents in Rhode Island in 2020. This includes collisions with recreational, commercial or government vessels, though most involve recreational boats. Accidents also result from collisions with submerged, fixed and floating objects.
    • Flooding/swamping. In 2020, almost 600 accidents in the United States occurred due to flooding or swamping of a boat. There were 10 such boat accidents in Rhode Island.
    • Capsizing. The overturning or capsizing of a vessel is the deadliest accident type. The Coast Guard reports that an overwhelming number of fatalities happen due to capsizing in “poor boat conditions–most often when the National Weather Service has warned that high seas or rough winds make boating untenable for smaller vessels.”
    • Water ski and jet ski mishaps and ejections. Both these accident types occurred in Rhode Island during 2020.
    • Vessel grounding. An operator unintentionally running a boat into the ground or a jetty is a fairly frequent circumstance in boat accidents.


    There are human and equipment conditions that impact the likelihood and extent of a boat accident. If you’ve been injured in a boat accident and any of these factors were present, you will want to consult a Rhode Island boat accident lawyer to see if the wrongdoer can be held accountable.

    • Reckless boat driving
      If the driver of the boat you were on operated it recklessly–at high speeds when near a wave, wake, dock or other object, for example–he or she may be responsible for your injuries.
    • Alcohol or drugs
      Coast guard officials say that boating while under the influence of alcohol (BUI) has historically been a cause of boat accidents. BUI is illegal in Rhode Island. 
    • Distracted boat operator
      Many boat accidents are caused by a distracted driver/operator of the vessel. Even looking away for a few seconds at navigational controls at the wrong time can result in an accident and injuries.
    • Inexperienced operator
      The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has stated that many crashes are caused by inexperienced drivers. Newer operators may not have knowledge of the shoreline or the location of objects. They may also lack proper training. 
    • Failure to comply with regulations
      Boat accidents occur when an owner fails to comply with safety regulations. Deficiencies in vessel lighting, distress signal capabilities or lack of fire extinguishers or personal floatation devices can play a role in accidents and the extent of injuries suffered.
    • Improper use of boat
      Boaters that do not follow the boat manufacturer’s guidelines can be the cause of accidents and injuries. For example, taking more people or weight onto a boat than the vessel was designed to handle can cause a boat to take on water or even capsize.


    When boat operators are negligent or violate Rhode Island law, accidents happen and passengers get injured.

    Boat accident injuries range from minor to catastrophic. Government reports identify specific primary injury types in boat accidents involving recreationalists, including:



    broken bones

    Broken bones



    carbon monoxide poisoning

    Carbon monoxide poisoning



    electric shock

    Electric shock



    internal organ injury

    Internal organ injury

    Lacerations, scrapes, or bruises

    Lacerations, scrapes, or bruises



    spinal cord injury

    Spinal cord injury

    sprain or strain


    If you or a family member suffered any of these or other injuries during a boat accident, one of our experienced Rhode Island personal injury lawyers would be happy to talk with you about how to seek compensation from the responsible person.


    Some boat accident injuries are deadly. There were two fatalities from accidents involving recreational boats in Rhode Island in 2020. Sadly, a woman on a catamaran sailboat died after a powerboat collided with her vessel near Newport Pell Bridge.

    Family members of a person who died after a boat accident may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent boat operator. If you find yourself in this terrible situation, seek counsel from a Rhode Island boat accident lawyer as soon as you can.


    In 2020, 37 vessels incurred property damage in boat accidents. If your boat was damaged in a boat accident you may be able to have the responsible party pay for repairs or replacement of an unsalvageable boat. Commercial fishermen may also be able to seek lost wages for the time period that they could not operate their boat.

    a boat capsized on rocks


    Under Rhode Island law the blood alcohol limit for boat operation is 0.08 percent. The state’s BUI statute mirrors the DUI statute. There are some differences in penalties, however. Violators of BUI laws may be required to take a boat safety course, whereas people charged with a DUI must attend a driver retraining course. However, people under the age of 21 who are convicted of a BUI will have their driver’s license suspended as well.

    Penalties for negligent boat operators include suspension of their boating rights. while a driver would have their driver’s license suspended.

    The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is the chief steward of our state’s natural resources. The DEM Division of Enforcement is also the lead agency that enforces boat safety and investigates recreational boat accidents. The marine officers in the enforcement division conduct water-based search and rescues, patrol state beaches and coastal parks and teach boat safety courses. 

    The DEM enforces Rhode Island statutes on the regulation of boats, laws regarding boats and alcohol, and laws regarding Personal Watercraft (PWC) operation. DEM rules and regulations also incorporate international/inland rules for operating vessels on the water and additional boat equipment safety regulations.

    a helicopter flying over a sinking boat


    The owner or operator of any vessel involved in an accident or casualty on the waters of Rhode Island must report the incident to the DEM or to a nearby state or local police office. This reporting requirement applies to all deaths and injuries on a boat and where property damage is more than $2,000.

    The boat owner has five days after the incident to file a written report with the DEM. 

    Examples of reportable boat accident casualties include:

    •  Collision between two vessels or vessel grounding where the total property damage
      either or both vessels is estimated to be more than $2,000
    • Collision with a fixed object such as a dock, pier or buoy that results in
      property damage in excess of $2,000
    • Any injury to a person where more than first aid is needed. Examples here include
      injuries from being struck by a vessel, falling overboard, falling from a wake, injury
      from a collision, collisions while being towed by a vessel or riding on a vessel.

    If someone becomes seriously ill or dies from medical causes not related to the boat, no accident report is required.


    Some Rhode Island towns such as Glocester have their own local regulations on boats. These may come into play if you are considering a lawsuit after a boat accident. The lawyers at our firm are very familiar with the local and state laws governing the operation and ownership of boats on Rhode Island waterways.


    When things go awry on a boat, fast action is needed. Make sure everyone has a life jacket on, even if they are not injured or in the water. This will protect them if they must rescue a fellow boater, move in a boat that is taking on water or help an injured person in poor weather conditions. Assist the injured and provide first aid as needed.

    Call for help if the situation is serious. Depending on where the accident happens and whether there’s a medical emergency, the authorities to contact for help on the water may be the Harbor Master, Coast Guard or the Department of Environmental Management.

    The boat owner should handle communications (unless injured) and have the boat’s GPS position in hand to give to the authorities so they can find you. Let them know if there’s an emergency radio beacon onboard. Don’t move the boat until the authorities reach you.

    Gather contact information for all those on the vessel or witnesses in nearby boats or onshore. Take pictures of the boat registration, any insurance information available, injuries and the condition of the vessel. This documentation will be valuable for any lawsuit you may bring against those responsible.


    The Rhode Island boat accident lawyers at Marasco & Nesselbush have years of experience with the Department of Environmental Management and the laws governing negligence in boat accidents.

    You can rely on us to leverage the skills and knowledge we’ve attained in our 20 years of legal experience in Rhode Island to hold the responsible parties and their insurance carriers accountable.

    You can trust that we will manage your case professionally and meet legal deadlines, including Rhode Island’s three-year statute of limitations for bringing an action for personal injury. We will review your medical records and pore over the details of your case in order to build a solid case against the defendant.

    Our legal team will fight for the compensation you’re entitled to. The damages we will unwavering pursue include your:

    • Current and future medical expenses
    • Property damage
    • Lost wages and future earnings
    • Pain and suffering
    • Emotional distress

    You shouldn’t have to endure continued hardships in the wake of any traumatic event, much less one that was due to the carelessness or reckless behavior of another person. As your legal team, we’ll stand up for you and put an end to the defendant’s ruthless exploitation of your injury or loss.

    Contact Marasco and Nesselbush today for a free consultation on your boat accident lawsuit and eligibility for compensation.

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