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Boat Racing & Injuries – Who is Responsible?

January 15, 2018 | Category: Boating Accidents | Share

Boat Racing & Injuries - Who is responsible - Spivey LawMany people find boat racing to be an exhilarating sport. The boats are often flashy, high-tech and can race across the waves. With this ability comes danger. Those operating the boats have to be careful because just one maneuvering mistake could lead to disaster. 

Disaster struck in November 2017 during the Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run. Joe Sgro, the President of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, Rhode Island, died following a single-boat crash of a new 50-foot Outerlimits boat.  There were three other men also on board the boat during the race. Mr. Sgro called himself an “adrenaline junkie” who had either sponsored, co-sponsored, or participated in many offshore powerboat competitions and poker run efforts. 

The fatality rate, according to the Saint Petersburg Times, in water speed racing and record setting is 85 percent which makes it the sporting world’s most hazardous competitions. In offshore powerboat racing, at least one racer dies each year from accidents. 

When these accidents are reported, people often wonder what happened and who was responsible. Two causes which may come to mind are: 

  1. Mechanical failure 

While no publicly available specific statistics exist for boat racing alone, the U.S. Coast Guard reported in 2016 that mechanical failures are the cause of boating accidents in only 3.5 percent of incidents. When there are mechanical failures, the manufacturer or seller may have liability should there be an accident with injuries and/or deaths. Liability may also be imposed on the seller of the boat or its parts, supplies or equipment. Some of these liabilities that can be imposed on a manufacturer are caused by fuel leaks, fire-producing defects or manufacturing defects. 

  1. Negligence 

Again, no publicly available specific statistics exist for boat racing alone. In 2016, the Coast Guard counted 4,463 accidents that involved 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries and approximately $49 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.The fatality rate was 5.9 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents an 11.3 percent increase from the previous year’s fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. 

Primary causes of boating accidents and fatalities 

The top 5 types of boating accidents are collision with another vehicle, collision with a fixed object, flooding/swamping, grounding, and capsizing. 

While a majority of boating accident fatalities result from drowning (more than 70 percent), boating crashes also occurred with some frequency.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the primary contributing factors in such accidents include: 

  • Operator inattention - 12 percent
  • Improper lookout - 11 percent
  • Operator inexperience - 10 percent
  • Alcohol use - 9.7 percent
  • Excessive speed/speeding - 8.7percent 

Most of the contributing factors in a boating accident are likely to involve negligence of the boat operator. Boating operators have a duty to operate their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner. A boating operator could be deemed negligent for deciding to navigate in heavy weather, operating at a high speed, failure to heed boating laws, etc.  An individual who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property may be cited with reckless operation, according to the PWCS Safety School. 

“Injured in a boating accident? If so, please contact our experienced Fort Myers Boat Accident team,” said Attorney Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injuries P.A. 



Fort Myers Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to  Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.




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