Who is Liable in a Boating Accident?

two boats on a lake

There are more people out on the water than ever before.

With more boaters comes more opportunities for boats and other watercraft to collide with one another. In the event of a boating accident, how is liability most often determined? In this article, we are going to cover boating accidents, and how liability is determined to help keep your summer on the water as safe and enjoyable as possible.

When on the open water, there are rules, regulations, and restrictions set in place that are location and region-specific to keep people in and out of the water as safe as possible. Some of them are a courtesy, and some of them are best practices, and some are legal requirements. As a boat enthusiast, owner or operator, it’s your responsibility to understand the “rules of the road” regarding not only other watercraft but passengers and swimmers as well.

Common Liable Parties in a Boating Accident

Here are some of the most common parties that can be found liable in a boating accident, and how they may be determined to be at fault.

The Boat Operator

The individual who was operating the boat at the time of the accident or incident is usually the first person to be scrutinized. Were they under the influence? Speeding? Practicing due diligence and avoiding hazards? Skilled enough to operate the boat in question? Did they ensure that their passengers had access to and were using safety equipment? Was the boat operator aware of and following the rules of the water, wake restrictions, etc? If an accident or loss occurs due to the operator’s failure in any of these areas, they can be held liable.

The Owner of the Boat

As the owner of the vessel, you are ultimately responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and safety equipment on board, as well as ensuring that it is being safely and properly operated. Owning a boat is a big responsibility, and if an accident was the result of the boat owner’s negligence, they can be held liable. Was there proper safety equipment in good working condition available? Was the boat maintained in a way that would enable it to operate and function safely? These and other questions may be raised in the event of an accident.

The Manufacturer of the Boat

If a faulty part or component causes an accident, then the boat manufacturer or the individual manufacturer of a particular part can be held liable for damages. Sometimes it can be challenging to determine and prove instances of manufacturer defect, but in other circumstances, it can be pretty clear cut depending on the circumstances. Whether a mistake was made during the engineering, testing, manufacturing, or installation phase, if a defective design or assembly process was a cause of death, injury or loss then they may be held liable in court.

The Company or Person Leasing the Boat

As the entity responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the boat, companies or persons who lease boats out can be held liable for damages if they failed to properly maintain the boat’s operational or safety equipment or failed to properly train boat operators and passengers and this resulted in an accident. Most reputable companies will have very stringent maintenance and operating schedules when it comes to their equipment, but that doesn’t mean that the accident may not have been caused by negligence on their behalf.

Other Passengers

If an accident was caused as a result of a passenger behaving in a reckless, criminal or negligent way, then the passenger in question can be held liable for damages or injuries in a boating accident. When safety protocols are disregarded or violated by a passenger, it’s not only the other people on board that can be impacted. Other boaters and users of watercraft (and even swimmers along the shore!) can experience injury, loss of life or property as well.

When it comes to transportation liability, the water may seem like a less cut and dry place (literally!), but if you are the victim of a boating accident you already know that the consequences are just as serious on the water as they are on land. Whether it was a minor or major injury, loss of income, or any other type of damage, the effects can potentially impact you and the rest of your family for life.

A lawyer will know what kinds of laws may have been violated, can guide you through the complex legal process, and help you to discover what kind of compensation you may be entitled to. Every day on the water should be a great day on the water, but if one of those great days turned into a boating accident instead, our team of attorneys is on hand to help you with any legal issues that require their professional assistance.

Get your free case evaluation started today!