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.

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