Twenty-first century Americans have grown accustomed to social media “challenges” sweeping the nation. However, a dangerous trend on TikTok is certain to result in maritime deaths and personal injuries during the 2023 boating season. This trend, known as the "Boat Jumping Challenge"(#boatjumping), has been gaining momentum since 2020 but is currently surging around the internet. It involves jumping off the back of a moving boat at high speed. Videos of people participating in the challenge have been viewed millions of times on TikTok.
While other social media challenges have been cute or well-meaning, the Boat Jumping Challenge is deadly serious. As many as four deaths have already been attributed to boaters participating in the challenge.
Authorities and news outlets are urging people to avoid participating in the Boat Jumping Challenge. The Today Show informed viewers of the fatal risks on July 10, 2023. TikTok also responded to the resultant deaths by adding warnings to some of the boat jumping videos that note "participating in this activity could result in you or others getting hurt." However, the company has said that it is not possible to remove all of the videos, as they are often shared on other platforms as well.
Boat Jumping is a seriously risky activity with potentially life-altering legal responsibility for those who participate. The general maritime law of the United States requires boat owners and operators to exercise reasonable care under the circumstance. If an owner/operator fails to exercise reasonable care, he or she may be held liable for resulting injuries and deaths under the maritime tort of negligence.
The damages available for negligence under the general maritime law can include:
It doesn’t strain the imagination to believe that a jury might hold a boat owner or driver liable where he or she knowingly allowed a passenger to jump from a moving vessel—much less while filming it for social media. Indeed, it seems only a matter of time until exactly that happens. And when it does, the resulting money damages could be ruinous.
If you or a loved one was killed or severely injured in a maritime accident due to the negligence of another party, such as the “Boat Jumping Challenge,” you should speak with an experienced maritime lawyer to discuss your legal options as soon as possible. Maritime law is complex. An admiralty attorney with Mariner Law, PLLC can help you understand your claim and navigate the recovery process. Call (253) 600-2531 today for a free consultation.