Area of Law: Personal Injury
Answer # 483
Boat accidentsRegion: Ontario Answer # 483
Along with automobile and slip and fall accidents, every year people are seriously injured in accidents that involve pleasure crafts and personal motorized watercrafts (PWCs), such as jet skis and sea-doos. A pleasure craft refers to any boat that is used for pleasure activities, such as fishing, water sports, sailing or simply entertaining other people.
The types of accidents that occur while boating include:
- slip and falls on a boat,
- collisions with other watercrafts or rocks,
- sinkings, and
Accidents can happen during any boating-related activity, such as:
- canoeing and kayaking
- speed boating
Why do boating accidents occur?
These accidents can happen for many different reasons. They may be due directly to the fault of the operator of the boat or PWC, for instance if the driver was:
- alcohol or drug impaired
- driving recklessly
- not following safety measures, such as wearing life jackets
However, an accident may also be due to a number of other reasons, including:
- defects in the boat or PWC
- unexpected bad weather
- lack of safety warnings
- mechanical malfunctions
- carbon monoxide poisoning in a small enclosed space
What is the responsibility of the owner and operator of a boat?
Transport Canada regulates boating laws in Ontario and throughout Canada. The law that governs the operation of all pleasure crafts in Canada is the Canada Shipping Act.
Owners and operators must also follow various regulations, such as the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations, which include age restrictions for operating vehicles, licensing and registration rules for various types of pleasure crafts, speed limits and other specific safety requirements. It is the duty of the owners and operators of a boat to follow applicable laws and to exercise care in order to prevent injuries to passengers and other boaters.
In Ontario, legislation affecting recreational boat owners and operators includes:
- Occupier’s Liability Act
- Highway Traffic Act
- Insurance Act
Criminal Code offences
The Criminal Code also covers offences relating to boating, including operating a boat while impaired, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, and operating an unseaworthy boat.
If someone is convicted of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs the minimum penalty is $600 for the first offence, with both prison time and fines for additional offences.
Liability in boat accidents – when can you sue?
When a boating accident occurs due to the negligence or fault of the operator, just as in motor vehicle accidents, victims of boating accidents are entitled to compensation for their injuries.
A boating accident can result in injuries that range from minor lacerations, to major injuries to fatalities. The most common injuries are:
- head or brain injuries
- spinal injuries
Who can sue?
The federal Marine Liability Act sets out the rules for how and when a claim can be brought for damages when in a boating accident. Claims for compensation can be brought by the injured party themselves, or dependents or surviving family members. The Act deals with the appointment of liability, limitation periods, and maximum payable amounts of compensation when a personal injury or fatality occurs.
Under the Act, liability is determined by the tonnage of the boats involved, as opposed to the nature of the injury. Specifically, under the Act “accident victims involving vessels that are less than 300 gross tonnage can be compensated a maximum of a $1,000,000 for loss of life or personal injury, regardless of the number people injured or making claims. In the case of a boat being operated recklessly, a victim may be entitled to more than $1,000,000, since the boat operator would have to be familiar with boating safety regulations or known that the harm was foreseeable”.
In some cases, it may be possible to sue for amounts above those set out in the legislation.
Limitation period for starting a lawsuit
Regarding the limitation period for bringing a claim, no action may be brought later than two years after the accident happened, or two years after the death of the deceased person.
If you or someone you care about has been injured, contact our preferred Personal Injury experts and see who’s right for you. They offer a free consultation and do not charge up-front fees:
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