According to the United States Coast Guard, an incident is classified as a boating accident if one of the following three occur:
- A boating accident kills a victim or injures the victim beyond the assistance of first-aid.
- A suspected boating incident causes the injury, death, or disappearance of a victim.
- The vessel involved in the incident caused or sustained damage.
The most common types of watercrafts involved in boating accidents are cabin cruisers, jet skis, and runabouts. These are ore commonly involved than schooners and sailboats.