Like many other areas of the law, boats, their owners and crew are subject to laws designed to prevent injuries to those on board. However, there are numerous other watercraft such as jet skis, inflatable boats, houseboats etc. which are not traditionally thought of as boats but are just as dangerous if not more so.
Various regulations require safety devices such as lifejackets, rescue equipment, inspection of the watercraft, properly operating engines and equipment and numerous other areas designed to make the watercraft safe. Like all things, people may not choose to comply with the regulations. Failure to do so may be a direct cause of catastrophic injury and death.
Additionally, the operation of water vessels are subject to various rules of the road regarding location, speeds, weather conditions and other things which if not followed can likewise cause injury and death.
Also, any injury or death on the high seas (usually defined as being beyond three-mile or 12 miles from the coast) is subject to maritime law and/or death on the high seas act constituting a whole different body of skill and law. Airplanes which crash off shore maybe subject to the Maritime laws. Any passengers on board would then be subject to that specialized area of the law regarding their ability to recover for the injury or death.
The same laws of product liability for defects in the water vessel, boat or other vehicle also apply. Care must be taken in determining the manufacturer is and who is the distributor and/or supplier as the boat may be manufactured outside of the United States which makes it more difficult to hold those responsible.
It is very important that you consider an attorney familiar with maritime law and boats. Any attorney who consults with you about a boating accident has to know and analyze what the different laws are that apply as well as identifying the manner in which a litigation is to proceed. Some cases may be brought in state court while others may have to be brought in Federal District Court. That determination is critical for your case will be lost forever.