With so many beautiful lakes throughout the state, it’s no surprise that boating is a popular pastime in Wisconsin during the summer. Unfortunately, boating accidents are also very common. In 2022, there were 20 fatal boating accidents and 112 total boat-related incidents in the state.
At Mahony Law, we’ve handled many Wisconsin boat accident claims. Our goal is to prepare you before you hit the water – so that you can keep yourself and others safe while abiding by state regulations. In this blog post, we are covering seven key bits of information you need to know about boating accident regulations in Wisconsin.1. All Wisconsin Boating Accidents Must Be Reported2. Serious Accidents Must Be Reported to the WDNR3. Reckless or Negligent Operation is Punishable By Law4. Safety Precautions are Taken Very Seriously5. Recreational Boats Must Be Registered6. The Owner is Ultimately Responsible7. You Can File a Boating Accident ClaimWithout further ado, let’s dive in.
If you get in a boating accident, you might be tempted not to report it to avoid legal repercussions. However, Wisconsin boating accident laws state that all accidents must be reported within 10 days – in addition to a verbal report, and there can be serious consequences if you don’t.
These laws help the US Coast Guard report accurate statistics related to boating accidents.
If multiple boats were involved, both operators need to file reports. If you don’t lawfully report the accident, you could potentially face fines or other consequences, depending on the severity of the accident. You also won’t be able to file any insurance claims.
Severe boating accidents need to be reported to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). You’ll need to file one of these reports if the boat accident resulted in:
Verbal reports should be made to a local Wisconsin law enforcement officer or a DNR warden as soon as possible after the accident. To file a written report, use Form 4100-20 from the WDNR website, and mail it directly to their office in Madison.
Several different actions are classified as reckless or negligent boat operations under Wisconsin boating accident regulations. While some of these actions may not seem like a big deal, they are very dangerous and could result in boating accident injuries or even deaths.
Examples of reckless or negligent boat operation include:
Not only will you be financially liable for any damage you cause, but you could also face additional fines and other legal consequences like probation or even jail time.
Federal fines for reckless boat operation go up to $5,000 for recreational vessels or $25,000 for other types of vessels. Wisconsin fines for boating under the influence start at:
Failure to follow safety practices is the most common cause of boating accidents in Wisconsin. Many people fail to wear proper life jackets or use personal floatation devices, which can have disastrous consequences. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, you could still end up getting injured or worse if you don’t wear a life jacket. According to the US Coast Guard’s statistics on boating accidents, 83% of drowning victims in 2021 were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advises boaters to:
Failing to have proper life jackets onboard may result in a fine.
All recreational vessels in the state of Wisconsin must be registered with a Wisconsin Certificate Number. The exception to this is sailboats under 12 feet long.
To register your boat, you’ll need to complete all of the application forms provided by the WDNR. You’ll also need to provide your name, address, date of birth, and some form of government identification, such as a driver’s license number or SSN.
Pre-owned boats will need information from the previous owner’s registration. New boats will need a statement of origin from the manufacturer. If you don’t register your boat and get caught sailing, you could face hefty fines – especially if you get into a boating accident. Additionally, if your boat is stolen and you don’t have a registration, law enforcement will not be able to help you recover it.
If your boat is involved in a collision, you as the owner will ultimately be the one held liable under Wisconsin boating accident regulations – even if you weren’t the one driving. Legally, boat owners are the ones responsible for keeping the vessel properly maintained and operating it safely.
If your boat is involved in an accident, you could be held financially and legally liable. This could result in some hefty damages and fines as well as other legal consequences, depending on the situation.
Because of this, you should be extremely cautious when letting others use your boat. All boat operators should have the training to maintain and operate the vessel safely.
If you’ve been involved in an accident, you can file a claim with a boat accident attorney. This is particularly important if your boat has been severely damaged, or if someone has been injured or died during the incident.
To file a boating accident claim, you’ll need to complete the reports required by the WDNR. You should also talk to your insurance provider as soon as possible to file a claim.
It’s best to get a boating accident lawyer involved as soon as possible after the event. Your lawyer will help you through the process of documenting the accident, helping you understand Wisconsin boating accident regulations, collecting witness reports, and more to build a case. Keep in mind, it shouldn’t cost you anything out of pocket to hire a boating accident lawyer. These experts work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they make a percentage of the total settlement paid out by the at-fault party AFTER the case is won.
If you’ve been involved in a boating accident in Wisconsin, Mahony Law is here to help.
We’ve dealt with many boating accident injury cases over the years – we’ll help you understand the state’s boating accident regulations, personal injury laws, and how your situation factors in. Knowing what to do after an accident is not always crystal clear. Chances are, it’s your first time in this predicament. Our team is here to guide you in the right direction, even if you don’t have a valid claim. Give us a call today at 262-331-3553 or send us a message online to schedule your free consultation.
Abby is the founder of Mahony Law and devotes her time to representing people who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of others. Abby has handled injury cases of all types, including birth injury, wrongful death, automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents.
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