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Home » Boat Accidents in California

Boat Accidents in California

Enjoying time on the water with friends and family is a very popular way to relax and have fun in California. However, every year watercraft accidents injure thousands of people. Accidents involving privately owned speedboats, jet skis, sailboats, party boats, or commercial cruise ships can cause serious injuries or fatalities. It can be complex to determine fault and financial liability for watercraft accidents.


If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from a boating accident, you should not wait to act to protect your rights. It is important that you contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer to have your case evaluated for compensation. The consultation is free, and you only pay attorney fees if we successfully resolve your California boating accident case. Call 800-208-3538 today!

What to Do if Injured in a Boat or Watercraft Accident?

You should not attempt to handle your boating accident case on your own. Statistically, the probability of receiving a higher compensation, based on the merits of the case, has proven to be much higher for people represented by a lawyer. An experienced attorney familiar with California accident laws, and with all requirements of the California legal process can ensure that you obtain all of the compensation you deserve.

  • Have your case reviewed by a well-experienced California accident attorney.
  • You need to act quickly in order to ensure that the accident can be appropriately investigated while evidence still exists.
  • Inform your lawyer of all medical bills, hospitalization, pain, permanent injuries, emotional distress, and lost wages you have incurred due to the accident. You may be entitled to financial support for such damages.

Causes of Boat and Watercraft Accidents in California

There are numerous possible causes of boating accidents. In many cases, the boat operator can be held responsible for victims’ injuries, losses, and damages. Typically, boat injuries in California occur due to carelessness or recklessness by the boat operator, inexperienced operator, being under the influence, or having a boat malfunction. Boat and Watercraft Accident Statistics Per the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, California accident statistics in 2016 alone report:

  • 50 Fatalities in California due to boating accidents
  • 588 Accidents with 209 of those being a collision with a vessel
  • $3,911,886 in property damage
  • Most boating accidents happen in the month of July with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays being the most common day

Boat Accidents in California

Being a coastal state, California is a popular destination or residence for those who take to the water for work or recreation whether it’s on the coastline or in one of the many lakes throughout the state. The high amount of boat traffic is not without its perils, however. As any avid boater knows, California has a variety of laws in place to protect those who operate boats, are passengers in them or are involved in non-boating water recreation. Some of these laws include:

  • There must be a life jacket available on board the boat for each passenger;
  • Navigation lights must be displayed at all times;
  • No passengers may ride on the part of the boat where there is any danger of falling overboard;
  • The number of fire extinguishers and amount of ventilation and bilge water must conform to regulations;
  • Boats cannot be operated in areas where there are swimmers or divers; and
  • No vessel should have to abruptly swerve or cut speed to avoid a collision.

In addition to the above regulations, California has passed many laws that limit the speed at which boats may operate. There are also further regulations based on countless variables, such as the degrees of visibility, the amount of boat traffic in a given area, the prevailing weather conditions, and a plethora of other potential hazards. Despite these stalwart attempts to regulate boat usage and traffic, however, hundreds of people are injured in boat-related accidents each year–whether it be on a cruise ship, privately-owned boat, ferry, Jet Ski, or any other watercraft. Boat Owner and Operator Responsibilities in California The three most common causes of boat accidents in California all involve negligence by the operator. The following are among the basic obligations of boat operators and owners to ensure against causing injuries from a boating accident in California.

  • Driver Negligence: Boat operators are required to drive watercraft safely and lawfully and in a manner that ensures passenger safety.
  • Operator inattention: This is the single most frequent cause of boating accidents in California. A driver is responsible for focusing undivided attention to the safe operation of a watercraft.
  • Operator inexperience: Operation of boats by inexperienced drivers is the second leading cause of boating accidents. Inexperienced drivers should exercise added caution while becoming acquainted with the variables involved in operating a motorized craft on the water.
  • Excessive speed: Using excessive speed is the third most common causes of boat accidents. Water sports and recreational activities often involve speed and equipment, like rafts, skis, boards, etc. These require space on the open water. When boat traffic is too dense for a water area, and the environment becomes dangerously restrictive, maneuverability can become compromised. Operators must appropriately assess the environment and decide when to vacate a water traffic area.
  • Reckless operation: Just as car drivers are prohibited from driving recklessly or negligently, boat operators are required to operate watercraft in a manner that does not endanger passengers or other boaters. This includes avoiding driving near areas designated for surfing, body boarding, or swimming.
  • Operating a boat under the influence: A boat operator impaired by alcohol presents a potentially deadly hazard to everyone in the boat and in the vicinity of the water. Many boat operators are under the false impression that while they are on the water, they are permitted to drive under the influence. As a consequence, every year, alcohol use causes fatal boat accidents.
  • Mechanical Failure: One out of every eleven crashes is due to failure of machinery. The manufacturer may be accountable for victims’ injuries, damages, and losses in injury accidents caused by a boat part. (If you are injured due to a mechanical malfunction, preserve the boat for inspection by an expert.)
  • Equipment deficiencies: Accidents may result in injuries due to failure to equip the boat with required lifesaving equipment or to deficient boat maintenance. In California, all boat operators are required to ensure that enough life jackets and fire extinguishers are onboard. And, operators are also responsible for ensuring that navigation lights are working and in use, that fuel leaks are repaired, and adequate ventilation is maintained.

Contact Johnson Attorneys Group for a FREE Boat Accident Case Review

If you or your loved one has been a victim of a boating or other watercraft accident caused by someone’s recklessness or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries as well as for associated losses and damages. Contact Johnson Attorneys Group to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to discuss your boating accident with a California accident lawyer.

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