Liability in Boat Accidents – When Can You Sue?

The summer months see a significant uptake in the number of recreational boat users, particularly on B.C.’s lakes and marine waterways. And where there’s an uptake in numbers, it inevitably follows that there’s an increase in accidents.

Sometimes, boating accidents are just that: accidents. They could not have been prevented and no one is to blame. Other times, however, a person or organisation is directly responsible. If a boating accident happens due to the negligence of the operator, then the injured person (or their surviving family members) could be in a position to sue.

Boating accidents – who is responsible?

To claim compensation for a boating accident, it is necessary to show that someone else was responsible for the accident – and that negligence played a part. Ordinarily, a boat operator will be deemed negligent if:

  • The laws and regulations were not met; and/or
  • A certain standard of care was not achieved

Boating accident laws and regulations

There are various laws and regulations that govern pleasure watercrafts. These include the Canada Shipping Act, the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations and the Criminal Code of Canada. Together, these form the ‘rules of the water’ – just like we have the rules of the road for motor vehicles. So, anyone operating certain types of pleasure watercraft must have a licence. They must not operate the vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and must follow certain rules to keep others safe. This includes obeying the speed limit, passing other vessels safely to avoid a collision, and taking heed of warning buoys and other signals.

If a boat operator fails to respect the laws and regulations relating to pleasure watercraft, causing another person to suffer harm, then he/she could be held liable.

Standard of care

Anyone in charge of a vessel is also responsible for meeting a certain standard of care. The operator is responsible for the health and safety of their passengers. This means taking reasonable steps to ensure their wellbeing, such as providing lifejackets, maintaining a seaworthy vessel and not behaving in a dangerous manner.

If a boat operator fails to meet the standard of care expected of them, causing another person to suffer harm, then he/she could be held liable.

Boating accident claims

If you have been involved in a boating accident through no fault of your own, you could be entitled to compensation for the injuries you have sustained. If your loved one was harmed and has tragically died because of the accident, you could make a wrongful death claim.

Personal injury claims for boating accidents may arise due to:

  • A slip, trip or fall on board the vessel
  • Defects in the boat
  • Inexperienced or impaired operator
  • Failure to follow safety measures
  • Not adhering to the rules of the water
  • Mechanical issues
  • Collisions with other vessels or rocks
  • Failure to follow man overboard procedures

Marine Liability Act

If you bring a claim for a boating accident, then you will make your claim under the Marine Liability Act. This piece of legislation sets out who can obtain damages for a boating accident. It also outlines the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded in different scenarios.

Speak to our Vancouver personal injury lawyers

Boating accident claims have their own set of complexities. You need to find a lawyer who understand the rules governing pleasure watercraft, and the ins and outs of the Marine Liability Act. This ensures that your claim stands the best chance of success, and that you receive the maximum amount of compensation possible.

At John Mickelson Law Corporation, we specialise in personal injury claims. We help those who have been injured in boating accidents and can handle the insurance claim on your behalf.

To speak to our Vancouver personal injury lawyers, either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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