Who Is Liable in a Boating Accident?

With the summer heat starting to roll in, a lot of Southern California residents are flocking to the nearby lakes where they can spend a day out on the water. Unfortunately, this wave of eager boat-goers comes at a price – busy lakes that can more easily result in boating accidents.

Unlike other motor vehicle accidents, victims of boating accidents are usually left wondering, “Who’s responsible for the injury I suffered on the boat?” When it comes to boating accidents, the person operating the watercraft is almost always responsible for the accident. However, there are instances where other people or groups could be held liable. Below, we explore the situations that could alter liability from the norm and we look at the legal approaches available under such circumstances.

Boat Driver

Every time someone operates a watercraft with others on board, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s safety is in their hands. Mistakes on the water can make for costly boat repairs, elongated hospital stays and, in some cases, fatal injuries. Boat drivers are obligated to make sure the boating experience is safe for all on board. Here are a few ways boat drivers could be liable for an accident:

  • Speeding violations, especially in no-wake zones
  • Boating under the influence
  • Failure to follow towing guidelines
  • Not paying attention to other boats

The person operating a watercraft needs to have full control of the boat at all times. Otherwise, an accident could result in serious or fatal injuries.

Boat Owners

Sometimes, the owner of the boat is different from the person operating it. While the owner might think an accident means they aren’t liable for any injuries, this isn’t always true. When it comes to liability, a boat owner is held accountable for the condition and overall safety of the boat. If the boat is not maintained to a safe standard and something malfunctions, causing an accident, the owner could be liable for those injured in the process.

Passengers on Board

Have you ever been on a boat with a friends who is trying to show off? This sort of reckless behavior can result in others being put in harm's way. When the passenger’s behavior leads to an accident and/or injury, the passenger could be held liable. One way a passenger could take on liability is by interfering with the captain’s ability to safely drive the boat, even if doing so was unintentional. All passengers on board must be aware of the role they play in ensuring everyone’s safety. This is why a lot of boat owners force their passengers to remain seated while the boat is in motion. Failure to do so could end in the passenger being liable for a major boating accident.

Rental Service

Given that boats are a tough investment to keep up with, a lot of people like to rent boats for the day. If there were major malfunctions before you started operating a rental boat, the service provider could be liable for the accident. When anyone rents a boat, the rental company is responsible for providing a top-notch working boat that everyone can safely board and spend the day on. Failure to do so could result in unforeseen injuries to the party on board.

Boat Maker

Sometimes, the liability doesn’t fall on any of the previously mentioned people. It starts where the boat was made.  Boat manufacturers have been known to make defective motors, control panels, and other critical boating parts that result in accidents on the water. In this case, it’s possible that neither the driver or the owner will be held liable because the accident was not caused by them but rather by faulty manufacturing. Sometimes, these accidents even result in a recall.

Find Your Boating Accident Solution

Have you or a loved one suffered an injury from a boating accident? It’s important to act now and hire a lawyer who can assist in obtaining the compensation owed to you. At Tedford & Associates, we understand that boating liability changes depending on the nature of the circumstances. Let our attorney provide insight and start your injury claim today!

Contact us for more information on boating liability and how it pertains to your case.


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