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If you own and operate a watercraft of any kind, it’s crucial that you know the local laws and regulations, as well as any safety procedures that will keep your passengers protected. But boating crashes and general mishaps do happen. While they are much fewer and further between than land vehicle collisions, there are still a number of injuries and fatalities recorded annually due to watercraft accidents.

You may be unfamiliar with how this process works. On land, contact information is swapped, pictures are taken, details are recorded, and an insurance claim is filed. It’s typically pretty easy to determine the liable party, whether they were speeding or they broke another traffic law, such as running a red light or failing to stop at a stop sign. But it’s a bit different on the open water. So, how do you determine liability in a watercraft accident?

Unsurprisingly, it actually depends on the circumstances of the incident. There are several possible culprits that could be held responsible. The following is a list of parties that may be held liable, accompanied by the circumstances that would lead to such liability.

  • The Operator. This is perhaps the most obvious and straightforward of the possibilities. If the operator is not following the laws and regulations put forward for watercraft, then they will be held responsible for their actions if they end in an accident.
  • The Manufacturer. Perhaps the accident is not the operator’s fault. Perhaps the boat has faulty equipment that caused the operator to lose control. In this case, the manufacturer would be held responsible for any damages sustained in the accident.
  • The Passengers. This isn’t quite as unlikely as it may seem. If the passengers are distracting or otherwise hindering the operator’s ability to maneuver the craft, then they may be held liable after an accident.
  • The Owner. Even if the owner is not present during an accident, they may be held liable for neglect. Perhaps they didn’t properly care for the craft or perform regular maintenance checks. Under these circumstances, the owner may be held at least partially liable for any damages sustained in an accident.

Whether you want to know more or you’ve been in a boating accident yourself, it would be wise to call a law firm to discuss your options. Our team of skilled lawyers here Wayne Hardee Law would be glad to meet with you and discuss the case. Visit our offices or contact us today to schedule an appointment!