Boat Accident Law

Guide to Boat Injury Law

Boating Accident Laws are regulated by federal, state and local authorities and include boating under the influence (BUI), lifejacket laws, navigation rules and several other issues. The laws regulating this recreational sport are enforced to ensure the safety and security of recreational boat users.

Federal law requires the operator - or owner, if the operator is deceased or not capable of making the report - to file a boating accident report with the State reporting authority when, as a result of an occurrence that involves a boat or its equipment: a person dies, disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury, is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid, damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 (lower amounts in some states and territories) or more, or the boat is destroyed.

Owners and operators of recreational boats must be sure that their vessel carries the mandatory safety equipment (carriage requirement) and is in compliance with federal and state regulations. Among the topics of compliance: registration, numbering and documentation, equipment requirements, including life jackets, visual distress signals, fire extinguishers, ventilation, backfire flame control, sound producing devices, navigation lights, pollution regulations and marine sanitation devices; operating procedures, including navigation rules, nautical charts, dams and navigation locks; law enforcement issues, including negligent operation, boating under the influence (BUI), termination of use, boat accident reporting requirements, rendering assistance to other boaters and U.S. Coast Guard boarding policy; safety and survival requirements, including carbon monoxide hazards, overloading, anchoring, cold water survival, trailering, safe refueling, propeller blade hazards, and weather precautions; marine/emergency communications, including satellite EPIRBs, Digital Selective Calling, Rescue 21, radio regulations, VHF-FM marine radio channels, and ships in distress; other boater responsibilities, including bridges and shipping channels, commercial shipping safety zones, naval vessel protection zones and U.S. Coast Guard security/limited access areas.

For more information on Boating Laws, please review to the resources below. Additionally, you can find an attorney in your area on our Law Firms page that focuses on boating laws and can help you with your questions or any legal claims you may have.


Boating Accident Articles

Know Your Rights!

  • Boating Privileges May Be Revoked for Watercraft DUI

    Depending on the specific circumstances of driving under the influence of a boat as the vehicle, the driver may lose his or her privileges with any watercraft. The other penalties may take precedence, but most operators of a boat will suffer similar penalties as those driving commercial vehicles that face a suspension of a driver's license.

  • Boating Under the Influence - Dangers and Consequences

    Many individuals are well aware of the risks associated with drinking and driving, including the possibility of being involved in a fatal or serious motor vehicle accident. Boating under the influence is an equally dangerous situation.

  • Boating Under the Influence Defenses

    Individuals who are arrested for boating under the influence charges are often confused. Often, they are not even aware that this is a crime. They may have no idea how to proceed. Knowing a person's rights can prevent him or her from making mistakes that negatively affect his or her freedom and criminal case. Retaining a criminal defense lawyer early in the process can help prevent mistakes and help establish an aggressive defense.

  • BUI - Boating Under the Influence - Boats and Drinks Do Not Mix

    While many people are aware of the illegality of drinking while driving, fewer people are aware of similar prohibitions against boating and drinking. However, this activity is usually criminalized and can subject defendants to stiff penalties.

  • Can I Get Breathalyzed On My Boat?

    Most of us are familiar with the concept of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI), but how do these translate to boating? Is it illegal to boat while drunk? If one is cited for boating under the influence, will that affect their driving license? Can you be given a breathalyzer on your boat?

  • Differences Between DUI and BUI

    A DUI is a crime that someone may face when operating a motor vehicle in an impaired state. Some states, especially those with lake and ocean access like Florida and California, have additional laws related to the operation of a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

  • Pleasure Boats Used for Drug Running and the Legal Consequences

    There are a number of possible boats that drug runners may use to smuggle, import or carry drugs over into the country through the water, and the legal consequences of such actions are often extreme. It is essential to know the legal impact of such actions and to recognize when a pleasure boat is in use with illegal drug running

  • What to do After a Boating Accident

    If you or someone you know has been in a boating accident, you understand how scary the whole event can be. Not only is someone injured, a boat may be damaged, and there may have been a very real fear of drowning as part of the accident. This can lead to long-term anguish and other injuries. Moreover, since it is not the familiar scenario of a car accident, who is responsible? Who do you report the accident to, if anyone? Is there insurance coverage? Who is liable?

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