Under California law, anyone who is injured in a boating accident due to the actions of another party may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. In California, an injury victim may be entitled to damages if their injuries were caused by negligence or malice, or by a defective product. California law allows injury victims to hold guilty parties responsible for the losses caused by their harmful actions.
Anyone who may be responsible for causing a boating accident could be named as a defendant in a personal injury case. Some examples of possible defendants in a boating accident case include:
The expert boating accident attorneys at LA Lawyers Group understand how traumatic a boating accident may be. Our attorneys also have a full understanding of what needs to be considered in each unique type of boating accident case. Our injury lawyers can help victims who have been involved in a variety of boating accidents, including:
Typically, liability in a California boating accident case will fall under one of two legal doctrines: pure comparative negligence or strict liability.
Pure comparative negligence would come in to play in cases where a person’s negligence caused an accident that led to a victim’s injury. For example, if a reckless boat operator crashes their boat because they were boating at an excessive speed, this would be due to negligent behavior. In this case, the boat operator may be held liable by injuries caused by their actions if an injury victim can prove negligence.
To prove negligence in California, you must show that:
Because California is a pure comparative negligence state, more than one party can be found liable for an accident that occurs in California. If more than one party is found liable, fault for the accident will be assigned in percentages. In the event that an accident victim’s injuries were caused by more than one party’s actions, the victim would need to prove both negligence and how much each party’s negligence factored into the accident that caused their injuries.
Strict liability applies to a California boating accident when a defective product caused the accident. California has extremely strict consumer protection laws. Per California law, if a defective product causes an injury, parties that were involved in the making, distribution, or sale of that product can be held strictly liable for an injury victim’s losses. Defendants in a product liability case could include parts manufacturers, product manufacturers, designers, distributors, and retailers.
If a defective product causes a boat accident, a victim would not need to prove negligence in order to pursue damages. They would only need to prove that:
When a boat owner or operator ignores the basic rules of the road and this negligence leads to an accident, they could be found liable for damages caused by the accident. In California, boat owners and operators need to be mindful of following both state and federal boating laws..
When a craft is in the navigable waters of the State of California, it’s subject to California laws. California law prohibits negligent or reckless watercraft operation that could endanger another party and/or another party’s property. California also has many specific laws governing boating activity, including speed limits, laws against riding on a bow or gunwale, laws operating a boat with unsafe conditions, and laws against boating through areas used by swimmers. As of 2020, California also has a new law that requires all boaters 35 years of age or younger to carry a California Boater Card. By 2025, all boaters (regardless of age) must obtain a California Boater Card.
At a federal level, there are various laws and regulations for public and private vessels of the United States that govern passage through harbors, rivers, and inland waters. For example, per federal law, watercraft vessels must be equipped with Coast guard approved safety devices, including visual distress signals, fire extinguishers, sound alert devices, flame arrestors, gas ventilation devices, and personal floatation devices such as life jackets.
Note that boating laws apply to many types of water vehicles, whether they are small or large, or for business or for recreation. Some examples of vessels that must adhere to boating laws include speedboats, cabin cruisers, cruise ships, outboards, houseboats, steam yachts, sailing yachts, sailboats, catamarans, rowboats, canoes, and jet skis. Certain boating laws may apply differently depending on the size or type of vehicle. For example, a jet ski may not need to have the same types of safety devices as a motorboat would. In general, however, know that boating laws apply to many types of water vehicles and that it is the owner or operator’s duty to know which laws specifically apply to their vessel usage.
As long as they were not fully at fault, a victim who was drunk at the time they were harmed in a boating accident may be entitled to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Being intoxicated does not necessarily indicate fault in an accident case. For example, say a drunk boat operator drives a boat recklessly, causing a drunk passenger to fall and become seriously injured. The drunk boat operator is negligent in this instance, since they are operating a boat while intoxicated and they are driving recklessly. However, if the drunk passenger may or may not have any share of fault in this instance-- it depends on the unique circumstance of the accident.
Note that because California is a comparative negligence state, an accident victim can still recover losses even if they are partially at fault for their accident. If, in our previous example, the drunk passenger was found to be 30% responsible for their injuries, they could still recover damages. These damages would just be reduced by 30%.
Economic damages cover the measurable financial losses experienced due to an injury or accident. Some examples of economic damages that may be available to a boat accident victim include:
Non-economic damages are designed to compensate a plaintiff for their intangible, non-economic losses. Some examples of non-economic damages that may be available to a boating accident victim include:
If a person dies due to a boating accident, their family may be able to hold a guilty party accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. California’s wrongful death laws allow plaintiffs to recover any “just” damages, which means that the damages in a wrongful death case may vary widely depending on the situation. Some examples of damages that may be recovered through a wrongful death case include compensation for: