Boston Boating Accident Lawyer

March 7, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Boats have a long and storied history in Boston. The Harbor has been a hub of commercial boat traffic since the mid-17th century, and the Port of Boston remains a major seaport to this day. The Inner Harbor sees constant ferry and cruise traffic, and is home to numerous slips for private watercraft of all shapes, sizes, and forms of propulsion, from sailboats to Whalers to luxury yachts. Boats also navigate the waters of the Charles and Mystic Rivers, many of them crewed by rowers from area schools and clubs.

With all that boat traffic in and around Boston, boating accidents are bound to happen, and they do. If they are lucky, boaters walk away from those accidents with nothing more than a few bruises and a valuable lesson learned. Unfortunately, sometimes captains and passengers alike fare much worse, suffering severe and even fatal injuries in Boston boating accidents.

If you suffered injuries in a boating accident on the water in or near Boston, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation from the at-fault party or parties. The Boston boating accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA want to help. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and options.

Our Boston Boating Accident Law Practice

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm in Boston staffed by an award-winning team of attorneys and legal professionals. Originally founded in Florida, we have expanded our practice's reach to represent clients in Boston and throughout the United States. We fight on behalf of individuals who have suffered harm because of someone else's carelessness or wrongdoing, working day-in, day-out to help ensure our clients receive the money they deserve.

Over our years of law practice, we have secured tens of millions of dollars in compensation for our clients, including in boating accident cases. Our lawyers have gotten top-dollar results for boating accident victims and for families of boaters who died tragically in Boston boating incidents. While no result can be guaranteed, we are dedicated to pursuing the best outcome possible for our clients.

Boston Boating Accidents, By-The-Numbers

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) publishes statistics and results of investigations into commercial and recreational boating accidents throughout the United States. The statistics reveal that between Boston Harbor (including the Inner Harbor, Outer Harbor, and Dorchester Bay), the Charles and Mystic Rivers, and Boston's neighboring water bodies, dozens of recreational and commercial boating accidents happen annually that result in injuries or fatalities. In one recent year, recreational boating accidents alone took five lives, injured 45, and cost millions in damages.

A search of the USCG's investigation report database for the search term “Boston” reveals numerous descriptions of broken bones, drownings, crushed fingers, and serious injuries on commercial, passenger, and recreational vessels operating in-and-around Boston Harbor, most of them preventable.

Common Boston Boating Accident Scenarios

The USCG's incident reports also illustrate the numerous ways in which an injury or fatality can happen in connection with a boat in Boston.

Here are just a few of the common scenarios that have harmed boaters in recent years.

  • Collisions between vessels underway, which can result in catastrophic damage to boats and throw boaters overboard or against hard surfaces.
  • Collisions between vessels and fixed objects such as piers, bridge abutments, and rock ledges. As with collisions between vessels underway, a boat collision with a fixed object can cause the total loss of the vessel and severe or fatal injuries to passengers thrown off their feet by the impact.
  • Fires and explosions, which can erupt on a vessel because of mechanical failures or unsafe actions in connection with fueling, killing, or severely injuring those aboard and damaging the boat.
  • Slip and fall incidents, which are common on boats due to wet, slippery surfaces and unsteady footing, especially for passengers who do not have their sea legs.
  • Drownings and near-drownings, which can occur when boaters fall overboard or get struck by vessels or other objects in the water while swimming.
  • Equipment-related incidents, including crewmembers and passengers getting caught in machinery, hooked by fishing tackle, or struck by moving objects such as the boom on a sailboat.

This is not a complete list, of course. A boating accident in Boston can involve a wide variety of events that lead to injuries and fatalities. No matter how a Boston boating accident happens, the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA possesses the knowledge and know-how to pursue compensation for victims and their families.

How Boston Boating Accidents Happen

Most Boston boating accidents, including the scenarios listed above, happen because of human error. The types of errors individuals can make on, around, or in connection with boats in Boston span a wide range of activities, and can involve lapses of concentration and judgment. In its annual report on recreational boating safety, the USCG analyzes the most common causes of boating accidents.

Here is what the data shows to be the most common contributing factors in boating accidents.

  • Operator inattention, which can include getting distracted by passengers, forgetting to pay attention to charts or depth-finding equipment, or allowing a vessel to drift into danger when no one is at the helm.
  • Improper lookout, such as when an operator or other vessel passengers fail to observe water obstructions or do not notice other vessels on intersecting courses.
  • Operator inexperience, which manifests itself in all sorts of ways, from failing to read or understand navigational aids, to not following standard navigational protocols, to attempting unsafe maneuvers or repairs.
  • Excessive speed, including violation of speed limits in navigation channels or harbors, and simply going too fast for conditions on the open water. Just as with collisions of motor vehicles, speed enhances the likelihood and severity of Boston boating accidents.
  • Alcohol use by operators and their passengers alike. Alcohol consumption impairs one's ability to navigate a vessel in the same way it impairs the ability to drive a car. It also increases the chances of an on-board slip-and-fall or a passenger falling overboard and getting into trouble.
  • Machinery failure that can lead to a loss of navigational control and a dangerous collision.
  • Navigation rules violations, which, like operator inexperience, leads to confusion and danger on the water to no less of a degree than driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Notably, each contributing factor discussed above causes more accidents annually in the United States than bad weather, which is the most common cause of boating accidents not involving human error. So, although many sailors will tell you that you must always respect the sea and the hazards of changing weather conditions, by far the most common danger you face on the waters around Boston is other boaters.

Boston Boating Accident Injuries

Boating accidents can cause serious injuries and fatalities. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in Boston, we routinely represent clients who have suffered injuries that threaten to alter the course of their lives, careers, and relationships.

We can help clients recover compensation for any serious Boston boating accident injury, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries, which can occur when a boater sustains a blow or violent trauma to their spine that disrupts the flow of messages between the brain and the body. A spinal cord injury frequently leads to permanent paralysis that forever changes the victim's life.
  • Brain injuries inflicted, for example, when a boating accident victim strikes his or her head in a fall, suffers oxygen deprivation in a near-drowning, or becomes overwhelmed by toxic fumes that accumulate below deck. Brain injuries can cause permanent losses of consciousness, as well as lasting cognitive, motor, and emotional impairments.
  • Crush injuries, especially injuries to fingers and limbs when they get caught in winches and other moving parts on a vessel, or when they become trapped between a vessel and a pier. A crush injury can permanently deprive the victim of the use of the limb or appendage, causing severe disability.
  • Severe lacerations and penetrating injuries, common on commercial and recreational fishing vessels in particular, where blades and hooks abound and a slip-up or moment of inattention can lead to a deep cut or a hook digging into a victim. These injuries can cause a dangerous loss of blood, deadly infection, and disfiguring scars.
  • Broken bones and severe orthopedic injuries suffered in on-board falls due to slippery surfaces and active seas. Falls down steep stairs or ladders, or from high points such as a ship's mast, can lead to especially serious fractures, tears, or dislocations that require multiple surgeries to treat, and leave victims disabled and in chronic pain.
  • Burns suffered in onboard fires and explosions, which may require extensive treatment at a Boston-area burn center, can cause excruciating pain, dangerous infections, and permanent scarring.
  • Illness, such as incidents in which viral or bacterial infections spread around a cruise ship that makes Boston a port-of-call.

This is not a complete list. Virtually any type of injury can occur on a vessel in Boston, and may disrupt the victim's life. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our team has represented clients facing extreme and unexpected life challenges due to an accidental injury. Talk to us about your injury and how we might help you get the compensation you deserve.

Seeking Compensation for a Boston Boating Accident

Victims of Boston boating accidents may have legal rights to receive financial compensation for their injuries and losses. No one should bear the burden and expense of an injury caused by someone else's wrongful conduct, and boating accident victims are no exception.

Obtaining that compensation, however, is not necessarily as straightforward as seeking damages for a similar injury caused by, say, a car accident on the Mass Pike or a fall down some stairs in a Government Center building.

Most (although not all) boating accident injury cases arising from incidents on the waters around Boston are governed by a body of legal principles and court decisions known as maritime (or admiralty) law. Some of those principles and decisions date to before the adoption of the United States Constitution, and they can differ somewhat from the laws and rules that would apply for someone seeking compensation for an injury that happened away from the water in Boston.

Compared to Massachusetts law, for example, the application of maritime law to a boating accident case can result in:

  • Different deadlines by which the case must be filed to preserve the injured party's rights to compensation;
  • A federal court, instead of a state court, hearing the case;
  • A judge, not a jury, deciding the case;
  • Different laws applying to the case depending on whether the injured individual worked on the vessel or was a passenger on it;
  • Different laws applying to the case depending on how far from shore the accident and injury happened;
  • Different laws applying to the case depending on the type of body of water where the injury occurred;
  • The admiralty laws of a foreign country governing the injured individual's claims;
  • Different standards by which a lawyer must prove the injured individual's claim; and
  • Different types and amounts of damages.

Admiralty law, in other words, can have a significant impact on the legal rights of someone who has suffered injuries in a Boston boating accident. Victims of boating accidents should always make sure to seek the services of an attorney, like a member of the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in Boston, who understands the ins and outs of maritime law and how to secure compensation for an injury in a case governed by it.

Do not entrust your Boston boating accident case to just any personal injury lawyer. Hiring an attorney who does not have a familiarity with maritime law and its principles could put your valuable rights to compensation at risk. You deserve to pursue a full, fair payment for your injuries and losses in a Boston boating accident, and to have a dedicated lawyer representing you who can work to secure top-dollar payment on your behalf.

At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our clients and potential clients frequently have a lot of questions for us about their rights after suffering injuries or losing a loved one in a Boston boating accident. We answer some common questions below. To speak for free with a legal professional who can answer your specific questions about a boating accident in Boston that harmed you or a loved one, contact us today.

Can I sue for my boating accident injuries?

It depends on the specific details of what happened, of course; but in general, you may have the right to sue for your injuries if someone's careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions contributed to the cause of the Boston boating accident that injured you. Keep in mind that it is not always obvious that that is what happened. Sure, in some boating accidents it is pretty clear that someone made a terrible mistake that resulted in serious injuries to boaters. In others, however, the cause may take time to discover through careful investigation, collection of evidence, and interviewing of witnesses.

Never simply assume that you know what caused the Boston boating accident that led to your injuries and losses. Even if you think your actions may have played a role in you getting hurt, you may still have the right to receive significant financial compensation. To find out more about those rights, you can speak for free with a Boston boating accident injury lawyer at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today.

Who can I sue?

Numerous individuals, businesses, or institutions may owe you money damages for the injuries and losses you suffered in a Boston boating accident.

After a thorough investigation, for example, your boating accident lawyer may find that these parties have a legal liability to you:

  • A boat operator who made a careless navigational mistake on the water that led to an accident and your injuries;
  • A fellow passenger who engaged in unsafe conduct aboard a vessel that led to you getting hurt;
  • The owner of a rental or charter boat who failed to maintain it in seaworthy condition, resulting in a breakdown that led to your injuries;
  • A boat or boat parts manufacturer, if a failure of a defective piece of boat equipment caused that accident that harmed you; or
  • The operator of a marina or other maritime facility who failed to keep those premises in a reasonably safe condition for boating use, leading to an accident.

These are just a few examples, of course. Without a detailed review of the facts of your case, no one can reliably predict who might owe damages for the injuries and losses you suffered in a Boston boating accident. For a free case review from the boating accident attorneys from Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, contact us today.

What kind of compensation can I recover?

That, too, depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your Boston boating accident and the injuries you suffered in it.

However, generally, the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in Boston pursues payment for our clients':

  • Medical expenses related to treating their boating accident injuries and any subsequent health complications;
  • Other expenses they would not have had, were it not for the boating accident and the injuries they sustained;
  • Lost wages and income resulting from them missing work or being unable to return to work because of their injuries;
  • Pain, suffering, disfigurement, and other life challenges they face because of the Boston boating accident and the injuries it caused.

In some types of maritime cases, our team may also have the ability to secure an award of punitive damages for our clients, if someone's extreme or intentional conduct led to their injuries. And, no matter what, our team's primary goal is to obtain maximum compensation for our clients to help them heal, rebuild, and move forward with their lives.

How much is my case worth?

We cannot say without knowing more about what happened. Every Boston boating accident case we handle differs.

In general, however, the amount of money you may have the right to receive for your boating accident injuries can depend on factors such as:

  • The severity and impact of your injuries, which play a large part in determining the size of your medical and other expenses, your lost wages and income, and the degree of pain and suffering you endured.
  • The strength of the case that a skilled Boston boating accident lawyer can prepare on your behalf from the evidence available—consistent with the legal principles that apply to your case.
  • The financial resources available to pay your damages. In many Boston boating accident cases, for instance, maritime liability insurance policies pay compensation to the victims. The size of those policies can influence the potential value of a victim's claim.

At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we dig into the evidence in every case we handle to help identify every dollar of compensation our clients deserve and every party who has both the legal liability for that compensation and the financial resources to pay it.

I got hurt while working on a U.S.-registered vessel in Boston Harbor. Can I apply for workers' compensation?

Probably not. If you spend a significant amount of your time working on a U.S. registered vessel, you probably qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act—the federal law that governs the relationship between maritime workers like you and their employers. Unlike a worker on dry land, as a seaman, you usually do not have the right to claim benefits under a workers' compensation insurance policy purchased and paid for by your employer. Instead, it is the Jones Act that would give you the right to demand compensation from your employer and sets the terms of that compensation.

For any injury you suffer as a seaman, the Jones Act provides that your employer must pay you “maintenance” (living expenses during the period of your medical recovery from an injury) and “cure” (medical expenses related to your injury). Additionally, if your employer's negligence or an unsafe condition on the vessel contributed in any way to the cause of your injuries, you may also have the right under the Jones Act to demand additional compensation from your employer for your pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages.

Obtaining Jones Act compensation for your maritime work-related injury may require suing your employer. Speak for free with an attorney at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in Boston today to learn more about your rights and how the Jones Act affects you.

Is it true that if the ship I work on is foreign-flagged, I do not have rights under the Jones Act?

Not necessarily. Historically, the country where a vessel is registered (or “flagged”) dictated the law that applied to the crew who worked on it. However, that rule has receded over time. Today, U.S. courts will examine a wide range of factors to determine if a seaman injured on a vessel operating in Boston or another U.S. port has rights to seek from their employer under the Jones Act. Oftentimes, and especially when a ship is registered in a foreign country merely for convenience (or tax reasons), a U.S. court will determine that the seaman does have rights to compensation for injuries under the Jones Act.

If you suffered injuries while working on a vessel in Boston, no matter what country's flag the vessel flies, contact the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA to speak with a lawyer who can explain your rights.

I do not live in Massachusetts, but I got hurt as a passenger on a cruise ship while it was making a stop in Boston. Does that mean I have to sue the cruise line in Massachusetts?

If you sailed with a major cruise line, chances are that the terms and conditions (or “fine print”) you agreed to in booking your cruise included what is known as a forum selection clause. That is legal terminology for an agreement only to sue someone in a specific court.

Most major cruise lines include forum selection clauses in their fine print designating federal courts in one of three cities—Seattle, Miami, or Los Angeles—as the forum for any lawsuit you might bring against them as an injured passenger. Those clauses are generally valid and enforceable, which means that even if you suffered injuries while on a cruise making a call at Boston Harbor, you may have to go to a court in Washington, Florida, or California to enforce your rights.

If you find yourself in that situation, it helps to hire a law firm with national reach, like Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyer, PA. We have the dedication, resources, and network to represent clients in courts nationwide.

Suing for a Boston boating accident injury sounds expensive. Is it?

Not if you have the right lawyer.

At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we offer a free case consultation to anyone who wants to learn about their rights to receive compensation for injuries and losses arising out of a Boston boating accident. In that consultation, a knowledgeable legal professional from our team learns about the facts of an accident and the parties involved, and performs an initial assessment of the injured individual's legal rights and whether our firm can help.

In cases that we take involving Boston boating accidents, our team virtually always represents clients on a contingent fee basis. That means we work in exchange for a percentage of any money we secure on our clients' behalf. We do not charge our clients money up-front for attorney's fees, and we do not bill them by the hour for our legal services. We only get paid if our clients get paid, which makes hiring us a win-win.

Larry Nussbaum, Boston Boating Accident Attorney

We take cases on contingency because we understand that our clients often face severe financial strain after getting hurt in an accident or incident that was not their fault. By working for a contingent fee, we make our services available to anyone who needs them.

Is there anything I can do to help my boating accident case succeed?

Yes, and it is really simple: get the medical care you need for your Boston boating accident injuries, and follow your doctor's advice until you have reached your maximum level of recovery. Following that tip, alone, can do more than anything else to help your case, for several reasons. First, it puts you in the best possible health, which is paramount. Second, it creates medical records an attorney can use to prove the nature, extent, and impact of your boating accident injuries. Third, it helps protect the value of your claim by ensuring that no one can argue that you made your injuries worse by not taking care of yourself.

Aside from that, we encourage you to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after getting hurt (or after your loved one gets hurt). The lawyer may have additional advice for you about how to protect your rights and interests in your particular case. At a minimum, contacting a lawyer immediately puts an advocate in your corner who can fight to make sure you get treated fairly, while you focus your energies on healing.

Trust Our Boston Boating Accident Attorneys

For many Bostonians, living in the Hub means spending time on the water. They commute on ferries, row in sculls, and work on trawlers.

An injury in an accident on the water in Boston can upend an individual's life and cause severe physical, emotional, and financial pain. The Boston boating accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help those injured victims secure the compensation they need and deserve.

If a boating accident in Boston harmed you or a loved one, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today online or call us at (857) 407-4182 for a free consultation with a member of our team.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114
(857) 407-4182



Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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