Boating is a pastime of many Nebraskans, and occasionally boating accidents happen due to the negligence of others. Nebraska law requires the boat operator to file an accident report; and if unable to file this report, the owner of the boat is responsible for filing an accident report.

The types of accidents vary greatly, but the most common type of boating accident involves a collision with another vessel. The leading causes of accidents with both open motorboats and personal watercraft are operator inattention, operator inexperience, speeding, and alcohol.

The injuries sustained in boating accidents are often serious and include brain and spinal cord injuries, paralysis and even death. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a boating accident, you need immediate legal assistance to start preserving the necessary evidence in your case.

At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. we have more than 100 combined years of experience in pursuing claims against negligent boat drivers and other parties responsible for injuries like yours. We will aggressively pursue every course of action necessary to maximize your compensation.

How Can a Boating Accident Lawyer Help Me?

Our personal injury attorneys are experienced in handling all aspects of personal injury claims. We will use this experience and carry it over into your boating accident claim. We will determine what laws, statutes, theories, and evidence apply to your case and work to present all of these in an understandable and advantageous manner.

We know how to deal with insurance companies and their incredibly complicated policies. We will use our knowledge in this area to provide you with steadfast representation. We will not break under the pressure of the large insurance companies and their inadequate settlement offers. We know what you deserve, and we will work to obtain exactly that.

With careful investigation and gathering of information, we will establish who can be held liable in your boating accident. We will also be efficient in our investigation as we know what the statute of limitations presents for these types of cases. We won’t rest on our laurels, and we will get the job done. If you have been injured in a boating accident in Nebraska, contact our personal injury lawyers for a free initial case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Boating Accidents

What Is the Most Common Boat Accident?

Collisions between boats account for the majority of boating accidents. In 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard recorded 1,226 collisions with recreational vessels. These collisions made up more than one-quarter of all boat accidents recorded that year, resulting in a total of 31 deaths and 740 injuries.

Falls overboard, meanwhile, are the deadliest type of boating accident. Although they make up only about 6% of all accidents involving boats, 170 people died as a result of falling overboard (accounting for over 25% of all deaths in boating accidents).

Drowning is the most serious risk of a fall overboard. In 2021, 137 of the people who fell overboard died by drowning. However, those who fall into the water may also be at risk of striking the side of the boat, hitting the motor or propeller, or being struck by another vessel.

What Is the Leading Cause of Personal Watercraft Accidents?

Legally, a personal watercraft (or PWC) is different from a boat. According to the Nebraska Revised Statutes § 37-1204.01:

“Personal watercraft shall mean a class of motorboat less than sixteen feet in length which uses an internal combustion engine powering a jet pump as its primary source of motive propulsion and is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the watercraft rather than in the conventional manner of boat operation.”

Many of the vessels considered personal watercraft under Nebraska law are recognizable by a number of different brand names and manufacturers. These include Jet Ski (Kawasaki), Sea-Doo (BRP), AquaTrax (Honda), and WaveRunner (Yamaha).

In Nebraska, PWC are subject to the same regulations as other types of boats. This includes a requirement that anyone born in 1986 or after complete a Boating Safety Course and have a certificate of completion in their possession before operating any motorized watercraft.

According to data gathered over a six-month period by the National Transportation Safety Board, the three most common causes of accidents involving PWC are:

  1. Inattention was attributed to operators in 307 PWC accidents.
  2. 296 operators in PWC accidents were found to be inexperienced.
  3. 246 PWC operators were traveling at an inappropriate speed prior to the accident.

Boating safety courses can help reduce the risks of these and other issues leading to a personal watercraft accident. Unfortunately, not all operators are required to take such a course, and those who do may still fail to follow the rules.

If you were injured by the carelessness or inexperience of a personal watercraft operator, you may be entitled to compensation. Multiple parties may be liable, and a boat accident lawyer can investigate to determine if you have a case against the company that rented the PWC, the manufacturer, and others.

Who Is Responsible for Collisions Between Boats?

Liability for a boating accident can be a complicated issue. The actions of the boat operator should be examined first to determine if negligence was a factor. If the operator was traveling at an excess speed, failed to yield the right of way, was boating under the influence, or engaged in any other type of reckless behavior, both passengers on the boat and people on another vessel may have a claim against the operator.

Read More: How to Be a Safe Boat Operator

Sometimes the operator of the boat is not the owner of the vessel. If this is the case, it is also important to examine potential negligence on the part of the owner (including a rental or for-hire company). Claims may be brought against the owner of the boat (either an individual or a business) for issues such as negligent maintenance, failure to provide safety equipment and instructions, entrusting the boat to an unqualified operator, and more.

Finally, inspection of the boat may reveal defective components. If these defects contributed to the accident, you may have a viable product liability claim against the manufacturer of the vessel and/or its parts.

What Is the First Thing to Do in a Boat Accident?

If you are operating a boat or personal watercraft that is involved in an accident, the first thing you need to do is bring the vessel to a stop at once. Next, you should check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If anyone is seriously hurt or loses consciousness, you should dial 911 immediately.

Read More: What to Do If You Are Involved in a Boating Accident

You will also need to collect as much information as possible. This includes:

  • The name and contact information for the operator and any passengers, as well as identifying information for any vessels involved in the accident
  • Photos of the scene, including damage to the boats, any injuries, and local conditions
  • Eyewitness testimony

In Nebraska, boating accidents must be reported to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission within 48 hours if they result in any of the following:

  • Injuries requiring medical attention
  • One or more individuals suffering loss of consciousness
  • Disappearance of one or more persons
  • One or more fatalities

Boat accidents resulting in property damage totaling more than $500 must also be reported to the Game and Parks Commission. However, the deadline to report such an accident is 5 days rather than 48 hours.

Finally, you should contact a boat accident lawyer as soon as possible. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop will investigate the accident and gather evidence promptly. Our attorneys will also identify your legal options and handle all aspects of your claim. Ultimately, our goal is to protect your rights, safeguard your future, and obtain the compensation you deserve.

Do I Need a Boat Accident Lawyer?

There are a number of reasons to speak to an attorney after a boating accident. First and foremost, serious injuries take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Recovery is difficult enough without having to worry about a legal matter.

If you lost a loved one in a boating accident, it is crucial to explore your legal options as soon as possible. You and your family may be entitled to damages for wrongful death, but it can be difficult to think about making a claim when you are coping with grief.

A boat accident lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected and all legal options are explored. Our attorneys can help with all aspects of your case, including:

  • Taking photos and video of the site of the accident
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Obtaining copies of any investigative reports
  • Reviewing your medical records and consulting with doctors and other medical professionals
  • Hiring expert witnesses to aid in the case
  • Inspecting the vessel(s) for mechanical failures and defects
  • Calculating the losses you have sustained

It may be possible to resolve your claim through negotiations with the insurance company. But, if the case cannot be settled fairly, a boat accident lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and (if necessary) take your case to trial.

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop serves the Heartland. We understand the popularity of boating, as well as the aftermath if something goes wrong. Our attorneys have more than 200 years of combined experience serving clients in virtually every type of personal injury case, including claims involving boating accidents.

For a free case review, please call Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop at (402) 241-5020 today. Our attorneys serve clients in Omaha, Sarpy County, and all of Nebraska and neighboring Iowa.

Common Boat Accidents in Nebraska

There are three main types of boating accident claims that we handle. These include the following:


A boat operator may be considered negligent in scenarios that include:

  • Launching a wake at excessive speeds
  • Navigating the boat in inclement weather, causing injuries to passengers
  • Speeding
  • Failing to have the proper safety equipment on board
  • Colliding with other boats or fixed objects
  • Failure to know or abide by the established rules of the lake
  • Overcrowding or exceeding the vessel’s weight limit

Boating Under the Influence

Many individuals use the lakes throughout Nebraska as a vacation destination. As a result, it is not uncommon for individuals to overindulge in alcohol while operating watercraft. Just like with motor vehicle accidents, operating a boat while impaired can be extremely dangerous. Those who are impaired can have blurred vision and delayed reflexes, both of which can lead to very hazardous situations.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident caused by a drunk driver, contact us. There are legal avenues which will allow you to claim compensation for the injuries that were caused by the accident. You are not alone in this fight. Trust us with your case.

Reckless Operation

A person who is found to have operated a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property can be cited with reckless operation. Boating operators have a duty to operate their vessels with reasonable care and safety. When this is determined to be breached, and injuries occur, the operator can be held liable for damages.

Other boating accidents we are familiar with include:

  • Flooding
  • Grounding
  • Capsizing
  • Wake damage
  • Sinking
  • Fuel fires and explosions
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Injuries in Boat Accidents

Because every boating accident is different, the injuries people sustain in them come in a variety of forms. However, the most common injuries seen in boat accidents in Nebraska include:


Drowning is still one of the main causes of death in boating accidents. There are many scenarios in which a person can drown, and even the most proficient swimmers can fall victim. This is why it is very important to always wear a life vest while on a boat. Just recently, in fact, a man was believed to have drowned in Lake McConaughy because he was not wearing a life vest.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries occur in two ways in boating accidents. One reason is due to oxygen deprivation when individuals are submerged in the water or exposed to carbon monoxide. The other is from blunt impacts to the head in various areas around the vessel. This could mean slipping and falling and hitting their head on the propeller, side of the boat and other areas.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are often the result of a sudden impact such as a boating collision. Spinal cord injuries can also occur due to a sudden compression of the spine. This could be the result of a boat bouncing up and down off large wakes. Spinal cord injuries are often life-altering and require significant rehabilitation.


Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that is sustained in the neck and upper back when a sudden shock snaps the neck in a violent manner. Much like whiplash from car accidents, whiplash in boating accidents is also very common. The symptoms of whiplash can last for weeks to months depending on the severity of the injury and can also be very debilitating.


Boats are moved by a large propeller that spins at fast speeds and tremendous power. If a person comes into contact with a propeller, they risk being severely cut. Some cuts from propellers can cause broken bones, severed tendons, and damaged nerves. All of these injuries require immediate medical attention and often surgical intervention.

Electric Shock Injuries

Every boat has electrical components and appliances that require a significant amount of energy. Poor boat maintenance and standing water can create a situation in which a person can be easily electrocuted. Electrocution injuries are often serious causing their victims heart issues and electrical burns.

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Compensation for Boat Accident Injuries

The boating accident lawyers at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop have experience in helping injured victims seek justice and compensation. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, our personal injury lawyers can help you seek compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages and income
  • Loss of earnings capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Property damage
  • Medications and other medical supplies
  • Other foreseeable damages linked to your boating accident

Contact Our Experienced Boat Injury Lawyers in Omaha for a FREE Initial Case Evaluation

For your convenience, we offer home, hospital, and nursing home visits. Our team of professionals at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop will provide you with the experience, strategy, and commitment that protect your rights and claims. Call today for a free initial consultation on your case. There are no attorney fees unless you win.