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How To Identify Negligence In California Boating Accidents

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

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 California Boating Accident Lawyer 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 boating 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 Boating Accident Lawyer to help you with your legal options.

What Causes Boat Accidents in California?

Under California boating laws, 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 Boating Accident 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).

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 you're unsure whether your case qualifies for a claim in California, consult a Los Angeles Boating Accident Lawyer.

What Is The First Action That Should Be Taken At A Boat Incident?

The first thing you should do is to make sure everyone is safe. This includes addressing immediate dangers, calling 911 and getting out of the boat if necessary.

Do note that you should get yourself checked even if you're not suffering immediate symptoms. For example, bruising and concussions can sometimes take a while to show signs.

Not to mention, your medical records will serve as documentation of your injuries for potential boating accident claims in California. Unfortunately, some liable parties and defendants will den responsibility or trivialize your injuries to reduce your compensation.

A record and receipts for your medical expenses will serve as evidence later, so every Los Angeles Boating Accident Lawyer advises their clients to do so.

What Is The First Action Required Of A Boat Operator Who Witnesses An Accident?

When an accident happens, operators have to immediately stop and help at the scene of the accident. They have a legal responsibility to do so unless it would put themselves or others in danger if they do so.


If there is an injury 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. All liable parties will be legally responsible for the expenses and losses that the victim incurs.

Contact a prescreened California Boating Accident Lawyer for assistance. Your prescreened Los Angeles Boating Accident Lawyer can help you collect evidence, file the right paperwork, and meet crucial deadlines. is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a California Boating Accident Lawyer best fit for your case. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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