In legal terms, boating accidents are considered the same as motor vehicle accidents in most states. Even though boats are on the water, many of the things that lead to deaths on the roads occur with boats as well. The US Coast Guard reported in 2013 that the most common cause of death in boating accidents was simply inattention. The most common cause of driver deaths on the road is distracted driving. On the water, there may be a tendency to think there is no need to watch as closely as on the roads; after all, there is much more space typically between boats on the open water compared to cars on the road. But boats can close rapidly on one another, and hitting immobile objects with a boat is also very common.

Another very common cause of boating and car accidents is drinking. Drinking and boating is treated the same as drinking and driving. You can receive the same punishments on the water as on the road. And if you injure or kill someone due to drinking alcohol in a boat, you can do jail time and also be sued.

As with most car accidents with damages and injury, you are required to file an accident report for any accident in a boat where there was an injury, death or property damage.