Boating accidents in georgia

Boating and water sports are meant to be safe and fun family recreational activities, but there are always a few people who don’t think the lake is big enough to share causing watercraft accidents.

Every year, Hagen Rosskopf represents victims who’ve been injured in boating accidents when they’ve been hit by drunk boat drivers, or who’ve been injured when careless boaters or jet skiers haven’t properly controlled their watercraft.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident on Lake Lanier, on the Chestatee River or any other body of water in Georgia, you may have a right to financial compensation. Call us and get a free consultation with one of our boating accident attorneys.

Types of Boating Accidents

Boating accidents can happen at any moment and cause injuries, property damage and in some tragic instances, death. Here are the some of the most common types of boating accidents reported in Georgia every year:

  • Boat crashes caused by drunk boat operators
  • Motorboats colliding into other motorboats
  • Boats damages by swamping
  • Dock accidents
  • Explosions and fires onboard
  • Hit by a boat while swimming
  • Personal watercraft accident
  • Propeller injuries
  • Falling overboard
  • Accidental drowning
  • Jet ski accidents

What is the most common cause of a boating accident?

This is a question that is frequently searched on Google. Understanding how boating accidents happen and what can cause them can help us prevent them. Perhaps this is why it’s googled so often – we just want to be safe. These are the most common causes of boat accidents in Georgia:

Inattention Or Inexperience From The Boat Or Personal Watercraft Operator

This is one of the leading causes of boat accidents in Georgia – inexperienced operators who lack skills to navigate safely, can’t judge distances, overlook potential hazards and who may not understand how to handle watercraft effectively can easily cause a boat crash. Talking on the phone, engaging with boat passengers can also create distractions diverting a boat driver or jet ski operator’s attention from their surroundings.

Speeding And Reckless Boat Driving

Just as with car accidents, speeding is never a good idea and so often results in an accident. When a boat operator is speeding there is less time to react to obstacles, other watercraft, or sudden changes in water conditions. It’s so easy to lose control when driving at excessive speed resulting in boat capsizing incidents and high-speed vessel collisions that can end in severe injuries and fatalities.

Alcohol Or Drugs Impairment

Boating under the influence (BUI) is not a good decision. It endangers the intoxicated boater, puts passengers and other people on the water at risk of a serious boating accident. Alcohol and drugs impair coordination, ability to react, judgement and decision-making capabilities. BUI is one of the leading causes of boating accidents.

Collisions With Fixed Objects or Other Boats and Watercraft

Crashing into other boats, docks, and submerged objects are common boating accidents in Georgia. Maintaining a safe distance from other watercraft, adhering to no-wake zones, and maintaining a proper lookout for buoys and markers signaling shallow areas or submerged hazards can help boat operators to avoid hazards and potential boating injuries.

Equipment Failure and Lack of Maintenance

Equipment failure is often tied to poor maintenance. This can lead to dangerous breakdowns in the middle of the water. Regular maintenance, detailed inspections, and prompt repairs are essential to ensure the safe operation of a vessel. A boat owner or a boat rental company can be held liable if their negligence in keeping up with routine inspections, or using outdated or faulty equipment results in a boating accident.

Weather Conditions

It is so important for boat operators to understand weather forecasts and to take appropriate precautions before heading out on the water. Inclement weather and sudden weather changes such as high winds, storms, and heavy rain can play a significant role in boating accidents. Large wakes from other vessels can cause passengers to be thrown out of a boat or a boat driver to lose control of the boat.


Boating accidents can happen due to a combination of factors including the causes listed above but also other factors such lack of proper lookout, violation of navigation rules, overloading, negligent behavior, and lack of boating education. In some ways operating a boat is like driving a car – one must handle the boat as carefully and responsibly as when getting behind the steering wheel of a car.

When an injury is caused by someone else's negligence, it is crucial to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you and your loved ones through the legal process.

Common Boating Injuries

Falling overboard, boat capsizing and collisions with another boat or object are amongst the most common ways in which boating injuries occur. Boating accidents can cause extremely serious injuries such as:

Being well prepared and equipped for range of medical emergencies can make a difference when a boating accident occurs. Don’t be caught on the water without the proper medical kit in your boat!

Boating accident injuries can be catastrophic and fatal at times. When boating injuries are caused by the negligence of another person, there may be legal recourse for victims of boating accidents. It is important to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call 404-522-7553 or submit a form to talk a one of our lawyers right away.

The Emotional and Mental Impact of a Boating Accident

Boating is an activity that promotes wellness, adventure, connection, relaxation and happiness. It is undeniable that time on the water reduces stress. Boating is just so much fun. But the negligence of one person can bring all that fun to an end when an accident happens.

Boat accident victims often experience significant mental and emotional trauma along with physical injuries. Traumatic events on the water can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, shock, anger, guilt, fear, and flashbacks.

It is normal to feel afraid after a boat accident and to experience emotional reactions such as:

  • Worrying a lot
  • Crying often
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Avoiding places or people that bring back disturbing memories
  • Becoming isolated from friends and family

Physical responses to trauma may include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty falling asleep and insomnia
  • Racing heart and sweating
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

The National Institute of Mental Health recommends seeking professional help if symptoms of trauma and emotional distress do not improve over time or begin to interfere with daily life.

Who is at Fault for a Boat Accident?

It can be challenging to prove liability in a boating accident. Possible liable parties may include:

  1. The operator of the boat you were a passenger on if the operator acted negligently. This may include operating the boat while intoxicated or driving recklessly.
  2. The operator of another boat that crashes into your boat.
  3. The owner of the boat, if they allowed someone else to operate the boat who was inexperienced or intoxicated.
  4. The owner of the boat if they failed to maintain the vessel properly.
  5. The rental company for the vessel.
  6. The manufacturer of the boat if there was a mechanical failure.

IMPORTANT LEGAL TIP: An injured person has no legal right to recover compensation for injuries unless they are able to show that another entity was negligent in causing those injures.

Having evidence is crucial to establish liability and damages in any personal injury case. Collecting and saving evidence early on may be one of the key factors leading to a positive outcome in a boating accident case. Critical types of evidence include eyewitness testimonies, surveillance footage, maintenance records, inspection records, and medical records.

An experienced boating accident attorney can help you determine who is at fault in a boat accident. If you aren’t sure who is at fault for the boating accident you were in, you should talk to a trial lawyer.

How can a Boating Accident Lawyer Help Me?

Boating accidents and the insurance claims process are not the same as a car accident. Therefore, it is important that you talk to a personal injury lawyer who has experience with boating cases and who understands boating state laws in Georgia and federal laws governing boating safety.

  • Investigate And Research: a detailed investigation is essential in building a strong boating accident case. An experienced boating accident lawyer will focus on obtaining the Georgia DNR report and any other additional incident reports generated by local law enforcement and will request any available video footage including body cam footage and phone videos made by any of the parties involved. A seasoned lawyer will work with the best experts to conduct accident scene reconstruction and will research all insurance coverage available to you and any other potential avenues for financial recovery. A good boating accident lawyer is also a good detective.
  • Establish Liability: the boat operator may not be the only party that should be held responsible for boating injuries. Georgia law §51-1-22 states that boat owners can be held liable for any accident where they gave permission to someone else to operate their vessel. Georgia law also assumes that immediate family members and spouses always have consent to use the boat or watercraft so a boat owner can be sued even if the owner wasn’t aware that a family member was using the boat.
  • Collect Documentation: your boating accident lawyer will have a robust legal team who will work diligently to gather all your medical bills, medical records, expenses related to your boating injuries, and will help you find the necessary documentation for lost wages claims, loss of business, property damage and other economic losses. Your total financial compensation is directly tied to the documents you can produce to support your claim. A boating accident legal team will do the heavy lifting to obtain all the necessary documentation so you can focus on recovering physically and emotionally.
  • Negotiate Your Boating Claim With The Insurance Company: being represented by an experienced boating accident attorney will ensure that the negotiation process with the insurance company is to your benefit and that all your rights are being protected. Your attorney will negotiate your boating accident claim with the insurance company and present you with the best offer of settlement possible. A personal injury attorney can also negotiate your medical bills with the medical providers and negotiate subrogation claims from your health insurance carrier.
  • File A Lawsuit And Take Your Boating Case To Court: it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in order to preserve the statute of limitations, or to be able to get more evidence to prove who is responsible for the boating accident, or just to get the right settlement for you. Retaining a litigation trial lawyer from Day 1 will increase your possibility of success if your boat crash case ends up going to trial. A litigation lawyer is trained to start preparing for your day in court from the beginning even if there is no indication early on that the case may need to be litigated.

Free Consultation with a Boating Accident Lawyer

The attorneys and legal team at Hagen Rosskopf are here to help boating accident victims. Call (404) 522-7553 or fill out a form to schedule a free consultation with a top Georgia boating accident lawyer. Get started on your path to justice and physical, mental, and financial recovery.

A legal consultation with Hagen Rosskopf attorneys is always free of charge and can be done via phone, video call, or in person. Talking to one of our lawyers doesn’t mean you are under any obligation to retain them; it just means you have given yourself a better chance to make the best decisions for your situation.

If you find yourself in a boating accident in Georgia, we hope you know that we are here to help you navigate the rough waters ahead.

What is the First Thing to Do in a Boating Accident?

If you find yourself in a boating accident this summer, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and follow these five steps to help you manage the situation properly.

  1. Safety First
  2. Get Medical Attention
  3. Gather Information and Preserve Evidence
  4. Contact Law Enforcement and Report the Accident
  5. Talk to a Boating Accident Lawyer

Once you are certain that everyone is safe and receiving the proper medical care, the most important step for you to take is to report the accident. It is required by federal laws and by Georgia Code § 52-7-14 and that report may become your most important piece of evidence should you pursue a claim for damages.

Hagen Rosskopf’s trial lawyers wrote a step-by-step guide to assist boating accident victims in the aftermath of a boating accident. Additionally, should you have further questions you can reach boating accident lawyer Bruce Hagen directly at [email protected].

How to Report a Boating Accident in Georgia?

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is the agency responsible for boating accident reports. If you have been injured in a boating accident in Georgia, you can contact Georgia’s DNR using their statewide emergency response phone number at 1-800-241-4113.

It may be easier to call the DNR Law Enforcement Regional Office directly responsible for the county where the boating accident happened. Georgia’s most popular lakes and waterways are included in the list with the phone numbers for each region below.

  • Region 1 - Acworth: 770-529-2424 - Lake Allatoona, West Point Lake, Carters Lake, Lake Jocasee
  • Region 2 - Gainesville: 770-535-5499 - Lake Rabun, Tallulah Falls Lake, Lake Lanier, Seed Lake, Lake Burton, Lake Chatuge, Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Hartwell
  • Region 3 - Thomson: 706-595-4211 - Lake Sinclair, Lake Oconee, Lake Tobesofkee, Clarks Hill Lake, A. H. Stephens State Park
  • Region 4 - Metter: 912-685-2145 - Satilla River Water Trail, Atlamaha Water Trail
  • Region 5 - Albany: 229-430-4252 - Lake Seminole, Lake Blackshear, Walter F. George Lake
  • Region 6 - Brunswick: 912-264-7237 - Reed Bingham Lake, Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Water Trail, Stephen C. Foster State Park

When reporting a boating accident, one should provide the names and addresses of the parties involved, the location of the accident, weather conditions at the time of the incident, details about the injuries, and a description of the boating accident. Georgia Code Title 52 provides a detailed list of all the information necessary to report a boating accident. Try your best to collect as much information as possible but don’t fret if you have limited information and call Georgia DNR to report the accident anyways.

A boating accident report is not that different than a police report for a car accident. Here is an example of boating accident report from an incident at Lake Sidney Lanier.

Georgia law requires reporting a boat accident when it results in death, disappearance, injury necessitating medical treatment beyond first aid, or property damage above $2,000.

2023 Recreational Boating Statistics

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 65th annual report provides key statistics to understand recreational boating accidents and boating injuries across the country. In 2023 the U.S. Coast Guard received reports of 3,844 accidents nationwide with the most accidents occurring in July and with a higher rate amongst ages 20-29. These boating accidents resulted in 564 deaths and reported 2,126 injuries.

  • Top five primary boating accident types in 2023: collision with recreational vessel, collision with fixed object, flooding/swamping, grounding, and capsizing.
  • Vessel types with the top casualty numbers in 2023: open motorboat, personal watercraft, canoe/kayak, pontoon, and cabin motorboat.
  • Top ten known primary contributing factors of accidents in 2023: operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, machinery failure, navigation rules violation, alcohol, weather, hazardous waters, and force of wake/wave.
  • Primary injuries in 2023: laceration, broken bone, scrape/bruise, concussion, hypothermia, sprain/strain, internal organ injury, burn, spinal cord injury, dislocation, amputation, carbon monoxide, shock, and electric shock.

Boating Education and Safety

Each one of us has the responsibility to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and others safe while boating. We can do this by being proactive about boating safety and learning as much as we can before we get on a boat whether we are the operator or a passenger.

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is a national nonprofit organization that works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to provide boaters with valuable knowledge to avoid and anticipate situations that can lead to accidents.

In Georgia it is required by law to take a boaters safety course to operate a motorized vessel if born after January 1, 1998. However, it may be a good idea to take a NASBLA approved boat-ed course as a refresher every now and then.

You can get a free annual day-use pass for Lake Lanier from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if you take a Georgia Boater Education course.

What is Uninsured Boater Coverage?

Un-insured boater coverage is also uninsured/ underinsured boater coverage (UM/UIM). This type of insurance coverage protects you when you are involved in a boating accident with a boater who doesn’t have any insurance coverage (un-insured), or a boat owner who doesn’t have enough insurance coverage (under-insured) to cover the damages caused.

UM/UIM boater coverage is optional in Georgia. However, our advice is the same as with UM/UIM motorist coverage for your motor vehicles – get uninsured boater coverage! We can’t control what happens when we are out on the water, we can’t control who causes a boating accident, but we can control how much insurance we have available to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Medical Payments coverage is also available with boat insurance. This coverage can pay for medical expenses for you or your passengers in the event of a boating accident.

Our goal is to ensure that you receive the support and resources you need to move forward with your life.

Georgia Boating Laws and FAQs

What are the Boating Laws in Georgia?

Georgia Code Title 52 – “The Georgia Boat Safety Act” lists all the rules and regulations for boating in Georgia. Here are some of the most important Georgia boating laws you should be familiar with:

  • Anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 must complete and pass a boating safety course.
  • All mechanically propelled vessels and sailboats over 12 feet in length must be registered.
  • All vessels must be equipped with lifejackets for each person aboard.
  • Boating under the influence in Georgia is against the law.
  • Operators must stay at least 200 feet away from moored vessel, residence, public parks and beaches, public swimming areas, marina, restaurants and public use areas. This is the newest boating law in Georgia and it went into effect on July 1, 2023.

The Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities created by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is a useful tool for learning more about boating laws in Georgia.

Does a Boat Need Insurance in Georgia?

Boat insurance is not required by law in the state of Georgia, but you still may need an insurance policy if you are financing your boat or plan to store your boat in a marina. There are different types of coverage available for boat owners in Georgia including: property damage liability coverage, bodily injury liability coverage, collision and comprehensive coverage, umbrella policies, fuel spill coverage, watersports coverage and wreckage removal.

Do You Have to Wear a Lifejacket on a Boat in Georgia?

Georgia law requires all vessels to be equipped with a Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device (PFD) for each person aboard. This includes kayaks, canoes, and inflatable rafts. Lifejackets must be readily accessible to all occupants and in good condition. Type IV throwable devices must also be on board on boats. Children under age 13 in Georgia must wear an appropriately sized lifejacket while on board any moving vessel unless the child is in an enclosed cabin.

Lifejackets save lives, that simple. In 2023, 53 incidents of drowning were reported in Georgia waters. 16 of those incidents resulted in fatalities. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources over 85 percent of drowning victims would likely still be alive today if they had been properly wearing a life jacket.

How Old do you have to be to Drive a Jet Ski in Georgia?

In Georgia you must be at least 16 years old to legally operate a jet ski, a personal watercraft (PWC), and any type of boat. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 is required by law to pass a boater safety course and must carry a boater education card.

12- to 15-year-olds cannot legally operate a vessel 16 ft or longer; but they can operate a PWC or vessel that is less than 16 ft if they have passed a boating education course and are accompanied by a competent adult.

Can you have Alcohol on Your Boat in Georgia?

The short answer is yes. Just because alcohol is allowed on a boat it doesn’t mean that a boat operator can drink to the point where it is not safe to operate a boat.

The Georgia Boat Safety Act prohibits anyone from boating under the influence (BUI) – this includes operating any boat, sailboat, personal watercraft, water skis, sailboard, inflatable raft, or any other watercraft while intoxicated.

Georgia Code § 52-7-12 is very clear about operating a boat while consuming alcohol or drugs.

"(a) No person shall operate, navigate, steer, or drive any moving vessel, or be in actual physical control of any moving vessel, nor shall any person manipulate any moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while:
(1) Under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device;
(2) Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device;
(3) Under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device;" —Excerpt From Ga. Code Ann., § 52-7-12 - Prohibited Operation

It also is unlawful for the owner of a boat or PWC to allow anyone else to operate their boat or PWC while that person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If you were injured due to the negligence of a drunk boat operator you may be eligible for punitive damages. Talk to a boating accident lawyer to help you understand and pursue all your legal options for financial recovery.

BRUCE A. HAGEN - Firm Founder

Why Choose Hagen Rosskopf, "The People's Lawyers", for Your Case?

  • Proven track record of success in personal injury litigation, with multiple million-dollar settlements and verdicts in cases involving back and spine injuries, along with extensive courtroom and trial experience in Atlanta
  • Personalized attention, compassionate support, and quality legal representation for clients by attorneys who take pride in being "The People's Lawyer"
  • Strong commitment to community involvement and advocacy in Atlanta, valuing community and quality over volume, which is why you won't see our lawyers on Georgia highway billboards
  • Our clients keep coming back to us and refer us to their friends because of our focused client care and the trust they place in our firm
  • Contingency fee basis - you pay no fees unless we win your case, and a free, no-obligation consultation with our law firm about your injury

Our Commitment to You

We can’t promise you a multi-million-dollar settlement from your boating accident. Personal injury lawyers should not make you any promises about what they can settle your case for. We can’t promise you that your health will be fully restored. We can’t bring back your loved one lost in a senseless boating accident. We can’t assure you a painless, stress-free, easy journey after your boating crash.

What we can promise you is to prioritize your well-being and treat you with compassion, dignity, and respect. Our law firm was founded on the virtues that guide us to consider the human element above all. We do this by:

  • Having honest and open communication about your case and potential legal problems and challenges. You may not always like what we have to say but being upfront and honest will ensure that you have realistic expectations about the value and timeline for your case.
  • Responding to emails and phone call within 24 hours: we know how frustrating personal injury attorneys and law firms can be, including us. We work to improve our communication with our clients daily and evaluate our processes regularly.
  • Taking the time to explain and discuss each step of the process with you, so you can understand what is happening with your case, why it’s happening and what to expect next.
  • Working efficiently and with the latest technology to gather medical bills and medical records in a timely manner, to conduct crucial investigation early on, and to move your case along understanding that you may need financial compensation as soon as possible.
  • Listening to you: we are never too busy to talk, we want to know how your medical treatment is going and what is stressing you out. Your input and contributions are valuable and important to your case.
  • Being sensitive to cultural, racial, gender, and language diversity and seeking inclusivity in our communications and practice.

At Hagen Rosskopf, we are more than just attorneys - we are passionate advocates for the rights of victims and their families. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges you face, and we are here to provide the skilled legal representation and unwavering support you need during this difficult time.

If you or someone you know has been injured while boating on a lake or river, contact Hagen Rosskopf, to schedule a free consultation about your injury or wrongful death claim.

Case Studies and Testimonials

At Hagen Rosskopf, we have a proven track record of success in representing boating accident victims and their families in Atlanta. Some of our notable cases include:

  • $256,000.00 settlement for two passengers of a motorboat that was hit by the operator of another vessel who was boating under the influence (BUI) in Lake Lanier. The high speed boating accident caused multiple lacerations, a torn ligament, and acute stress disorder.

But don't just take our word for it - hear what our Atlanta clients have to say about their experience with Hagen Rosskopf:

"These guys were life savers when it came to my first wreck. I had no clue what to do, and they helped me front start to finish. I can’t give this company enough praise! 10/10! Such a stress free process when you work with these guys!"
"This place is AMAZING! I was referred to them by my stepdad and they are excellent. Jennifer is the best! She always keeps me updating on my case status. It honestly feels like family.. they are so helpful. Everyone that I've interacted with is amazing and they are extremely professional. I'm so glad I chose them to represent me. I'd give them more than 5 stars if I could. Great choice, great people!!"

And over 180 other reviews:

Contact Hagen Rosskopf, "The People's Lawyers," Today

If you or a loved one has suffered in a boating accident in Atlanta due to someone else's negligence, don't wait to seek the legal help you need and deserve. Contact Hagen Rosskopf today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced boating accident injury attorneys. We will listen to your story, answer your questions, and provide the guidance and support you need to move forward with your life. 

Call us today at (404) 476-6193 or fill out our online contact form to get started. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.