Boating Accidents: Your Rights on the Water

There is nothing more that many Australians love than going boating, and who wouldn’t? Boating is a great way to relax, take in the sun and sea, and spend time with friends and family.

With the majority of Australians living on the coast line there is ample opportunity to get off the roads and onto the water. Even if you don’t own a boat or have a boat licence many of us have friends or family who do, and being a passenger on a boat can quite often be much more enjoyable than being the skipper!
However like all leisure activities, boating too can be dangerous, especially with sudden weather changes.

So what happens when people are injured in boating accidents? We investigate.

With the summer heat still in full swing our waterways are becoming more crowded, increasing the risk of boating accidents or even death occurring. Data from the Transport for NSW’s Boating indicates that in the 2014-15 summer in NSW:

  • All boating fatalities were male boaters;
  • Small craft (such as tinnies) were involved in about 2/3rds of boating deaths;
  • Bad weather was another major factor in boating accidents and deaths (more than 40% of all recreational boating fatalities).

The driver/owner of the boat is responsible for making sure the vessel is operated in a safe manner at all times and is properly equipped and maintained. If they fail in these duties and a passenger on their boat is injured then they may be liable in negligence.

Boating accidents are classed as public place accidents and will be governed by the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 legislation.

Types of incidents that may indicate negligence on the part of the skipper and/or owner include:

  • Dangerous driving;
  • Driving under the influence;
  • A failure to properly maintain the vessel;
  • A failure to have the required safety equipment on board;
  • Failing to comply with the rules and regulations;
  • Being knocked overboard.

The Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Act 1994 also imposes a general safety obligation on all vessel owners and operators, master and crew to operate vessels safely at all times.

This responsibility includes making sure the ship is:

  • Safe;
  • Properly equipped and maintained; and
  • Operated in a safe manner.

To prevent you from becoming another boating accident statistic the Queensland Government has the following helpful tips for boat owners/operators before heading out onto the water:

  • Check that your boat is in good condition;
  • Have the required safety equipment on board, in good condition, and easily accessible;
  • Tell someone you know where you are going and when you intend to return;
  • Have the right marine licence and know how to handle the boat;
  • Know how to use your marine radio;
  • Check the weather before you go out;
  • Know the rules of the sea-road and follow them;
  • Life-jacket – wear it! If it’s not on it can’t save you.

Boat drivers must remember that they are the skipper, so they are responsible.

If an accident does happen on the water and you are injured due to the negligence of another then you have the right to bring a claim for the damage you have suffered.

The claim will be brought against the boats insurance company so you don’t have to be worried about bringing a claim against your friend or family member.
While accidents can happen on the water is it also important to remember that if you stick to the simple safety guidelines you can have an endless amount of fun!

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