How Is Fault Determined After A Boating Accident?

Imagine you’re the proud owner of a brand new boat (which you immediately regret, because all boat owners do), and you get into an accident on the water. You blame the other boat owner. The other boat owner blames you. How does the law determine fault? After all, there are no roads or traffic lights on the open water. Who has the right of way? What laws might change the outcome of an investigation? Here’s what you need to know?

The authorities should always be called when a boating accident occurs, even if one party begs the other not to involve police. Do it anyway. There might be damage you haven’t detected yet. You could also have injuries that don’t present right away. The police will want to determine whether either party was operating the boat recklessly. 

Determining the cause becomes easier if one party happened to be drinking or under the influence of drugs (which isn’t all that uncommon for boat owners, who often believe it’s not likely they’ll be caught when operating a boat on unpopulated waters).

Other accidents can be pinned on the manufacturer. If there was a defect, and the defect caused the accident, then the manufacturer is at fault (and you can sue for damages if the boat was damaged or you were injured). 

It’s possible that both boat operators are partially at fault for the accident. This would result in shared liability. Insurance carriers and police will determine whether or not this is the case.

Investigators will often be able to tell whether one or both boats were speeding based on the damage done, especially if one boat was stationary at the time of the accident. 

Weather conditions might also factor into fault. For example, operating the boat in a storm might reduce the recommended speed. Boat owners might also be responsible for damaging property by speeding near docks and creating a wake.

What To Do After A Boating Accident?

Boating accidents occur when boat operators fail to avoid collision with other boats or underwater objects — but in almost every case, you can only take legal action when another boat operator is involved in the accident. Hit an underwater rock, and you can’t exactly sue the rock! In any case, there are a number of steps you should take during and after a boating accident.

First and foremost, call the coast guard, police, or whatever authority is responsible for the jurisdiction in which you are operating your boat. Inform them of what to expect when they arrive on the scene. You’ll want to let them know if either boat is in danger of sinking and whether or not rescue services might be necessary.

Second, try to conduct a rescue if you’re trained to do so. Throw a life jacket or safety ring if the other boat is sinking. Do not leave your boat unless absolutely necessary.

If the area is heavily trafficked, then ask other boat operators to move aside and remain in the immediate vicinity so police can question them. Take witness statements if and when appropriate. You might need those statements in court later. Your personal injury attorney will certainly want to see them.

Once the accident scene is cleared and you are free to leave, seek medical attention for any injuries. Be sure to keep all bills and medical documents in a folder or binder. Add the witness testimony, police statements, and your own written explanation of what happened. This will all help your lawyer determine whether or not a case can be built. 

Keep a journal as you recover. This will help you organize your thoughts and give you a better chance of recollecting the events that occurred. A judge might be interested to know how you felt when determining damages for pain and suffering.

How Is Fault Determined After A Boating Accident?

Boating accidents are a lot different than car accidents, even if they might seem similar to the layman. Imagine one common scenario: There are two boats, one of which has left a huge wake behind her. The second boat is going too fast at an angle perpendicular to the path of the first boat, and the driver is ejected when he hits the wake. There are no speed limits in these particular waters.

Who is at fault?

It’s not an easy question to answer, in part because there is no firm set of rules to govern who might win or lose. It’s possible the court may decide that both parties are negligent or that neither were. One thing’s for certain: if you’re a boat owner, you’d better have boat insurance or a good personal injury lawyer with a good knowledge of maritime law.

The primary difference between boating accidents and car accidents is how easily proof is obtained. It is extremely difficult to prove negligence after a boating accident. Part of the reason is because there are fewer potential witnesses to these types of accidents, which means it’s often a case of “he said, she said.” The difference in regulations and laws is one more reason.

If you were involved in a boating accident as a passenger, then you can potentially bring a claim against either the driver of the boat in which you were riding, or another party responsible for your injuries. This other party might be a boat manufacturer or seller who sold the owner a faulty machine, or it might be another driver on the same waters where you got into the accident. It depends on the situation.

Another complication is the age of many laws that regulate some maritime accidents. Although accidents are common, they’re still less common than car accidents, and so regulations aren’t always updated. Old laws aren’t always stripped from the books. Some of these work in the favor of the boat owner, allowing him or her to avoid paying out accident claims when it would otherwise become necessary. In order for such cases to move forward, negligence must still be proved.

If you were in an accident and someone was injured or killed, you must require the appropriate paperwork or risk prosecution under federal and state laws.

Top Reasons For Boating Accidents

Boating accidents are hazardous because they occur on water. When cruising on water, it ‘s hard to save yourself or the other people on board especially when the accident is severe. Ensure you stay safe in water at all times. Understanding how these accidents occur and what causes them is a great way of learning how to avoid them and the fatalities that come along with them. Below are some of the reasons behind boating accidents.

Operator Inattention.

People operating boats are required to be alert at all times. This is important as it makes them aware of any impending conditions that might affect the proper cruising of the boat. It also puts them in a great position to react to changing conditions during the boat ride. The water sources are very unpredictable at times, and the information from the weather predictions are not entirely reliable.

Improper Lookouts.

The boat operators should always be on the lookout for impending hazards. Some of these hazards include icebergs or even sea creatures that come out of the water surface. Drivers should look out for these dangers and do the right things needed to avoid them and boating accidents.


Operators need to be very experienced when boating. This experience does not entirely focus on the ability to ride the boat but also capacity to react to emergency conditions. Most accidents do not happen during the regular boating trips but when the unexpected happens and here is where experience is vital.


Speed is essential when boating. Riding at moderate speeds allows operators to have ample time to react to any unexpected event. Excessive speed can also lead to collisions with other boat and water vessels.

Impaired Operation.

Operators should be in their best health and mental condition so that they can make the right judgments. Impaired judgment due to health issues or abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a leading cause of boating accidents.

Equipment Failure.

It is essential to ensure the boats you ride in are properly maintained. The boat owner should conduct the necessary checks before letting out their boat into the sea.

Violation of Navigation Rules.

While on water, some set navigational rules govern how boats move around. It is essential to follow these rules as violating them often leads to crashes with other water vessels.


People operating boats should always be wary of the weather conditions before setting out to sail. Ignoring the weather alerts is risky as storms, and other turbulent weather conditions can lead to accidents.

The above things are the leading causes of boating accidents. Always look out for them when boating as these accidents are always severe and often lead to loss of lives.