Comprehensive Guide to Boat Safety and Accident Liability in Missouri

Boat Accidents and Liability on Missouri's Waterways

As summer heats up, Missouri's lakes are alive with activity as boaters, jet ski riders, and recreational water sports enthusiasts make the most of the season. Did you know that, like highways, our rivers, lakes, and other waterways have a set of navigational rules that are critical for your safety and the protection of others around you?

This blog will explore important navigation laws, boating safety, and the duties of boat drivers and law enforcement in ensuring a safe waterway experience. If you enjoy being on the water, it's critical that you understand your obligations and rights, especially when it comes to boating accidents and personal injury laws in Missouri.

1. The Nautical Highway Code: Navigating the Laws on the Water

A boat or jet ski operator's job is similar to that of a car driver. You are responsible for ensuring safe sailing as the "captain" of your vessel. The following are the primary safety considerations:

  • Boat speed: Boating is not a race. Your speed should be determined by the conditions of the water, the volume of traffic, and your surroundings including other boats, swimmers, skiers and Sea Doos.
  • Traffic density: Waterways can become congested during peak seasons and on weekends. You have to adjust your navigation to account for the amount of other vessels in the area.
  • Water conditions: Weather, waves, water current, and visibility are all important factors in safe navigation.

2. Common Sense and Compliance in Boat Safety

Aside from following navigation laws, various safety protocols can make your water adventures more enjoyable and accident-free:

  • Motor safety: When passengers are swimming or near water, always turn off the engine.
  • Life vests: Regardless of how well someone can swim, life vests are required on boats. According to the US Coast Guard, 86% of boating accident drowning casualties in 2019 were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Adequate illumination: Adequate lighting is required for nighttime sailing, both for visibility and to announce your presence to others.
  • Sober boating: Operating a boat while intoxicated is not just unsafe; it is also unlawful. Stay sober and safe.

3. Missouri Water Patrol's Role

The Missouri Water Patrol is given the same powers as the Highway Patrol. This includes the authority to arrest someone for intoxicated or impaired boating. Their responsibility in ensuring waterway safety in Missouri is critical, and all boaters must follow their guidelines and practices.

4. Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities in the Event of a Boat Accident

Accidents can happen despite all precautions. Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities in the event of a boating accident can have a significant impact on the outcome. If the accident was caused by someone else's negligence, Missouri personal injury laws allow you to seek compensation for your losses. Similarly, understanding your responsibility and legal obligations is crucial if your activities caused an accident.


As you prepare to enjoy Missouri's beautiful waterways this summer and over the holidays, remember to use good judgment, prioritize safety, and follow navigation rules. Enjoying the lake safely not only protects you, but also helps to create a safer environment for everyone on the lake.

If you are ever involved in a boat accident, our experienced personal injury lawyers at Aaron Sachs & Associates is here to help. We provide you with legal advice and counsel. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

Stay careful and have fun on the water!

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