Boat Owner Liability

Boat Owner Liability

With summertime upon us it is time to explore the law of negligence with respect to some common summer pastimes, such as boating. Boating accidents can be just as deadly as automobile accidents, if not more so. Moving through wide open lanes, boats that can be heavier than the average personally operated motor vehicle and just as fast. As such, they carry the same risks that drivers of motor vehicles face, such as use of alcohol by the boat operator. The availability of rescue by trained medical personnel is smaller, as they have a greater distance to travel. It should be no surprise that accidents on the water can be dangerous and deadly. Here’s what you need to know about boat owner liability:


Boating Laws and Rules

From a legal standpoint, the laws and regulations that govern boating are murkier than the laws that govern and regulate motor vehicles, since there will always be some level of federal involvement or overlay to boating laws. Coast Guard regulations trump state laws and generally regulate the integrity of the boat as well as safety devices. Furthermore, various certifications by the Coast Guard may also come into play when examining the actions of a boat operator. If you take a boat out onto the high seas, the governing law will be exclusively federal admiralty laws.  When not on the high seas, usually state common law regarding negligence governs.

State common law on the issue of negligence queries whether or not the operator or owner of the boat had liability in its operation or entrustment. According to the Coast Guard, some other leading causes of boating accidents include operator inattention, excessive speed, and operator inexperience. When injuries occur as a result of negligence, a Plaintiff is entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages directly related to the negligence itself. These are compensatory damages and include money to compensate the Plaintiff for both economic losses, such as lost wages and medical bills as well as non-economic losses such as past and future pain and suffering, increased risk of medical complications, and diminution of enjoyment of life.


Boating Accidents and Lawsuits

If the facts of the case are sufficiently egregious, a Plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages, although that generally relates to at least reckless or intentional conduct, as they are designed to punish the Defendant and to send a message to all who would consider such actions for boat owner liability. The bar to obtain punitive damages is deliberately high. The Defendant must establish that a high degree of indifference to the rights of others occurred, such as to border on criminal conduct.

If you or a loved one were harmed in a boating accident, you have the right to be made whole from your losses by seeking compensation for your injuries. The law office of Napoli, Shkolnik, PLLC has the skill and tenacity to recover the fullest extent allowed under the law. You can contact us via online contact form or you can call us directly at 212-397-1000.