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General Information you need to know about your California Boat Injury Accident Case

  • If you have already been in a boat injury accident in the State of California, we highly recommend that you stop reading right now, and call our law firm for a free telephone consultation at (800) 816-1529, Ext. 1. We will tell you over the telephone if we think that you have a case and whether we can help you.
  • If we believe we can help you, and you decide to retain us, we can then send our investigator to you with all of the legal forms necessary for you to retain our law firm.
  • If you do not have medical insurance or a medical provider, we can immediately refer you to an appropriate doctor near you for medical treatment. (Yes, even if you do not have medical insurance)
  • Yes, this can all be accomplished with one phone call to our law firm. We try to make the process as simple as possible for you.


Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds of individuals are killed in boating accidents. These types of accidents can occur on private boats, cruise ships, water skis, jet skis, ferries, or other kinds of watercraft.

Boat accidents are particularly significant in California due to the large number of boats in the state. California contains nearly 900,000 registered vessels.

In a recent year, California reported that there were 744 reported boating accidents, resulting in 439 injuries, and 44 deaths. These boat accidents resulted in more than $4 million in damage to property.

Preserving evidence in boat accidents, as with other watercraft accidents, is important, and at times critical. If you or a family member has been injured in a boat accident you should consult with an experienced law firm such as ours as quickly as possible.

Causes of Boat Accidents

Nearly all boat accidents are preventable. The vast majority of boat accidents are caused by operator inexperience or inattention. Many boat operators simply underestimate the risks of operating boats. Recently, the State of California revealed that the most frequent cause of fatal boat accidents were capsizing, followed by collisions with other boats or vessels, and persons falling overboard.

Alcohol consumption is a major factor in numerous boat accidents. The United States Coast Guard reports that boat operators that have a blood alcohol level above .10 tend to be more than 10 times as likely to be killed in a boating accident compared to an operator who has not been drinking.

In California, alcohol consumption was associated with 38% of fatal boating accidents. Two-thirds of those fatality victims were passengers on the boat.

Boat Accident Reporting

California law requires boat and water vessel operators to report boating or watercraft accidents. In California, boat operators must provide their names, addresses, and fishing boat registration numbers to other included parties and provide assistance to any injured individuals.

The operator or owner also needs to make a written report to the California Department of Boating and Waterways in the event the accident resulted in:

  1. the death or disappearance of a person;
  2. injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid; or
  3. property damage exceeding $500 to all vessels, docks, and other property involved in the accident, or the complete loss of a vessel.

In the case of death, injury, or disappearance, this report must be filed within 48 hours of the accident or within 10 days in the case of property damage alone.

The law is similar to reporting requirements for cars, except that there is a mandatory requirement to provide assistance to injured individuals.

Basic Boating Laws in California

Owners and operators of boats are required to follow both federal and state law in the maintenance and operation of their vessels.

California law prohibits the operation of any vessel in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any individual on the boat. This includes, among other things, operating close to or through areas used by swimmers or divers, operating in such a manner which a vessel must abruptly swerve or cut speed in order to avoid an impact, or operating erratically.

California law also forbids operating a boat at an inappropriate speed. An inappropriate speed is one which isn’t reasonable and prudent based upon boating traffic, weather conditions, visibility, or other potential hazards.

California law further prohibits people from riding on the bow, gunwales, or any other place where there is a danger of someone falling overboard.

It is also illegal to operate a vessel in a hazardous condition so as to jeopardize the passengers of the boat or other people on the waterway.

Unsafe conditions include having an insufficient quantity of life vests or fire extinguishers, neglecting to display navigation lights, fuel leaks, insufficient ventilation, and an excessive buildup of water within the bilge.

Additionally, there are federal laws and regulations that apply to boating. Congress passed the Federal Boat Safety Act in 1971. This act gave the United States Coast Guard the mission of establishing safety equipment specifications for boats. Federal law mandates that vessels be equipped with certain United States Coast Guard approved safety devices. These devices include gas ventilation devices, flame arresters, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, and sound producing devices. Additionally, federal regulations necessitate personal floatation devices (PFDs) or life vests of particular types for each person on board.

California Boat Accident Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boat accident, it is important that you retain a competent lawyer and law firm such as ours as soon as possible after the accident. We have the experience, skills, and resources to get you what you are entitled to in these types of cases. For a free consultation call us at 800-816-1529 x. 1.

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