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How To Identify Negligence In California Boating Accidents

Updated: Nov 7

Identifying Defendants For Personal Injury Claims in California Boating Accidents

Negligence is a crucial part of California Personal Injury cases. Someone else's (or a company's) negligence is a way to show that you did not cause your own injuries.

That said, not all negligence is apparent. Sometimes, you and your Top Rated Personal Injury Attorney In Los Angeles need to reconsider the facts of the case, gather more evidence, and build a solid argument for someone else's negligence.

So, let's look at how liability is identified in California Personal Injury Claims:

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Who Can Operate Boats In California?

Under California law, a boat and other personal watercraft, such as jet skis and wave runners, are categorized as "vehicles" and must adhere to certain operating restrictions:

  • No boat can be operated without proper registration (including the "Hull Identification Number" to demonstrate to whom the vessel belongs).

  • A person must be at least 16 years old to drive a boat with a horsepower rating of 15 or higher.

  • If supervised by an adult, anyone aged 12 to 15 may operate boats or personal watercraft with less than 15 horsepower.

If you've been involved in an accident with someone who doesn't meet the above requirements, then you might have enough grounds to hold them liable for any losses you incur. Meet with a prescreened California Personal Injury Attorney to help you with your legal options.

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What Causes Boat Accidents in California?

It is prohibited to operate a boat or personal watercraft in any of the following ways:

1. Reckless Boating Maneuvers

"Reckless boating" is prohibited, just as "reckless driving" is prohibited in automobiles.

Such maneuvers include going too fast in violation of posted signage (including "no-wake zones"), "buzzing" another vehicle or coming too close to the boat, personal watercraft, or any towed object, including water skiers, operating too close to skiers, swimmers, or divers, riding on the bow or gunwales (gunnels), or otherwise operating in a way or at a speed that causes a person to go overboard.

In addition, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a DUI in California. If the DUI causes bodily harm to another person, it is referred to as an "enhancement" of the DUI charge, and the boat driver will face further penalties. Operating a personal watercraft between sunset and morning is likewise prohibited (even if the PWC has lights).

Consult a California Personal Injury Lawyer to know the level of liability (and, subsequently, damages) you'll be able to get based on the facts of the case.

2. Improper Or Inadequate Boating Maintenance

This can include operating a boat or watercraft with structural or mechanical faults, a lack of required life jackets, a lack of required fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, and sufficient fuel fume ventilation, as well as fuel leakage or excess water owing to bilge difficulties.

In addition, all watercraft in California must have enough navigation lights to travel at night. This holds true for both motorized and non-powered watercraft (like sailboats).

Other conditions, flares, "diver down" signage, and other safety equipment may be required depending on the activity, the distance traveled offshore, and the number of boaters. Furthermore, all PWCs must be equipped with ignition safety switches that turn off the engine if the rider is ejected.

3. Towing Or Pulling

A second vehicle or a skier is being towed. Anyone riding water skis, wakeboards, inflatables, or other comparable watercraft must wear a life jacket. Skiing or pulling someone after dusk is illegal in California (between sunrise and sunset).

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It is also prohibited to operate a boat dangerously while towing another vehicle or person on any type of device (including attempting to "spray" another boat or skier or passing on or over a ski or tow line with another boat or watercraft).


If there is personal harm or death, anybody involved in a boating accident, like anyone involved in a car accident, must report the event and call law police or emergency services as quickly as possible.

Contact a prescreened Personal Injury Attorney in California for assistance if you've been in a Boating Accident.

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