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Lombardi Law Firm

Boat Liability 101 – Knowing how not to get sued.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa civil trial, workers' compensation and personal injury lawyer

Blog Category:
6/17/2010
Steve Lombardi
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Blogging commentary on the Internet about personal injury law and accidents is a way I've come to know a few personal attorneys from around the United States. I follow several of them through a Google Reader account. One of them is Brooks Schuelke from Austin, Texas. I like Brooks thinking about serious personal injury work and his being a family man should tell you something personal about him. Because of his approach to blogging I've been pressing him to get involved with an I-35 Interstate Highway Accident blog and it looks like we are heading in that direction.

His most recent posts are about boating safety issues and this post today he titled, Lake Austin Named A Top Boating Destination; But Be Safe While You're There. Like Florida, Texas has a high percentage of people who participate in boating recreation.  That makes Texas a place where they encounter more accidents, making it a good place to learn how to stay away from being personally injured when boating. Of course Mike Bryant being from Minnesota, the state with 10,000 lakes also provides us with another blog to focus our attention on when trying to teach children how to stay safe. Brooks in this article has ways of staying away from trouble while recreating on the water.

See also Fishing Opener: Think About Getting The Boat Safely From The Road To The Water, Mike Bryant, Minnesota. He lists the walk through list about boat safety before heading out with a trailered boat.  

It got me thinking about all the different ways people get into legal trouble or personally injured when boating or water skiing or tubing or fishing or just being on a boat or getting the boat to the water's edge. Here is my list of things that will get you in legal trouble while boating.  

How do people get themselves into legal trouble with boats, boat towing, water sports and river running? Here is my list of what will land you in the dog house with the DNR in your state or county. And don't forget a float plan is a good idea, especially when you're heading out to sea. You can download the float plan form on our website.

Off the water and before you leave the dock:
  • Not enough life vests for the number of passengers who will be onboard.
  • No fire extinguisher.
  • Not having a compass, GPS or map of the area.
  • Not being familiar with the area.
  • No water onboard and too much drinking that tend to dehydrate.
  • No communication device to call shore in the event of an emergency.
  • Not filing a float plan and leaving it with someone on shore.
  • Not checking to make sure you have enough gas.
  • Not checking the weather before heading out.
  • Not having an anchor.
  • Not having rope to secure the boat.
  • Not knowing how to use an anchor.
  • Not knowing how to tie a knot.
  • Not having a knife to cut the rope if needed.
  • Not having simple tools onboard that would allow you to make simple fixes.
  • Not taking a water safety course.
  • Not having a light to signal with if you get stuck after dark.
  • Not having a first aid kit.
  • Not bringing along ice in a ice chest to keep the food from spoiling.
  • Not bringing a tarp to protect your passengers from the sun should you become stranded.
  • Not having drinking water on board.
  • Not making sure every passenger has the right gear for the length of time they will be on the water.
  • Not knowing your passengers and which ones will listen and do as the captain says.
  • Failing to choose a designated driver for the day.
  • Allowing an inexperienced or immature operator to take the boat out or to drive.
On the water:
  • Drinking alcohol and driving the boat.
  • Allowing passengers to drink too much.
  • Driving too fast before all passengers are secured or seated and ready to go. 
  • Allowing swimmers near a moving propeller.
  • No spotter when pulling a water skier or other passenger behind the boat.
  • No water skier vest being used.
  • Not watching ahead as you pull a skier.
  • Creating a wake while overtaking a smaller boat.
  • Fooling around while the boat is in operation.
  • Getting too close to dangerous man-made objects- like dams and waterways. 
  • Failing to have the proper operating lights after dark.
  • Not staying to the right when approaching another boat.
  • Not paying attention to the buoys and other water markers.
  • Not watching ahead for swimmers in the water.
  • Not knowing the lake or river and where it is safe to be and not safe to be.
  • Not knowing when things on the boat are getting out-of-hand.
  • Not maintaining control of the passengers.
  • If in a sailboat, tying the mainsail.
  • Fishing for sharks or whales in a rubber raft. (Just wanted to make sure you were listening!)
Pulling the boat:
  • Towing the boat without the safety chains.
  • Exceeding the weight limit of safety while pulling the trailer and boat.
  • No spare tire for the trailer.
  • Failing to secure things left inside the boat as you tow it down the road or highway.
  • Not having all the trailer lights working on the boat trailer.
  • Not using hand signals and trailer light signals.
  • Failing to double check the hitch assembly to make sure you put on the safety chains.



Category: Boating Accidents


5 Comments to "Boat Liability 101 – Knowing how not to get sued."

This is good list. I believe this should be printed at any boat docks and for boat owners as well.
Posted by Health Safety Training Courses on April 30, 2012 at 09:26 AM
Thanks for reminding us. Maybe it must post in the wall of every boat.
Posted by Boat Rental Sydney on September 19, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Remember that a lot of accidents happen when embarking and disembarking your watercraft also! A great, safe docking system helps.
Posted by Boat Lift Dealer on October 26, 2010 at 09:46 AM
Great tips. I must say that they are truly informative. Looking forward to more of your posts. Cheers!
Posted by Lawyer on October 20, 2010 at 11:12 PM
This is an excellent water safety primer, and not just from the perspective of limiting legal liability. I'm sure that there are many people whose eyes were opened by some of your pointers, and there's a good chance you saved some lives!
Posted by The Canoe Safety Dude on July 27, 2010 at 10:04 AM

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