Milwaukee Boat Accident FAQ

What should I do when I get in a boat accident?

After getting everyone out of the water and tending to basic injuries, it’s important to call law enforcement immediately. You should then gather information, like photos, videos, and eyewitness testimony. These will help your case once you contact an experienced accident attorney.

When should I hire a lawyer after a boat accident?

If you were injured or suffered boat or property damage in excess of 2,000, you should not only report the accident but hire a lawyer. A lawyer will help you navigate the insurance process and fight for the best possible settlement.

Who is at fault in a boat accident?

Operator error is the leading cause of boating accidents. In rare cases, other passengers or the boat’s designer/manufacturer can be found liable.

What are the most common boat accidents?

The most common boat accident is when two vessels collide. Boat accidents can also occur due to grounding, collision with a fixed object, flooding, falls overboard, capsizing, fires, and more.

Can you sue if you are injured on someone else’s boat?

If you were injured as a passenger on somebody’s boat, you may be able to file a claim against them. A person is liable for the injuries they caused while operating a vessel. Warshafsky won a $250,000 dollar boating accident case that resulted in a passenger needing an amputation.

The Money

How much is my boat accident settlement worth? 

No attorney can give you an exact number without first understanding the factors surrounding your accident. Some factors that might affect your settlement include: 

  • Severity of injury
  • Amount of damage to your vehicle
  • Length of hospital stay and anticipated recovery
  • Whether there is permanent disability or life-long injury
  • Time away from work 
  • Your health and lifestyle pre-accident 
  • Your age
  • The overall negative impact on your life


How are boating accident damages calculated? 

In personal injury cases, damages are typically broken down into two categories: 

  • Special damages: These losses are easily quantified. These include medical bills, property damage, and lost wages due to time missed at work. 
  • General damages: These losses aren’t so easily quantified. They include pain and suffering, physical discomfort, mental anxiety, stress, and other negative side effects from the crash. 

In order to reflect these hard-to-quantify damages, a multiplier (between 1 and 5)  is applied to the overall settlement. The multiplier is higher or lower depending on the severity of your injuries, driver fault, and other aggravating circumstances. 

For example, if you were involved in a boat accident where the other driver was drunk and driving recklessly, your multiplier could be 5 or more. Say you suffered $50,000 in combined medical, property, and wage loss— your estimated settlement would be somewhere around ($50,000 x 5), or $250,000. 

Obviously, many factors will affect your compensation and this method is simply a way to provide a rough estimate. Contact an attorney before making any settlement demands.

What damages are available for victims of a boating accident? 

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills 
  • Lost wages 
  • Lost or reduced earning capacity
  • Disfigurement or disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life


What is Wisconsin’s minimum payout for boating accidents? 

There are no minimum payouts or guaranteed restitution for victims of boating accidents. This is why it’s extremely important to surround yourself with the best boat accident lawyers in Milwaukee. 

Can I still receive compensation for a boating accident if I’m partially responsible? 

Yes. Wisconsin has a modified comparative negligence rule that means you may be able to recover damages if you are no more than 50 percent at fault for the accident. Your settlement will be reduced by the percentage of the accident that has been determined to be your fault. 

How to deal with insurance companies during a boating accident claim

The most important thing to remember is to never accept the first offer from an insurance company. They are incentivized to pay you as little as possible to make the case go away before you have time to talk to an attorney. ALWAYS talk to an experienced accident attorney first. The sooner you contact Warshafsky, the sooner our investigators can start compiling the most robust possible case for the highest potential payment.


The Legal Process

Who is liable in a boating accident? 

There are 4 main parties who can be found liable in a boating accident. 

  • Boat operator: If you were injured on someone else’s boat, they may be liable for your injuries. 
  • Other passengers: If somebody interferes with the safe operation of the boat, causing a crash or injuries, they can be held liable. 
  • Other operators: If another operator crashes into your boat, they may be held liable for any injuries caused. 
  • Boat designer/manufacturer: In rare circumstances, if something mechanical in the boat malfunctions, causing injury to you and others, the boat’s designer or manufacturer may be held liable. 


How do I prove negligence in a boating accident? 

A boat operator owes a duty to each passenger on his or her boat. They are responsible for ensuring that passengers avoid dangerous behaviors and take adequate safety precautions. Tort law provides a cause of action if somebody suffers an injury as the result of a breach of this duty.

Since boating accidents happen on the water, it’s common for crucial evidence to get washed away. After you’ve been involved in a crash, you should do your best to gather the following evidence: 

  • Witness testimony
  • Photo or video evidence from the scene 
  • Data from a Voyage Data Recorder (VDR), if available


How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a boat accident? 

The Wisconsin statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is typically three years. This means you have three years from the date of your boat accident to file a claim. It is important to note, you must report boat accidents to law enforcement within ten days of the incident. 

How much does a lawyer cost?

At Warshafsky, we understand that after a boat crash, you’re likely dealing with a lot. This is why we pride ourselves on being a no-win, no-fee law firm. We handle all costs upfront and then take a percentage of the final settlement once you win. 

Will my case go to court?

In Wisconsin, less than 5% of personal injury cases go to trial. However, at Warshafsky, all of our cases are funded to go the distance if necessary. We’ll fight to get you the settlement you deserve. 

How long will my boating accident case take?

Case length will depend on a lot of factors, including the severity of damages suffered. When damages are severe, the case might take a year or longer. Other factors might affect the case’s timeline, including: 

  • The other party being unwilling to cooperate
  • Case factors being disputed by the opposing party
  • Discrepancies or mistakes on certain documents
  • Court and/or judge availability


How do you prove negligence in a boat accident case?

Proving negligence can be difficult, especially in a boating accident, when camera evidence and witness testimony is hard to come by. Partner with Warshafsky and we’ll conduct a thorough investigation of all the factors that led up to the crash: 

  • Eyewitness testimony 
  • Law enforcement reports 
  • Boat safety adherence 
  • Accident reconstruction 

Wisconsin State Legislature: Injury to the person. Wisconsin Statute § 893.54 (2022)

National Statistics

  • Over 5,000 boating accidents occur every year, causing $62.5 million in damage 
  • Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents
  • 86% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket 
  • The majority of boating accidents take place in calm waters 
  • Collision with another vessel is the most common type of boating accident in the U.S. 

Wisconsin Statistics

  • 15% of Wisconsin is covered by water
  • Wisconsin ranks 3rd in registered boats per capita, with 10,444 boat registrations per 100,000 citizens. 

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In 2022, there were 20 boating accident fatalities in Wisconsin. Of those: 

  • 9 were from falling overboard
  • 4 were from leaving the boat
  • 2 were from capsizing 
  • 2 were from a collision with a fixed object 
  • 1 was from a collision with another vessel 
  • 2 were caused by unknown circumstances


Of those 20 deaths, 15 of the victims were not wearing life jackets. The best way to protect yourself on a boat is to wear a life jacket!

Common causes

In 2020, the primary factors that contributed to boating accidents were: 


Most Common Causes for Boat Accidents in 2020

Contributing FactorAccidentsDeaths
Alcohol use 664 115
Hazardous waters 232 62
Operator inexperience 612 56
Operator inattention 664 55
Weather 244 42
Excessive speed 418 32
Improper lookout 578 28
Navigation rules violation 316 26
Machinery failure 373 19
Force of wake/wave 215 14




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7 types of boat accidents 

  1. Collision with a recreational vehicle or another boat When an operator isn’t paying attention or is traveling at too high a rate of speed, he or she runs the risk of colliding with other vessels.
  2. Collision with a fixed object: Boats can collide with piers, buoys, or shorelines, causing damage to the vessel as well as its passengers.
  3. Grounding: When a boat runs aground unexpectedly, the momentum of the sudden stop can send passengers flying. Boats should always be run in waters of sufficient depth and shores and docks should be avoided.
  4. Flooding: Leaks in the boat, pumps that are working improperly, or large waves can cause a vessel to fill up with water, putting it at risk of capsizing or sinking.
  5. Falls overboard: Falls overboard were the leading cause of death in Wisconsin boating accidents in 2022. These can be caused by sharp turns, sitting on the stern or bow, or hitting large waves. Passengers are far more likely to survive when wearing a life jacket.
  6. Capsizing: Boats can capsize from large waves, improper weight balance, sharp turns, and collisions with other boats.
  7. Fires: Fires can start for a variety of reasons, including gasoline spills, an overheated engine, electrical fires, smoking, and more.

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Milwaukee Waterways 

Warshafky’s main office is located in downtown Milwaukee, so our attorneys are very familiar with the local waterways where many boating accidents occur. These include: 


  • Lake Michigan 
  • Muskego Lake
  • Little Muskego Lake
  • Pewaukee Lake
  • Nagawicka Lake 
  • Oconomowoc Lake 
  • Ottawa Lake
  • Little Cedar Lake
  • Pine Lake 
  • Okauchee Lake
  • North Lake 
  • Beaver Lake
  • Silver Lake 
  • Upper Nemahbin Lake
  • Lower Nemahbin Lake
  • Tichigan Lake
  • Lac La Belle


  • Milwaukee River 
  • Menomonee River 
  • Kinnickinnic River 
  • Root River
  • Fox River 
  • Rock River 

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Milwaukee boat accident settlement & judgment amounts

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