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Boating Accident FAQ

Accident Attorney Answers Boating Accident Questions

Boats are a fun way to get out of the house and enjoy the good weather. With plenty of lakes and rivers in California, it is common for Californians to be out on the water. With the amount of boats out on the water, the likelihood of an accident increases. Here are some frequently asked questions about boating and accidents. Speak with an accident attorney regarding your case specifically.

Do I need a license to operate a boat?

In California, you do not need a license to operate a boat, however, knowing the basics of driving will help operate a boat. No person under the age of 16 can operate a boat of more than 15 horsepower, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore, or between two moored boats.

How and when do I report a boating accident?

Boat operators or owners must make a written report of a boating accident to the California Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) when a person dies, disappears, or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid. Additionally, a report to DBW must be made if there is damage to any vessels involved (or other property) that equals or is greater than $500 or there is complete loss of a vessel.

What is a boating accident?

The California Department of Boating and Waterways defines a boating accident as:

  1. the death or disappearance of a person
  2. injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid
  3. property damage exceeding $500 to all vessels, docks and other property involved in the accident, or the complete loss of a vessel

What are the common causes of boating injuries and fatalities?

Some common causes are capsizing of the vessel, falls overboard, running around, sinking, striking an object in the water, explosions or a collision with another vessel.

What are some common boating accident contributing factors?

No accident is ever the same and it’s always best to consult with an accident attorney if you’ve been involved in a boat accident but generally speaking, some common factors that cause boating accidents are operator inattention or distraction, inexperience, excessive speed, careless/reckless operation, intoxication, passenger/skier behaviors, not having a proper lookout, restricted vision, hazardous waters or weather, equipment failure and engine failure.

What are the most common types of vessels involved in accidents?

About 46% of accidents are open motorboat, 22% are personal watercraft and 14% are closed motorboats.

Is it legal to drink while boating?

It is against the law to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs. So although it isn’t illegal to drink alcohol on a boat, any boat operator should make sure they are under the limit which is .08% BAC.

What are the rules for operating a Personal Watercraft (PWC), like a jet ski?

The laws for PWCs are the same as for boats with a few exceptions:

  • Every person on board must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket
  • If the PWC has a lanyard cutoff switch, the operator must attach the lanyard to his or her person
  • PWCs may not be operated between sunset and sunrise

To operate a PWC designed for one person, the operator must be 16 years of age or older. A person 12-15 years of age must operate a PWC designed to carry two or more persons if the operator is supervised on board by a person of 18 years or older.

How can I avoid a boat accident?

There are several tips everyone should follow to prevent any accidents while out on the water:

  1. Every passenger should always wear a life jacket
  2. Never drink alcohol while boating
  3. Take a boating safety course
  4. Stay in control by taking charge of your safety and that of your passengers
  5. Understand and obey boating safety recommendations and navigational rules of navigation before taking to the water, and practice them without fail
  6. Operate at a safe speed and always maintain a careful lookout
  7. Check the weather forecast
  8. Have your vessel checked out for safety for free
  9. Use a carbon monoxide detector
  10. File a float plan

How can I determine who was at fault for the accident?

A boat accident attorney can help identify the person who is liable for your damages but you can always start by asking:

  • Was the operator of the vessel drunk at the time of the accident?
  • Was the operator driving too fast or in a reckless manner?
  • Did the operator fail to adjust to certain adverse circumstances and conditions, such as choppy waters and low visibility?
  • Did the accident occur due to a defective piece of boating equipment?

Each case is different and depending on the circumstances, you may have a claim against the boat operator or the manufacturer of the equipment.

Who is liable if a crew member is injured while working?

A person injured while employed as a maritime worker over navigable waters will be covered by federal law. The employer is generally liable for injuries or the wrongful death of an employee.

How can I win my boat accident claim?

Having a skilled attorney by your side is a good way to get the compensation you deserve. Your lawyer should be able to conduct a thorough investigation by retrieving and using cellphone records, video records, work reports, prior accident reports, disciplinary reports, and other documentation relevant to your case.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a boat accident, it’s important you contact a skilled accident attorney with experience handling boating accidents to help you with your case.

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