Suing for Boating Accidents: A Legal Guide for 2024

Some accidents cause more than physical injuries—they also result in tremendous financial losses. If you didn’t cause your accident, you shouldn’t be footing the bill for your losses. Schedule a free consultation with Case Barnett Law to discuss your legal options. 

Southern California is a boat lover's paradise with access to countless pristine lakes and hundreds of miles of sparkling coastline. Whether you enjoy sailing, testing the limits of your high-performance boat, or casting a line from your fishing boat, you can find what you’re looking for in SoCal. 

As California’s boating season ramps up, it’s important to remember that a beautiful day on the water can quickly turn disastrous when drivers and passengers fail to act responsibly.Boating Accident in California And like other motor vehicle crashes, boating accidents can result in serious, life-threatening, and even deadly injuries. 

When boating accidents happen in California, the people involved—especially injury victims—must understand their legal rights. This article will explain everything you need to know about suing for boating accidents in California, including determining the at-fault party, types of recoverable compensation, and how an experienced boating accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal complexities. 

Did you or a loved one suffer serious injuries in a boating accident caused by someone else? You may be eligible to pursue compensation through a boating accident lawsuit. Call our personal injury law firm at (949) 409-0055 to learn more. 

Can I Sue for a Boating Accident in California? 

If you suffered injuries in a boating accident and are now considering legal action, the first thing you’ll need to determine is your eligibility to sue. You may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit if the accident was caused (even partially) by another person or party.

The State of California abides by the legal doctrine of pure comparative negligence, meaning that an injury victim can sue for damages even if they are partially responsible for the accident. However, it’s important to note that the percentage of their fault will reduce a plaintiff’s settlement compensation. 

For injury victims who suffer serious physical injuries, financial damages, emotional distress, and other losses, a personal injury lawsuit can provide a powerful tool for holding the at-fault party accountable and securing compensation. However, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s negligence to do so. 

What Are Elements of Negligence?

In California, negligence can be understood as a person’s failure to use reasonable care to prevent causing harm to someone. In other words, a person is negligent when they act in a way that a reasonable person in the same situation would not. 

To secure compensation through a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove the following four elements: 

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care or, in other words, had a duty to act with the same responsibility a reasonable person would. 
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care.
  3. That breach of care caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries. 
  4. The plaintiff suffered real damages, such as physical injuries, financial losses, emotional distress, etc. 

If a plaintiff can successfully demonstrate the defendant’s negligence, they may be able to secure compensation for their accident-related losses under California tort law. However, it’s essential to understand that some boating accident claims are not dictated by tort law but by federal maritime law. 

Federal Maritime Law vs. State Tort Law 

Boating accident lawsuits can potentially be more complex than other types of personal injury claims because they may involve state tort law, federal maritime law, or both. A boating accident injury victim must meet with an experienced attorney early on to understand which laws apply to their situation. 

Who Is Responsible for My Boating Accident?

Determining liability in boating accidents can be highly complex, depending on the circumstances. After your boating accident attorney reviews the details of your case, they will likely conduct their investigation to gather evidence and pinpoint the at-fault party or parties. 

Any negligent party whose actions contributed to the boat accident may be held legally liable. Possible at-fault parties include: 

  • The boat owner. The owner of the boat involved in the accident may be held liable, especially if they acted negligently in renting or lending their boat, failed to warn others about potential dangers, could not maintain it, or acted irresponsibly in some other manner that contributed to the accident. 
  • The boat operator. If the person driving your boat caused the accident by acting recklessly, you may be able to hold them liable for your damages. 
  • The boat manufacturer or retailer. Sometimes, the liable party isn’t a person but an entity. For example, if your boating accident was caused by a mechanical failure or other manufacturing issues, you may be able to hold the manufacturer or retailer liable. 
  • The boat rental company. The company that rented you the boat may be liable for your accident if they failed to maintain and service the vessel or if they failed to warn you about certain dangerous features. 
  • Boat passengers. In some cases, boat passengers act in reckless ways that cause the boat to crash. For example, maybe the other passengers in your boat were intoxicated and out of control, and their actions caused the driver to crash. Even though they weren’t driving the boat, negligent passengers can be held liable for crashes they caused. 
  • Other boat drivers and passengers. If passengers or operators of other boats acted in a way that caused your accident, you may be able to hold them liable for your damages. 

This is not an exhaustive list of potentially liable parties. Ultimately, any person, group, or entity contributing to your accident may be considered legally responsible. 

Recoverable Damages in Boating Accident Lawsuits

If you were injured in a boating accident, the true extent of your losses may go far beyond physical injuries. You may incur a wide range of compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic losses, many of which you can include in your settlement demand. 

Economic damages refer to easily calculable financial losses, but non-economic damages include intangible losses that typically evade a dollar amount. When calculating a potential settlement, your attorney will consider the full range of damages you suffered from the accident. These may include the following: 

  • Medical expenses. Which include the cost of emergency medical treatment, x-rays and diagnostic procedures, surgery, physical rehabilitation, and future accident-related care
  • Psychological services. These include the cost of therapy for accident-related mental health issues, such as the development of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Lost wages. Which includes any earnings and benefits you would have collected during your regular employment but were unable to as a result of the accident
  • Future earning capacity. These are damages awarded to injury victims who are unable to return to work altogether or unable to earn in the same way as a result of their accident
  • Pain and suffering. These are compensation for emotional distress, discomfort, anguish, etc. 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. This includes compensation awarded when an injury victim is unable to enjoy the hobbies, activities, social events, and type of living they did before the accident

Injury victims may also be able to recover compensation for a range of other damages, including a loss of consortium, permanent disfigurement and scarring, permanent disability, and more. Surviving family members of victims killed in boating accidents also have a legal path to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit

Case Barnett Law: Top Boating Accident Attorneys in Southern California

If your life has been rendered unrecognizable after a serious boating accident, you don’t have to navigate the aftermath alone. By partnering with a trusted Costa Mesa boating accident attorney, you can fight for the compensation you deserve and ensure the person or entity that turned your life upside down is brought to justice. 

More good news: Getting help from a top-tier boating accident attorney won’t cost you a dime. As a Costa Mesa personal injury lawyer team, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid until—and unless—you do. So don’t delay! Contact Case Barnett Law to schedule a free consultation with an attorney who will fight passionately for your future. 

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