Indiana is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the country. There’s Lake Lemon in central Indiana, Lake Tippecanoe to the north, and Patoka Lake to the south. What’s more, the Ohio River flows through the Hoosier State.
Indiana residents are well aware of the opportunities for boating in their state. More than 208,000 boats are currently registered in Indiana.
Although boating is a popular recreational activity, the laws associated with boating are not well known. With that in mind, let’s take a look at boat accidents and boating laws in the Hoosier State.
When it comes to the number of boat accidents every year, Indiana is a relatively safe state.
There were 40 reported boat accidents in Indiana in 2019. Looking at the surrounding states, there were 39 reported boat accidents in Kentucky, 75 in Illinois, 128 in Michigan, and 128 in Ohio.
|Indiana boat accidents (2014-2019)|
|Year||Fatal accidents||Total accidents|
|Source: United States Coast Guard 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics Report|
Each year, the U.S. Coast Guard releases its Recreational Boating Statistics report, which looks at the top 5 accident types and top 10 boat accident contributing factors:
|Top 5 boat accident types (2019)|
|Accident type||Number of accidents||Number of deaths||Number of injuries|
|Collision with recreational vehicle||1,071||47||650|
|Collision with fixed object||493||44||326|
|Top 10 boat accident contributing factors (2019)|
|Contributing factor||Number of accidents||Number of deaths||Number of injuries|
|Force of wake/wave||235||21||141|
|Navigation rules violation||170||48||87|
In Indiana, boating is governed by state and federal laws. Most of the state laws can be found in Title 9 of the Indiana Code and Title 312 of the Indiana Administrative Code. Most of the federal laws can be found in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Boating laws in Indiana are mostly enforced by the conservation officers of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Let’s review some of the laws you need to know before and after you board a boat in Indiana:
An Indiana certificate of registration is required to operate a vessel legally on public water unless the vessel is non-motorized. This means the following vessels, among others, must be registered:
A certificate of registration can be obtained at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) License Branch in the state. The registration number (and excise tax decals) must be displayed on both sides of the bow of your boat.
In most cases, boat operators must have a valid Indiana driver’s license. The main exception is that a motorboat operator who is at least 15 years old can operate a motorboat or personal watercraft until they become a licensed operator if they first complete a boater education course approved by the IDNR.
No one under 15 years of age may legally operate a motorboat greater than 10 horsepower or a personal watercraft.
Before you go out on the water, make sure your boat is equipped with the following legally required personal flotation devices:
A person must operate a boat in a reasonable and prudent manner and must not operate a boat in a manner that unnecessarily endangers the person or property of another person or unnecessarily interferes with the safe and lawful use of public waters by another person.
Some examples of unreasonably dangerous actions include:
It’s illegal to operate a vessel while intoxicated due to alcohol or any combination of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs.
As is the case when operating a motor vehicle, a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% is proof that you’re intoxicated. However, you can still be charged with a BAC of less than 0.08% if your use of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs impairs you to the extent that you lose normal control of your faculties to such an extent as to cause danger to others.
Indiana Code 14-1-1-16 states that:
The Indiana Supreme Court held that the duty to operate a boat in a “careful and prudent manner” is similar to the duty to operate a motor vehicle with a “reasonable degree of care.”
Consequently, to receive compensation in a boating accident, you need to prove that someone else failed to act in a careful and prudent manner (i.e., with reasonable care) and that their carelessness caused your accident.
To put this in legal terms, you need to prove that someone else was negligent.
Parties that might be negligent in a boat accident include:
The purpose of damages in a personal injury lawsuit is to put the injured party in the position they would have been in had they never been in an accident.
If you’re injured in a boat accident in Indiana, you may be able to recover the economic and noneconomic damages that stem from your accident. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in each of those categories.
|Economic damages||Noneconomic damages|
|Medical expenses||Physical pain and suffering|
|Lost wages (past and future)||Emotional distress|
|Property damage||Loss of consortium|
Our online lawyer directory can help get you started.