Boat rentals are a widespread choice of recreation for many individuals. Although they can deliver a memorable experience, they can also present a risk of harm to passengers and operators. Each boating activity is associated with some degree of risk, although some types are riskier 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
  • Sailboats
  • Duck boats for private tours
  • Jet skis

Boat rental companies are required to take measures to ensure the safety of their clients. This may include debriefing them on basic boat safety and informing them of present weather conditions and forecasts. Boat rentals may either be unaccompanied or monitored by a supervised instructor.

Can I Sue for Injuries Sustained in a Boating Accident?

The number of individuals hurt or killed in boating accidents seems to grow each year. According to a recent report published by the United States Coast Guard, there were 5,265 boating accidents within the last year, amounting to approximately 62.5 million dollars in property damage. These numbers reflect boating accidents associated with recreational boating activities and do not account for boating accidents that may not have been reported.

Boating accidents can happen between different water vessels, including yachts, houseboats, cruise ships, and even duck boats. As more consumers become boat owners, the number of boating accidents every year will increase. This also means that the number of lawsuits involving boating accident claims will most likely increase.

In general, a boating accident is said to have happened when any of the following conditions are present:

  • An individual is hurt, disappears, or dies during a boat outing or while onboard a boat. This means that a boat does not necessarily need to be moving to be part of a boating accident.
  • Alternatively, a boating accident may also happen if a boat is damaged or causes damage to other property during an incident. In this case, the boating accident may or may not involve injuries.

Some typical examples of injuries that you may sustain in a boating accident include:

  • Whiplash;
  • Loss of limb;
  • Broken bones;
  • Scrapes or lacerations on your arms, legs, or other body parts;
  • Spine, neck, and head injuries;
  • Tissue and muscle damage; and
  • Water in your lungs or drowning.

The above list is by no means exhaustive of the types of damages that one can obtain when involved in a boating accident. Many other elements can affect these kinds of injuries, such as the size of the boat, the speed it was traveling at before the accident, the weather conditions, how many individuals were on board the boat, and so forth.

To learn more about boating accidents and whether you may be able to recover for property damage or injuries you sustained in a boating accident, you should speak to a local personal injury lawyer immediately for further legal advice.

What Are Some Other Common Boat Rental Accidents and Injuries?

The most common boating accident is a collision with another boat or sea vessel. Other types of boating accidents include:

  • Collisions with a dock or pier.
  • Collisions with rocks or cliffs.
  • Running aground on a sandbar.

Other common injuries sustained in a boat rental situation include muscle or joint injuries, head traumas, and drowning incidences. 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 responsible for injuries sustained from boat rentals. If they have hired an independent instructor or guide, you may wish to inquire about their liability under vicarious liability rules.

Almost all boat rental organizations require their patrons to sign a waiver or a release clause. This form releases the rental company from liability for injuries sustained while operating a rented boat. The patron agrees that they incur responsibility for injuries and assume any risks involved with the boating trip.

If you have signed such a release clause, it may be difficult to recover damages since you effectively assume responsibility for your actions. Nonetheless, damages can sometimes be recovered for many reasons, including:

  • Negligence: The injured party must demonstrate that they had a duty to ensure their safety and that this breach of duty directly caused injury to the plaintiff. This often involves establishing that the rental company knew of unsafe conditions but failed to address them
  • Improper licensing of staff: The rental company may be responsible if they have hired unlicensed persons to perform tasks that require a special certification
  • Failure to warn or advise: The boat rental company should thoroughly recommend the risks involved in boating to patrons. 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 restricted if the injured party has contributed to their injury somehow. For instance, if the patron did not obey instructions regarding boat operation and safety, monetary relief may be reduced in a court of law.

Be sure to observe instructions and take steps to minimize risks to your safety and those around you.

Are You Required to Report a Boating Accident?

There are several circumstances in which the law may require those involved in a boating accident to report the incident to the proper authorities. For example, a boating accident will most likely need to be reported when any of the following details are involved:

  • The boating accident results in one or more deaths;
  • A driver, passenger, or crew member of either boat sustains severe bodily injuries that require prompt medical attention that goes beyond first aid treatment;
  • One or more of the boats in the incident completely sink, vanish, or float away;
  • A driver, passenger, or crew member of either boat disappears in a manner that suggests death, serious injury, or foul play; or
  • Damage to other property or any of the boats in the accident exceeds $2,000.

It is also essential to mention that if a boating accident is required to be reported by law, the individual filing the report must do so within 48 hours of the incident. In addition, if a boating accident was not reported during the requisite 48-hour period, then the person must file a report within ten days from the incident if any individuals involved have since died.

In most circumstances, the forms to file a boating accident report can be located on and downloaded from the United States Coast Guard website. There are also specific instances wherein the local police may need to be notified.

Ultimately, an individual may also want to consider reporting a boating accident to their insurance company if:

  • They were injured in a boating incident;
  • They were responsible for causing a boating incident;
  • They caused damage to a boat or property that did not belong to them; or
  • Their boat or property was damaged in a boating accident.

What Should I Do if I am Injured During Boat Rental Operations?

If you have been hurt in a boating accident, you should thoroughly document the incident. This includes making a written description of the incident, including names, dates, and locations. If there were any witnesses to the event, get their contact information and statements. Any records of medical expenses and hospital visits such as receipts, prescriptions, and physician’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 essential and sometimes need 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 personal injury lawyer can help determine your appropriate avenue of relief under the law. They can often prescribe alternative methods for resolving disputes, such as arbitration or an out-of-court settlement.