Who Is Liable for a Boating Accident Injury?

When a boating accident occurs, the operators of any vessels involved are typically held liable, but this isn’t the extent of liability for such an incident. Other parties whose recklessness or negligence significantly contributed to causing the accident may also become liable for personal injury damages.

Summer’s here in California, and that means a lot more people will enjoy watercraft recreation. With the surge of boats of all kinds filling lakes, marinas, and the coastline, however, comes an elevated risk of a boating accident that can result in serious injury.

When an accident occurs, establishing liability is important for accident victims. Successful legal action can hold the responsible party (or parties) accountable for causing the injuries and compensating the victims for medical costs, lost wages, property loss, and other damages.

Proving Fault in a Boating Accident

Proving that a party was at fault for causing a boating accident involves establishing that their negligence and/or recklessness caused the accident. This matter, though, can be as complex as it is important to address.

Establishing fault for a boating accident comes down to evaluating the following factors:

  • Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the victim?
  • Did the defendant fail to fulfill a duty of care owed to the victim?
  • Did the defendant’s breach of the duty of care result in the plaintiff’s injuries?

Boat operators owe a duty of care to other boaters and their passengers in a manner not dissimilar to drivers. There are rules for operating watercraft as there are traffic laws, and violating either – or otherwise engaging in negligent or reckless behavior – can have similar outcomes.

As alluded to earlier, vessel operators are not the only parties who may be held liable. If the watercraft suffered from a defect caused during its manufacture or maintenance, the entities responsible for producing the vessel or maintaining it may also share a portion of fault.

Boating Accidents & Comparative Fault

California recognizes comparative fault, which means that fault for the accident may be attributed to both the plaintiff and defendant, but damages are still recoverable (although reduced) as long as the plaintiff’s share of fault is not more than 50 percent.

For example: A plaintiff sues a defendant for boating accident damages. The court agrees that the defendant is more at fault for the accident, but attributes 35 percent of fault for the accident to the plaintiff due to their own negligence. This can result in the plaintiff recovering a reduced amount in damages than if the court deemed the defendant was 100% at fault.

Injured in a Boating Accident? We Can Help.

At the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser, our attorneys have many years of experience handling boating accident injury claims. We understand that a boat accident can take an emotional and physical toll on you and your family, and we are here to provide you with legal representation that can help get you the compensation you need.

For more information about our legal services, contact us online.


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