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Boating Accidents

Boat As a Los Angeles boating accident attorney, I know that our waterways can be dangerous. In fact, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways, California is one of the highest states in the country for boating accidents. In a recent report, there were 42 people killed in boat accidents on California waterways. Moreover, 74 percent of the deaths were caused by drowning. Oftentimes general regulations regarding boating safety in these cases are not followed (e.g. Boating Safety).

Were you involved in a waterway incident and need experienced California boating accident lawyers to represent you? Contact the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to speak with experienced California boating accident lawyers today.

Of the many ways that someone can be injured or killed while on the water, just a few of the most common are listed below.

  • Accidents related to the boat capsizing due to damage, flooding or swamping (can be especially dangerous in coastal waters off California due to the low water temperature and chance of hypothermia or death without prompt rescue
  • Injuries or mishaps due to falling overboard the vessel
  • Boating fires or explosions
  • Collisions between two ships or boats
  • Injury caused from the negligent operation of a boat including driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Being cut or maimed by a propeller while swimming, skiing or engaging in water sports
  • Boating collisions with fixed objects like pylons, docks, or natural objects like rocks or reefs

And some of the common injuries that may be sustained from a boat accident are:

  • Traumatic brain injury, anoxic brain injury, concussion
  • Spinal, thoracic, lumbar, cervical injury
  • Sprain, fracture, broken bone
  • Internal, soft tissue, burn injury
  • Serious lacerations (sometimes resulting in bleeding to death)

Current statistics show that there were more than 893,828 registered boats in California in 2006. Of all the persons that died as a result of a fall overboard, 71 percent were not wearing a life jacket. However, many of these fatalities would have still occurred because of the negligence of someone else. Most of the boating accidents are reported to happen during the peak of the spring and summer months between June and September.

California Law on Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims Related to Boating Accidents

Under California law, a boat and other personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave-runners are considered "vehicles" and have specific rules of operation.  No boat can be operated without proper registration (including placement of a "Hull Identification Number" (HIN) to show to whom the vessel belongs.  Boats with 15 horsepower or more must be operated by persons at least 16 years old or older.  Boats or personal watercraft with less than 15 HP, may be operated by persons 12-15, if they are accompanied and supervised by an adult. It is unlawful to operate a boat or PWC in any of the following ways:

  • Reckless or Negligent Maneuvers:  Just like cars can be charged with "reckless driving", "reckless boating" is also unlawful. Such maneuvers can included, but aren't limited to, going too fast in violation of posted signage (including "no wake zones"), "buzzing" another vehicle or coming too close with either the boat, personal watercraft or any towed object including water skiers, operating too closely to skiers, swimmers or divers, riding on the bow or gunwhales (gunnels) or in any manner likely to cause a person to go overboard or otherwise operating in a way or at such as speed that causes a collision with either a fixed object or another boat or personal water craft.  In addition, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a DUI in California.  If the DUI causes bodily injury to another person, this is considered a so-called "enhancement" of the crime of DUI and subjects the boat driver to additional penalties.  It is also unlawful to operate a personal watercraft at any time between sundown and sunset (even if the PWC has lights).
  • Operating a Boat or Personal Watercraft in An Unsafe Condition: This can include operating with structural or mechanical defects that affect the safe operation of a boat or watercraft, failure to have sufficient life jackets, lack of required fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors and proper ventilation for fuel fumes, and problems with fuel leakage or excessive water due to bilge issues.  In addition, all water vessels in CA are required to have proper navigation lights for nighttime travel.  This includes both powered vessels and unpowered vessels (like sailboats).  Flares, "diver down" signage and other safety equipment may also be required depending upon the activity, the distance traveled offshore and other factors.  In addition, PWC s are all required to have ignition safety switches which shut the engine off if the rider is ejected.
  • Improper Anchoring or Mooring: It can be unlawful to anchor or moor a boat in a way that obstructs navigation or contributes to a collision or other mishap
  • Laws Related to Towing Another Vehicle or Skier: Any person being towed on water skis, a wakeboard, an inflatable or any other similar device must wear a life jacket.  Skiing or towing anyone after daylight (between sunrise and sunset) is illegal in California.  In addition, reckless operation of a boat while towing another vehicle or person on any type of device is unlawful (this includes trying to "spray" another boat or skier or passing on or over a ski or tow rope with another boat or watercraft.
Just like with car accidents, anyone involved in a boating accident has a duty to report the accident and to call law enforcement or emergency personnel immediately if it results in personal injury or death. (Note: For the official boat accident reporting form for California: Click Here). A boat operator who fails to to do can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident or other similar violation.

The Need to Consult and Retain A California Boating Accident Attorney and Injury Lawyer

While the above is not meant to be an complete list of the possible ways the operator of a boat or personal watercraft can be deemed "negligent", it does provide some framework based upon California law.  Most (if not all) the above described conduct are regulated by various provisions of California statute including the California Vehicle Code and the CA Health and Safety Code.  If these laws are violated and this results in personal injury or death, the violation can be deemed "negligence per se" for purposes of pursuing a cause of action in a civil legal proceeding to recover money damages for medical expenses and pain and suffering.  In addition, if a boater or watercraft operator acts imprudently, this can also be deemed negligence under California common law and entitle the victim to recovery of compensation.

Sorting out legal liability and tracing insurance coverage for boating accidents in California is something that should be done through the assistance of a boat accident lawyer experienced and familiar with boating and tort laws.  Being seriously injured or losing a loved one is never an easy event to deal with. It is a traumatic and difficult event to have to cope with and there is no amount of financial reward that can replace the life of a human being. However, if you have lost a loved one due to a boating fatality, the lawyers at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC sincerely offers you the deepest sympathies during your grieving process. If you are grieving from the death of your loved that was caused by the negligence and carelessness of someone else, contact our lawyers as soon as possible to seek out justice for loss.

If you were involved in a waterway incident and need experienced California boating accident lawyer, contact our office at our statewide toll free watercraft accident hotline: 866-966-5240


For a more complete and comprehensive guide on boating laws in California: Guide to California Boating Law, Boating and Waterways Commission

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.