Injuries caused by a boating accident follow a different set of processes than most other injury claims, so these lawsuits can be extraordinarily complex. In general, these claims are focused on proving failure, either on behalf of the vessel owner or vessel operator. This means that an injured victim has to have strong evidence on their side to produce a favorable outcome. For this reason, most victims turn to an experienced maritime injury lawyer to oversee the case and provide representation in court and settlement procedures.


While most maritime injury claims consider negligence, how the incident is caused will determine who is at fault. Most maritime crashes are caused by one of the following:

  • The vessel is hit by a wave, which may capsize the vessel
  • The vessel is hit by another ship
  • The vessel hits a rock or other submerged object
  • The vessel runs up on land
  • The vessel hits another ship’s wake

If a vessel collides with another ship, fault usually rests with both vessel operators. However, the events leading up to the wreck will determine who carries more fault. For example, if an operator fails to control the speed of their vessel or makes a sudden turn, they may shoulder the burden of the liability. This is also usually the case when a motorized vessel collides with a sailboat, as motorized vessels must keep their distance from other ships. Anyone injured on either vessel may be able to file a claim against either operator, assuming both are at fault to an extent.

When a vessel hits another ship’s wake, there is usually little concern, but when injuries occur, the occurrences leading up to the incident will determine who is at fault. The vessel operator is required by federal and state regulations to maintain a lookout for any danger. If the operator failed to warn passengers of the oncoming wake, they might be held liable due to negligence. However, if the ship that caused the wake was operating at unsafe speeds or causing a wake in a confined or high traffic area, they may be culpable for any injuries.

If a vessel collides with a submerged object or runs upon land, the vessel operator may be liable for any injuries. However, this depends on weather conditions, and if the operator was observing safety procedures. For example, if the vessel was moving slowly, the operator was following nautical charts, and there was dense fog present, the operator may not be considered at fault.

A boating accident may also be caused by an inherent flaw in the ship, or if there is not enough trained crew members on the vessel. In these situations, the owner of the vessel may be considered at fault and held liable for any injuries.

These cases often involve a number of mitigating factors and may be affected by local and state regulations as well. To cut through all of the legal red tape, a victim should consider contacting an experienced maritime attorney for the best possible advice and outcome.