Nashville lawyer Mitch Grissim has a special advantage when it comes to managing boating accident lawsuits. You read that right: boating accidents!


In 2004, Attorney Grissim successfully passed a rigorous testing and vetting process in order to earn a United States Coast Guard Captain’s license, and if anyone knows about boating regulations, it’s the Coast Guard. Boating accidents are certainly not as common as car or truck accidents, but they can be just as unforgiving — if not more so. That’s why there are as many regulations for boaters as there are for drivers.


Free time spent out on the open water is considered a luxury, and a time for fun and relaxation. But operating a watercraft requires diligence and a healthy respect for the water. Water doesn’t have to be ocean-deep to be dangerous. Weather, illness, distraction and other boaters create plenty of opportunities for a quiet outing on a small lake to become a big, life-changing disaster. Fortunately, we don’t all have to earn a Coast Guard Captain’s license in order to create a safer boating experience for ourselves and our loved ones. Common sense and the advice of experienced boaters can mean the difference between life and death.


The single, most effective way to improve water safety is to wear a life jacket. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, as many at 80 percent of boating fatalities happen because victims aren’t wearing life jackets. Boating accidents are unpredictable, but life jackets are everywhere! They come in colors to match every outfit and in sizes for every height and weight. If you don’t own a life jacket, you can usually rent one from a facility near the dock. So, experienced swimmers or not, there is no excuse for every passenger on a boat to go without one.


It’s not surprising that boaters who are comfortable on the water would forgo bulky life jackets. But it is surprising that any boaters would be all right with boating under the influence (BUI). If a boating accident results in a serious injury, law enforcement is obligated to test the blood alcohol content of all the boat operators involved. An operator found to have a BAC of .08 or higher (or BUI) — just the same as DUI — will be hit with fines, jail time, suspension of the boating license and, possibly, additional federal penalties. In 2010, BUI was the primary cause of 5.7 percent of all reported boating accidents in Tennessee. That’s far better than the 9.5 percent from 2009, but still too many.


Now, next time you’re out on the water, you’ll be armed with two great tips for avoiding a boating accident. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that everyone else out there will do the same. Just make safety a priority on your own vessel. Then, if another boater’s carelessness results in a boating accident involving you, come back to for a case evaluation by the Nashville lawyer who knows about boating laws.