Written by attorney Timothy Justin Young

What Maritime Law Says About Boat Owners’ Legal Responsibilities

Knowing the legal responsibilities of boat owners could benefit you if you are injured on the Gulf Coast. These responsibilities boil down to one thing: exercising reasonable care. While maritime law calls on all types of boat owners to act with reasonable care, the circumstances leisure boaters regularly face may vary greatly compared to commercial ship owners. A maritime law attorney can discuss with you some common scenarios boaters face and how leisure and commercial craft owners are required to respond. Leisure Boat Owners’ Legal Responsibilities: What Maritime Law Says When boat owners are out on the water, their primary responsibility is the well being of any guests they may have on board, as well as the safety of swimmers and boaters sharing the water. Private boaters should do the following: • remedy any potential hazards on the boat (holes, slippery surfaces, loose railings, unstable flooring); • orient guests who are unfamiliar with boating to some potentially dangerous situations and how to respond (severe weather, tide changes, choppy waves); and • always be aware of your boat’s propeller and turn it off when swimmers or small boats are nearby. It is also the responsibility of private boat owners to operate the craft free from the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a boat owner operates the boat under the influence and others are injured as a result, they could be held liable. While this law applies to commercial vessel owners as well, the problem is especially pervasive when people are out on the water for recreation as opposed to work. Maritime Law and Commercial Vessel Owners’ Legal Responsibilities Even when commercial boat owners conduct the majority of their operations in the middle of the ocean, they still have to access harbors and ports. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that they have a responsibility to smaller boats and swimmers they may pass on their way out to sea. In addition, commercial boat owners also have a legal responsibility to: • keep the vessel safe and free of hazards (promptly clean up spills, repair broken hand rails or flooring); • follow Jones Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Coast Guard regulations (properly mark walkways, keep machinery and equipment in good repair, and provide adequate training, supervision and manpower for work-related tasks); and • provide maintenance and cure services for injured employees. Despite the best efforts of boat owners, accidents can and do occur. When you’ve suffered an injury on the Gulf Coast, a maritime law attorney who knows the ins and outs of relevant laws can evaluate your case to determine if you have a valid claim. Attorneys Can Help with Maritime Injury Claims Keeping your boat free of hazards and looking out for the safety of guests and other boaters isn’t merely a courtesy — it’s a requirement of maritime law. The Young Firm has dedicated 50 years to helping maritime injury victims recover compensation to which they are entitled. Our attorney team is here to speak with you. Call 504-680-4100 or 866-938-6113 to speak with a Gulf Coast maritime attorney.

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