Wharves, sometimes called docks or marinas, can be one of many structures including:
- A structure that vessels have access to and that helps them navigate.
- A bank or structure on a shore of a river, harbor, or canal for loading and unloading vessels.
- A permanent structure built onto the water forming an extension of land.
- A mound of timber, stone, or earth raised on the shore of a river, harbor, or canal extending into water for loading and unloading ships.
- An artificial basin connected to a harbor used for loading and unloading ships.
However, boardwalks and structures used to provide access to houseboats are not wharves.
What Duties Does the Owner or Operator of a Wharf Have?
The owner or operator of a wharf has a duty to:
- Warn people of dangers on the wharf that are not open and obvious.
- Provide protection from unreasonable dangers that may cause injury on the wharf.
- Maintain a safe approach to the wharf and remove obstructions to berths.
- Make the wharf reasonably safe and fit for its purpose.
- Not discriminate, in some places, in giving access to the wharf.
- Care for the safety of goods stored on the wharf.
What are Some Examples of Dangers at Wharves that May Lead to Liability?
Some examples include:
- Injuries caused by rotten or missing floor planks.
- Injuries caused by slippery floor surfaces.
- Injuries caused by obstructions or protrusions from floor surfaces.
- Injuries caused by inadequate lighting.
- Injuries caused by falling or swinging objects.
- Injuries caused by runaway trucks or pushcarts.
- Goods lost or destroyed because of negligence.
- Damage to vessels because of negligence.
What Limits are there on the Wharf Owner’s Liability?
The wharf owner is not liable for injuries that occur on boats in the wharf. He is also not liable for defective conditions he did not cause and has no notice of. Your recovery may also be limited if you did an act of contributory negligence or assumed a risk.
What About the Duty of Vessels Using the Wharf?
Vessels must use reasonable care not to damage the wharf. The vessel operator must know the vessel’s limits and navigate accordingly. If the vessel operator is negligent, he can be liable for the cost to repair the wharf and any lost rents.
Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Have a Problem With a Wharf?
If you have been injured while at a wharf, contact a personal injury lawyer to assess your possible personal injury claim. If your vessel or wharf has been damaged, a lawyer can help you recover your repair costs.