Practice Area

Boat Accident Lawyers in Michigan

We only charge a 22% contingency fee of the final settlement. Other Michigan attorneys charge 331/3%.
Michigan Boat Accident Lawyer

Experienced Michigan Lawyers for Boating Accident Compensation

Michigan is one of the most beautiful states for boating, with access to spectacular lakes and rivers, including four of the Great Lakes. However, a fun day out on the water can turn serious quickly when an accident occurs.

In 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard reported over 5,200 recreational boating accidents, which resulted in 767 deaths, over 3,100 injuries, and approximately $62.5 million in damages. If you or a family member suffered a personal injury or worse in a boating accident in Michigan, you do not have to suffer alone trying to find a way to move forward.

Learn about the leading causes of boating accidents in Michigan, who is responsible for a boating accident, when an accident needs to be reported, and how a Michigan boating accident attorney can help you after you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident. Schedule a free consultation with our compassionate and caring legal team at Matz Injury Law by calling 866-226-6833 or filling out our online contact form.

Types of Boating Accidents in Michigan

In Michigan, there are a few common types of boating accidents, including but not limited to collisions, fires, slip-and-fall injuries due to wet surfaces, water hazards, mechanical or structural failure, and missing safety devices such as life jackets and rescue aids. Depending on the type of accident and the underlying factors, different parties may be held liable.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Michigan

life preserver laying on a beach

When a boat operator acts in a reckless, negligent, or careless matter, they can be held liable in the event of recreational boating accidents and other types of incidents that cause injury or wrongful death.

Excessive Speed

Michigan maritime law regulates boating speed for the safety of boat owners, operators, passengers, and others near a watercraft. Michigan maritime law defines failure to regulate speed as driving a boat at a speed that endangers the life or property of another person or driving so fast that you cannot bring your vessel to a safe stop. Engaging in any of these behaviors is considered reckless operation of a boat or other watercraft.

Reckless behaviors include driving above 55 miles per hour unless you are at least one mile offshore on the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair, driving faster than is reasonable based on conditions like weather and traffic density, and going fast enough to generate wake when there is someone in the bow of the boat without proper seating.

Driver Intoxication

Alcohol use is the leading factor in boating fatalities, according to the Coast Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report. Like any other type of motor vehicle, the influence of alcohol can significantly reduce a person’s ability to safely operate motorboats, pontoon boats, kayaks, sailboats, or other types of personal watercraft.

Driver Inexperience

Drivers who lack proper training on the water are a risk to themselves and others around them. Much like an untrained driver on the road, an untrained boat driver is more likely to make mistakes and less likely to know all safety precautions and regulations intended to keep boaters safe. Driver inexperience is one of the leading causes of boating accidents.

Driver Inattention

Operator inattention is the leading cause of boating accidents in the U.S. In 2020, this risky behavior led to 664 accidents, 383 injuries, and 55 deaths. If you are out on a boat with friends or family and having a good time, it can be difficult to keep your full attention on driving, but just as distracted driving a motor vehicle on the road can have serious consequences, so can distracted driving on the water.

Improper Lookout

Ideally, while someone is driving the boat, another person serves as a lookout. It is not always easy to see the obstacles you might be driving toward when you think you are in open water. A lookout can watch for swimmers, rocks, and other obstacles you don’t want to hit.

Inclement Weather

Storms can develop quickly out on the water, making driving your boat difficult or impossible. If you plan to go out on the water, keep an eye on the weather forecast and be ready to return to shore if it looks like the weather will turn nasty.

Mechanical Defects

The boat’s owner is responsible for properly maintaining the boat. If you rent a boat and a system fails, the owner can be held liable in court. Before going out on the water, do a quick inspection to ensure all systems in the watercraft are functioning as intended.

What is Considered Reckless or Negligent Driving of a Boat?

If you are in a boating accident in Michigan, you can sue for damages against the party or parties responsible. To do so, you need to establish that they were negligent and that their negligent action or inaction resulted in a boat injury or death.

Michigan law defines reckless driving of a boat as neglecting to consider the safety or rights of others while operating a watercraft or endangering others or the property of other individuals while operating a boat. Examples of reckless boat operations include weaving a boat through congested waterways, harassing wildlife with a boat, and swerving at the last moment to avoid a collision.

Who is Responsible for a Boating Accident in Michigan?

Responsibility for a boating accident is dependent on the circumstances of the accident.

Responsibility in a Collision

In a collision, like in a car accident, one or both drivers may be liable, depending on what factors caused the accident and who had the right-of-way. You may be able to pursue damages against both drivers if both contributed to the accident and injury.

Responsibility in a Slip-and-Fall Injury

If you fell due to a poorly-maintained deck or as the result of a collision, you may be able to hold the boat owner or boat driver accountable for damages.

Responsibility for Mechanical or Equipment Failure

If you were injured due to a mechanical failure, you might be able to hold the boat’s owner, driver, or mechanic responsible for damages. Likewise, if a loved one drowned because there were inadequate safety devices on board, you may be able to sue the boat owner for damages.

Responsibility for Michigan Water Hazards

If you rented a boat and the rental company failed to warn you about water hazards that caused injury or death, you may be able to sue the rental company.

Common Boating Accident Injuries in Michigan

life preserver being thrown to a man in the water

Unfortunately, boat accident victims often suffer serious injuries after experiencing a crash on the water. 

For instance, years ago, there was a case involving a tubing incident. Someone had tossed the tube out of a speed boat, and the driver began to pull away slowly before the rope was fully extended. As the rope tightened, it wrapped around a child and dragged them into the water. Unfortunately, as this was happening, he hit his head on the side of the boat and lost consciousness. 

Common types of injuries victims tend to sustain include the following.

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Amputations
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains
  • Burns
  • Hypothermia
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Drowning

It’s important to note that approximately 85 percent of drowning victims in 2020 were not wearing a life jacket. Safe, proactive planning, such as wearing life jackets, can help prevent serious injuries or death.

What Boating Accidents Need to be Reported?

Under Michigan boating law, you must report certain accidents to the authorities. Depending on the severity of the accident, the deadline for reporting varies.

The boat driver and all passengers are responsible for reporting the accident immediately if:

  • An individual dies after succumbing to injury.
  • A person disappears from the vessel.

The boat driver or owner must file a report with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) within 48 hours if:

  • A victim dies within 24 hours of the accident.
  • Someone requires medical attention beyond first aid.
  • A victim loses consciousness.
  • Someone is disabled for more than 24 hours due to the accident.

The driver or owner must file within five days if:

  • There is more than $2,000 worth of boat or property damage.
  • Someone disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

Anyone involved in a Michigan maritime accident must follow the law to report the accident.

How Can a Michigan Boat Accident Lawyer Help?

If you or a loved one suffered an injury on Michigan waterways or you lost a loved one in a fatal boating accident, you may be able to pursue a boating accident case to recover damages from the responsible parties. An experienced Michigan boating accident attorney can help collect evidence, communicate with insurance companies, advocate for you in court, and fight for you to receive all necessary medical care and pay for these medical expenses.

In Michigan, there aren’t as many laws for boating as there are for driving cars. Knowing the at-fault person’s legal duties and how their specific conduct breached those duties is essential to proving an injury claim. All negligence cases have four factors: duty, breach, proximate cause, and damages. You must prove all four elements to win a case.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to improve your chances of winning. Putting the at-fault person or owner of the boat that caused the crash on notice forces them to preserve any evidence of what happened, which could be essential to proving negligence.

Fighting for You in the Wake of Your Accident

If you’ve been injured in a boat or jet ski accident in Michigan, you can claim compensation for your losses. This applies even if you were not driving the boat during the accident. Matz Injury Law has been helping accident victims obtain medical care and compensation for over 30 years. The attorneys at our law firm are strong advocates for injured people and the families of fatal accident victims. We strive to provide sound legal advice and work hard to obtain the best possible result for every client.

In your case, our firm will organize a team of professionals to obtain results for you. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this team could include one or more attorneys, an accident investigator, and other specialists. Our team will document the responsible party’s negligence and identify the medical care you need to recover to the fullest extent possible. We will handle all communications with insurance companies so that you can focus on your recovery.

Matz Injury Law will work diligently to build a solid case to help you obtain medical care, pay your medical bills, and receive total compensation for your losses. Contact the attorneys at Matz Injury Law for a free consultation by calling our phone number at 866-226-6833 or submitting our online contact form. We proudly serve the entire state of Michigan from our easily accessible Southfield office.

Recent Settlements

  • $4.15 Million Settlement in Washtenaw County

    $4,150,000 settlement on behalf of the family of a college student who was killed in a traffic crash while riding a motorcycle. The settlement came from three different insurance companies.

  • $3.45 Million Settlement In Genesee County

    $3.45 million settlement against a cement company whose truck crossed a center line causing three deaths and severely injuring a 4 year-old boy. The settlement was $450,000 in excess of available insurance.

  • $1.74 Million Settlement Awarded In Calhoun County Collision

    $1.74 million settlement against a 19 year-old driver and the fraternity where he was drinking immediately prior to a head on collision that killed a 52 year-old husband and father of 3 children.

  • $1.3 Million Settlement In Monroe County

    $1.3 million Federal District Court settlement on behalf of a mother and daughter in a car/truck collision. Mom suffered a pancreas injury but returned to full-time employment within six months; eight year old daughter suffered an aggravation of a pre-existing learning disability as well as a ruptured spleen.

  • $1 Million Settlement In Gravel

    $1 million settlement for a 52 year-old woman in a rural county who broke both ankles and suffered a retrobulbar hemorrhage of her right eye after being struck by a gravel truck.

  • $1,000,000 Settlement for Rear-end Accident

    Matz Injury Law obtained a $1,000,000 settlement for a woman in Northern Michigan who fractured both ankles as a result of being rear-ended by a gravel truck.

  • $3,450,000 Settlement From Commercial Vehicle Accident

    A settlement of $3,450,000 for a family who lost loved ones as a result of an inattentive cement truck driver.

  • $100,000 Uninsured Motorist Settlement In Detroit

    $100,000 uninsured motorist settlement (policy limit) for family of passenger killed in Detroit in suspected joyriding incident.

  • $1,000,000 Million Settlement In Oakland County Negligence Case

    $1 million settlement on behalf of a 60 year-old woman with a mild closed head injury due to County Road Commission negligence.

  • $950,000 Settlement On Behalf Of Hillsdale County mother

    $950,000 settlement on behalf of the mother of a young boy who died while a passenger in a one-vehicle crash.

  • $750,000 Settlement in Kalkaska

    $750,000 to the family of a passenger killed in a collision on an icy road.

  • $285,000 Settlement For Auto Injury Victim

    $285,000 settlement on behalf of a 52 year-old woman who suffered from fibromyalgia after hurting her shin resulting from an auto injury.

Visit Our Office

Matz Injury Law
25800 Northwestern Hwy # 575
Southfield, MI 48075
+1 (866) 226-6833
Our location:
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Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

Customer Reviews

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  • “Steve Matz deserves more than 5 stars! He went above and beyond to help me with my automobile accident/lawsuit, and stayed in constant contact with me. He cared about me as a person and how I was feeling or doing.”
    – Holly L.
  • “Mr. Matz was great helping me after my auto accident. I had no idea what was going on or where to turn but he led me the correct direction and to the right kind of doctors I needed to treat my injuries. He was there …
    – Judy W.
  • “Many thanks to Jared and the staff at Matz law! You definitely helped ease a very stressful situation. I really didn’t have to do anything, you folks did it all, which I appreciated very much. It’s never a pleasant e…
    – Kim B.
  • “If you are looking for the best attorney to handle your automobile accident claim, look no further! I have known Steve Matz for more than 20 years. He successfully represented me in 2001 then again in 2019 followin…
    – Gary C.
  • “If you’re looking for an attorney to handle your automobile accident/injury claims, then I highly recommend Steve Matz and his team! When I fractured my skull, he helped me settle my bodily injury claim in a timely m…
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  • “Following a near head on collision that left my wife with serious injuries to her leg and a head injury from the air bag that caused “instant onset dementia”, she has been deteriorating and needs constant supervision…
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  • “I was advised by Steve Matz over several days regarding a previous auto accident. He was very diligent with providing me the information I needed to be successful. I was very worried and misguided about the steps I n…
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The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.