Hit-and-Run Accident on New Jersey Lake Illustrates the Hazards of Recreational Boating


In July 2022, a couple taking an evening cruise on New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong was injured when a speeding vessel collided with their pontoon boat. According to a news account, the couple had stopped the boat to admire the night sky when they saw the other vessel coming directly toward them at high speed. The collision threw them both to the floor of the boat and disabled its engine. The other boat sped away across the water with its lights off. Neither the boat nor its pilot has been found.

This hit-and-run accident shows the potential hazards involved with recreational boating. Every year, people engaged in water sports are killed or seriously injured in accidents. Boaters who cause accidents due to negligent operation of their vessels can be held liable to pay damages for the resulting injuries. Some of the most common reasons for boating accidents include:

  • Operating while impaired — Some boaters operate vessels while inebriated or on drugs. This can easily result in serious crashes on the water. Even if the occupants are not killed or injured by an impact, people can be thrown overboard and drown or suffer injuries in the water.
  • Speeding — Excessive speed is the cause of many boating accidents. Speeders can crash into other vessels, as in the Lake Hopatcong collision. They may also hit infrastructure, such as boat docks and buoys. Speeding can cause serious accidents even when there is no collision. The wake turbulence generated by larger, faster moving boats can badly jostle or even capsize smaller boats.
  • Lack of preparation — Unfortunately, some boaters do not sufficiently prepare for possible emergencies or changes in maritime conditions. Other people fail to keep their boat or equipment in good working order. Problems such as inoperative navigation lights, insufficient fuel on board or lack of life jackets can put the passengers in jeopardy.
  • Poor navigational skills — The inability or failure to navigate waterways properly can put boat operators and others in danger in a variety of ways. Boating after dusk with no lights, as in the Lake Hopatcong tragedy, is one example. Pilots sometimes accidentally run their vessels aground due to not monitoring water depth, which can damage the vessel and/or cause injuries to its occupants. Another issue is simply getting lost. Pilots sometimes fail to maintain an awareness of their position, which can leave them stranded or exposed to perilous conditions.

If you or a family member has been injured in a maritime accident, an experienced boating accident lawyer can advise you on your potential right to compensation and can take action to pursue your claim effectively.

Seigel Law in Ridgewood is one of the most accomplished personal injury law firms in Northern New Jersey. We represent victims of all types of accidents, including those involving maritime injuries. Call us at 201-444-4000 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.

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