Boat rentals are a popular choice of recreation for many people. Although they can provide a unique experience, they can also present a risk of harm to passengers and operators. Each type of boating activity is associated with some degree of risk- some types are more dangerous than others. Some of the more common types of boat rentals involve:
  • Small boats such as rowboats, pedal boats, and outrigger motorboats
  • White-water rafts and canoes
  • Fishing vessels and inflatable boats
  • Sail boats
  • Duck boats for private tours
  • Jet skis
Boat rental companies are required to take steps to ensure the safety of their clients. This may include debriefing them on basic boat safety as well as informing them of current weather conditions and predictions. Boat rentals may either be unaccompanied or monitored by a supervised instructor.

What are some common boat rental accidents and injuries?

The most common type of boating accident is a collision with another boat or sea vessel. Other types of boating accidents include collisions with a dock or wharf, collisions with rocks or cliffs, and running aground on a sandbar. 
Common injuries sustained in a boat rental situation can include spine and neck injuries, muscle or joint injuries, head traumas, and incidences of drowning. If any of these occur during a boat rental expedition, you may be entitled to legal relief.

Who is responsible for injuries sustained from a boat rental?

Usually the rental company will be held liable for injuries sustained from boat rentals. If they have hired an independent instructor or guide, you may wish to inquire as to their individual liability under vicarious liability rules.
In general, almost all boat rental organizations require their patrons to sign a waiver or a release clause. This is a form that releases the rental company from any liability for injuries sustained while operating a rented boat. The patron agrees that they are incurring responsibility for injuries and are assuming any risks involved with the boating trip. 
If you have signed such a release clause, it may be difficult for you to recover for damages, since you are effectively assuming responsibility for your actions. However, damages can sometimes be recovered for many reasons including:
  • Negligence: The injured party must prove that they had a duty to ensure their safety, and that this breach of duty directly caused injury to the plaintiff. This often involves proving that the rental company knew of unsafe conditions but failed to address them
  • Improper licensing of staff: The rental company may be liable if they have hired unlicensed persons to perform tasks that require special certification
  • Failure to warn or advise: The boat rental company should thoroughly advise patrons of the risks involved in boating. These are usually stated in the waiver or release clause. If no waiver is signed, the patron should still be informed of such risks
Sometimes recovery for physical injuries will be reduced or completely prohibited if the injured party has contributed to their own injury in some way. For example, if the patron did not follow instructions regarding boat operation and safety, the amount of monetary relief may be reduced in a court of law. 
Be sure to follow instructions and take steps to minimize risks to your own safety and those around you.

What should I do if I am injured during boat rental operations?

If you have been injured from a boating accident, you should document the incident very thoroughly. This includes making a written description of the incident including names, dates, and locations. If there were any witnesses to the event, be sure to obtain their contact information and statements. Any records of medical expenses and hospital visits such as receipts, prescriptions, and doctor’s notes should be copied and retained. If a waiver was signed be sure to obtain a copy. 

Do I need to hire a lawyer for a boat rental injury?

Personal injury claims are important and sometimes require the opinion of a professional. If you have suffered an injury from a boat rental accident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer for advice. A competent personal injury attorney can help determine your appropriate avenue of relief under law. They can often prescribe alternative methods for resolving disputes such as arbitration or an out-of-court settlement.