Written by attorney John N. Demas

Determining Fault in a Boat Collision: Who Can Be Held Liable?

Boating is one of the favorite recreational activities for people in Sacramento and throughout California. The large number of lakes, rivers and the ocean’s bays make boating a relaxing and enjoyable pastime through the state. However, there are large numbers of accidents associated with boating each year, and in some cases these accidents are fatal.

How Many Boating Accidents Occur Each Year?

The United States Coast Guard compiles statistics information on fatal boating accidents each year along with data about the causes of these accidents. According to the USCG’s records, there were 4,515 recreational boating accidents across the United States that resulted in 651 deaths and 3,000 injuries.

Each of these causes of accidents can be directly attributed to the negligence or carelessness of a person. In some cases, that person is the driver of the boat; in other cases, it may be the manufacturer of the vessel or the person responsible for its maintenance.

Life jackets are required to be worn during all boating activities; however, the failure to wear lifejackets is a common cause of death and injury. Failure to wear a life jacket may reduce the amount to which a victim is entitled in a boating accident, as it may be considered negligence on the part of the victim.

Who Is At Fault in A Boating Accident?

The person who is at fault in a boating accident is the person or party whose negligence led to the accident. Sometimes this is easy to determine. If a boat operator runs into another boat, for example, that driver is usually at fault. However, it may be more difficult to determine who is at fault if there are multiple vessels involved or if a boat capsizes or sinks due to poor maintenance or faulty design. In these cases, investigations are typically conducted by hiring accident reconstruction experts or engineers and by interviewing witnesses. In some cases, in addition to boat operators, boat manufacturers are also found liable for an accident and its consequences. It is important to note that he individuals injured in a boating accident can also be considered partially negligent, if they contributed to the accident in some way. California operates under what is known as a comparative liability premise.

Comparative liability allows juries to award damages to those who are injured in a boating accident, even if they were also responsible for part of the damages. Normally, the amount of the award is reduced by the percentage the jury feels the victim was responsible for the accident; therefore, if the victim was 30 percent responsible for his or her own injuries, any reward will be reduced by that amount.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured In A Boating Accident?

Victims who have suffered injuries and losses due to boating accidents may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney. An attorney can help determine who is liable for the accident and the damages caused, and assist the victim with recovering damages, such as payment of medical bills and sums for pain, suffering and mental anguish.

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