Most individuals who drown in boating accidents are not wearing life jackets. For this reason, safety-conscious boaters always have enough life jackets for everyone on board. Moreover, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, all recreational vessels must carry approved life vests or jackets for all passengers
Life jackets work by providing overboard passengers with buoyancy. This buoyancy keeps individuals afloat until rescuers arrive. Still, because life jackets do not last forever, it is critical for boat personnel to pay close attention to their expiration dates.
The normal degradation of materials
Even though the materials in life vests and jackets are resilient, they are not indestructible. Over time, these materials can naturally degrade. Certain environmental conditions, such as salt water and high humidity, can cause degradation to accelerate. Likewise, nicks, tears and other damage to a life jacket can shorten its lifespan.
An inspection process
Many life jackets come with printed expiration dates, which crewmembers should note. Doing so is probably not enough to keep passengers and others safe, however. Indeed, onboard personnel should regularly inspect life jackets for signs of damage and wear and tear. If these are present, replacing the life jacket may be necessary.
The risk of serious injury
Outdated and damaged life jackets can be extremely hazardous for their wearers. After all, not only can an old life jacket lose its buoyancy, but damage can cause a jacket to fit insecurely. Simply put, there is an inherent risk of serious injury that comes with using old, damaged or defective life jackets.
Ultimately, if a person suffers a life-altering injury because of a faulty life jacket, he or she may be eligible for substantial financial compensation.