Boats lined up along docks at a marina while dark clouds build overhead.

With one of the most iconic rivers and lakefront vistas in the entire country, Chicago has an active boating scene. From tiny kayaks and big tour boats in the river to speedboats and glitzy yachts in Lake Michigan, there’s no shortage of enjoyment to be found, especially during the warmer months.

At the same time, boating invites major risks. One only has to glimpse down from the offices at 77 West Wacker to see tiny kayaks and eager speedboats mingling close by to the big tour cruisers.

Accidents are, fortunately, rare, but they do occur. In 2022, a woman lost both feet and part of her leg to a collision with a much larger boat while riding on a raft in the river.

When a serious boating accident happens in Chicago — especially one involving a commercial charter or touring company — the resulting injury claims can get complicated fast. Trying to represent your claim on your own puts you at a serious disadvantage when up against commercial insurance attorneys and other powerful lawyers.

Get a high-powered lawyer of your own by working with The Personal Injury Lawyers ™. A consistent Illinois Super Lawyer Rising Star since 2019 and a Top 40 Under 40 honoree by the National Trial Lawyers Association from 2020, Mr. Fakhouri was additionally recognized as a Top 25 Motor Vehicle Attorney in 2023. His social media channels offer reliable, direct legal insights.

Schedule a free, no-obligation case review with a Chicago boat accident lawyer at our firm today when you call (312) 999-9990 or contact us online.

How Can a Chicago Boat Accident Attorney Help My Case?

Simply put, in many cases, you can’t afford not to have an experienced boat accident attorney representing you.

Boating accidents can result in serious trauma and organ damage related to a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). The costs of treating these injuries can be expensive, involving possible long-term care and an extended recovery period, where earnings are likely to be reduced.

In the face of all these financial losses (called “damages” in injury cases), injury victims may be desperate for resources. They may be quick to accept a settlement offer from the likely at-fault parties — or to accept that they won’t be offered any compensation at all.

For these types of situations, you never want to take the liable party’s statements as the last word on how much your case could be worth. You owe it to yourself and everyone in your household to speak to an attorney, estimate all of your damages in full, and explore all possible sources of liability.

Speaking from experience, big companies that rent and operate boats in the city have policies on the books that they put into effect, fast, the moment someone appears to be hurt. They know what to say and do to minimize the risk that you’ll come back and pursue them for the full damages you should rightfully be paid.

Don’t buy it! Instead, get represented by an experienced attorney like Robert S. Fakhouri.

He and his associates will work hard to get you top dollar from your case, negotiating hard against all defending parties involved while working to secure all evidence available.

When you’re ready to give your claim the highest possible chances of success, we’re ready to step in and help. Reach out to us today to schedule your confidential, no-cost case evaluation.

Types of Damages Recoverable After a Boating Accident

Every boating accident case is different and involves unique damages. The nature of the injury, in particular, will dictate a large portion of the case, including the initial costs of treatment, the amount of time the victim must spend away from work, and so forth.

To help you understand what types of damages may be appropriate, here are some of the most common and significant categories of compensation recovered after a boating accident.

  • Medical bills — Includes the costs of initial treatment as well as all treatment needed in the future, including physical therapy and long-term support costs
  • Lost wages — Calculated as the difference in earnings when compared to before the accident occurred, including any used sick days or other benefits.
  • Out-of-pocket costs — Refers to all other expenses paid directly in connection with the accident, such as transportation to medical appointments.
  • Personal damages — Compensating you for the loss of smart devices, clothing, or repairs to your own vessel.
  • Pain and suffering Providing you coverage for the non-tangible losses and negative experiences undergone as a result of the injury, including your physical pain experienced and your loss of ability to enjoy special activities

Who Is at Fault (Liable) for My Boating Accident?

A boating accident could stem from the actions of multiple parties or organizations. These cases can become quite complex when multiple corporate entities are involved.

Further, the City of Chicago and organizations like the Illinois International Port District could be responsible for dangerous conditions or flawed designs leading to the events of an accident.

Liability, in most boating accident cases, will likely come down to one or more of the following parties:

  • The boat’s operator, which can be an individual, a tour company, a private charter operator, and so forth
  • The boat rental company, if they furnished dangerous equipment or failed to provide the boat operator(s) with sufficient warnings and instructions regarding risks that are not common knowledge
  • The boat manufacturer, if a defect in the vessel led to the injury or caused the situation to result in worse injuries than it would have otherwise
  • A contractor company if their actions created or contributed to risks leading to the accident
  • The City of Chicago, the Illinois International Port District, and other government operators or public agencies if poor design, management, or operation of the waterway led to the accident or caused it to become worse
  • Other boat operators if they collided with you or your vessel or otherwise caused an accident
  • Other vehicles, such as those that dump hazardous waste illegally from overpasses onto watercraft below

Proving Negligence

Determining who is at fault for your accident often comes down to the question of “who was negligent?”

Being negligent, in the legal sense, involves four main factors:

  • Duty of care — Someone, an individual or organization, had a duty to act in accordance with laws and regulations in addition to a standard of “ordinary care;” 
  • Breach — The party in question violated this duty, either through a dangerous action or a failure to act;
  • Proximate cause — The party’s breach of their duty of care was the most direct (or proximate) cause of an accident that led to an injury
  • Damages — The accident inflicted damages, including the costs of medical treatment and the loss of property.

How Common Are Boat Accidents in Chicago?

Chicago may not be thought of as much as a “boating town,” especially to those living outside the city. The reality is that boats are, and always have been, a major part of the Chicago economy, as well as our recreation scene.

While, at one point, you wouldn’t want to be caught near the Chicago River unless you were getting paid for it, efforts from organizations like Friends of the Chicago River have meant a revitalization of activity on its waters. There’s also Lake Michigan, of course, as well as the Calumet Rivers, the Des Plaines, and countless smaller bodies of water in the greater city limits.

All told, the shipping, recreation, and other economic activity in Chicago’s ports adds up to $820 million annually in transactions, helping support the entire region while sustaining the flow of American commerce.

Statistics for recreational boating accidents across the state of Illinois show that there were just 52 accidents in 2022, affecting 72 vessels total, but that the overwhelming majority (40, or nearly 77%) resulted in injuries. Further, the accidents led to six fatalities that year, five of which were drownings.

Just as revealing, 591 boating citations were issued that year collectively across Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers, local law enforcement, Coast Guard, and other officials.

72 individuals were arrested in connection with an operating under the influence (OUI) charge, making it the second-most common citation issued. The number one violation was a lack of personal flotation devices (PFDs) worn by individuals under 13, as required by law.

Looking just at written warnings, law enforcement issued: 

  • 461 for battery covers
  • 457 for inadequate/improper PFD
  • 337 fire extinguisher violations (none present or not in compliance)
  • 331 operation of unnumbered (non-registered or unmarked) watercraft
  • 223 operation of a motorboat without a horn or whistle
  • 200 lanyard cut-off switch (none present or not in compliance)
  • 104 operations in No Wake Area

As one can guess, all of these violations have the potential to cause serious harm and injury in the event of a malfunction or other accident.

What Should I Do After a Boating Accident Occurs?

The following steps can help you receive medical care while protecting your legal rights to pursue compensation.

Immediately Request Emergency Assistance

Using your boat’s radio or a cell phone, call to request assistance from the Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Police Department, the Coast Guard, or other emergency aid providers.

Report all injuries and possible deaths, and if the boat is operable, direct the course to the nearest safe place. Have everyone put on PFDs if they have not already.

Accept Medical Evacuation if You Are Hurt

Anyone who is hurt should be looked at by emergency medical personnel, who will make a recommendation as to whether the injury victim should receive emergency care at a nearby hospital.

If they recommend an emergency evacuation, do not decline. Otherwise, seek medical treatment as soon as you are back on land (or at the next available appointment for an urgent care clinic or your primary care doctor).

Document Evidence at the Scene, if Possible

If you are able to do so, you will want to take photos and videos at the scene of the accident in order to document it. Try to capture an establishing photo that shows the general area where the accident occurred.

You can use landmarks on the horizon to help establish direction and position, for example.

Take a photo of the damage incurred to the vessel and any injuries. Also, re-photograph injuries as they develop over the next several days.

Speak to all witnesses and ask them to provide a recorded statement if they are willing. Get their contact information if you do not have it already.

When an emergency respondent arrives, do not admit fault but provide a complete accounting of the events — to your best recollection.

Speak to a Boat Accident Lawyer Promptly to Begin Your Case

Time is of the essence when dealing with a boating accident injury! You will want to move quickly with investigating your case to preserve all possible evidence.

Your accident may have been captured from nearby locations on the Navy Pier, for example, or by storefronts located throughout the river or shoreline. Other vessels may also have been recording at the time of the accident.

You will also want to secure your rights in light of the likely defensive actions taken by any parties that could hold liability. Decline to make a recorded statement to any insurers or representatives from a corporate entity involved with your accident.

Never accept any initial offers, favors, or gifts, as these could preclude you from seeking further compensation for an injury claim.

After receiving medical care, speaking with a boat accident attorney is the next most important step. The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ can help you gather all the needed evidence while working to get you 100% of the medical care you need.

Don’t hesitate to protect your rights — call an experienced boat accident lawyer in Chicago today.

Navigate Tough Legal Waters With Help From Our Chicago Boating Accident Law Firm

During a boating accident, your life can change in an instant. We want to give you the highest chance of putting that life back on track.

You shouldn’t have to delay treatment or suffer any more than you have to because of worrying about how you will pay for the costs of your injury. Let The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ handle your claim and maximize your chances of successful recovery for all of the damages that you have suffered.

When you’re ready to start pursuing your case, we’re ready to listen. Schedule your free, confidential case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Chicago — one located right along the river — when you call (312) 999-9990 or contact us online.


The Personal Injury Lawyers ™
77 W. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601


Robert Fakhouri and staff are ready to
speak with you.

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Attorney Robert Fakhouri