With the official start of summer fast approaching, many people are eager to enjoy sun and fun on the water in Michigan. Michigan boasts the world’s longest freshwater shoreline, and it has at least 120 major rivers.

It’s no surprise that residents and visitors alike can’t wait for winter to fade away so they can use their boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and water skis. Whether they prefer heart-pumping waves or quiet paddles, water lovers can find their sport on Michigan’s waterways.

Unfortunately, boating accidents and summertime watersport injuries cut short many hard-earned weekends, vacations, and sometimes lives. Learn more about common injuries and how to stay safe while enjoying time on the water this summer.

How Common Are Watersport Injuries in Michigan?

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported 181 boating accidents in Michigan in 2020. Data collected by the U.S. Coast Guard indicate about 80% of boating accidents occur from June through August. That means about two boating accidents occur every day during a Michigan summer.

Recreational vessel collisions accounted for nearly one-third (32%) of the watercraft accidents in Michigan logged by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2020.

What Causes Most Watersport Accidents?

Accidents are often the result of someone’s carelessness or recklessness. Some of the top causes of watercraft accidents on the water are:

Operator Inexperience

Although most boat and personal watercraft (PWC) operators in Michigan are required to obtain a boating safety certificate, new boaters make more mistakes. Like new car drivers, they may misjudge speeds, fail to see obstacles, and drive too fast.


While everyone likes to have fun on the water, many water sports require the operator to keep a close eye on a wide area to spot skiers, other boats, and swimmers. Losing focus can be deadly.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol was a leading contributing factor in 23% of all Michigan boating deaths in 2020. Alcohol or drugs can impair judgment and reaction time. It can also cause fatigue and make people more susceptible to the dangerous effects of cold water.

Equipment failure

Even if people are doing everything right, faulty equipment can cause a catastrophic accident. A defective part or safety equipment could give rise to a product liability case.

Violation of Navigation Rules

Some accidents occur when people don’t know what to do when they encounter another vessel on the water.

Excessive speed

Many people see the open water as a place of freedom and want to cut loose. That can lead to boaters and PWC operators traveling at dangerous speeds. And yes, boating speed limits do exist.

How Are People Injured in Watersports?

Boats and personal watercraft often operate at high speeds. Just a second of distraction can end in a devastating crash on the water.

Some common injuries from water sports include:

  • Drowning.
  • Whiplash.
  • Lacerations.
  • Bruises.
  • Amputations.
  • Electrocutions.
  • Burns.

Getting injured on the water creates another level of urgency due to the risk of drowning if you lose consciousness or cannot get to safety quickly.

Ways to Stay Safe on the Water

When you’re heading out on the water, follow these tips to help keep yourself and others safe:

  • Stay sober. Besides putting yourself and others at risk, boating under the influence is against the law in Michigan.
  • Wear a life jacket. You must have a personal flotation device for every person onboard or being towed. If you’re riding on a PWC or being towed by one, wear your life jacket.
  • Take a refresher boating safety course. You’re not required to renew your boater certification course, but don’t let that stop you from keeping safety rules top of mind.
  • Know the rules. It’s your responsibility to know the rules of navigation when you set out on the water.
  • Stay alert. Don’t let your guard down. Watch for other watercraft, skiers, and swimmers. Remember that people may be inexperienced operators, skiers, or tubers. Don’t forget to watch for other obstacles, such as nets or buoys.

If you are injured while participating in watersports, you could be entitled to compensation for your medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident. Our trial lawyers have decades of experience helping injured victims recover the compensation they deserve after preventable accidents. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our boating accident lawyers.