How Maritime Law Works in a Boat Accident

Life does have its way of throwing you curveballs when you least expect it. We spend our days expecting the worst, and just when you think you’ve made it, something bad happens. You could be sitting around at home and suffer an unfortunate incident for any reason, or you could be out on your boat fishing and having a good time –– not many car accidents can happen up there, can they? Well, there are boat accidents unfortunately, and they can be just as dangerous as vehicle incidents, if not more. So, how exactly does law work in a boat accident? Most often, the case will resort to maritime law to resolve the situation.

What exactly is maritime law?

It is the set of rules and regulations pertaining to incidents or accidents that happen in water –– whether it’s international or local waters. It can be anything from boating accidents to offshore rigging or cargo ships incidents. There are usually a set of national laws pertaining to the US and its waters, and there are others for international waters where other rules might apply. Depending on where exactly the accident took place, a particular set of those laws will be implemented –– or even a mishmash of both.

While you might think this is all a bit too much, it is in fact crucial that those laws are implemented because boating accidents happen way more often than you think. According to the coast guard, over 4,000 incidents took place in just a recent year, and over 600 people died in those incidents. This is why this matter is taken seriously, even if it’s just a recreational boating incident. A lot is at stake, and the risks of boating incidents include drowning, which makes things more dangerous than your average car accident.


Like with any other incident, chances are, there is a particular party that was at fault. If you’ve suffered such an incident where you were involved and sustained injuries and/or property damage because of a boating accident, then you need to take necessary legal measures to ensure fair compensation for you suffering. You will need to hire experienced attorneys, and not just any you could find in the yellow papers. Your lawyers need to have intimate knowledge of maritime laws, both local and international, and should also have had previous encounters with similar cases. This is the only way to ensure that they will get you the right compensation for your troubles.

The case can be argued in either state or federal court, depending on several factors. The ruling could be handed out by a jury or a judge, also depending on several angles. When you’re dealing with experienced maritime attorney, they could point you in the right direction and advise you just which angle you should pursue for the best possible outcome.

Do all states have similar maritime laws?

No, they don’t. Each state has its own set of maritime laws. While they might be pretty similar, you will find several variations that could just make a difference in your case. An experienced maritime lawyer will know the differences between the rules of each state and what you need to do in order to win a claim in any.

What should you do after a boating accident?

Under federal law, you as the owner of the boat will need to file an accident report to the relevant authorities in case one of the following things happened: someone sustained serious injuries on the boat that entail medical expenses, a person vanished from the boat in a way that points to death or injury, the vessel itself sustained damage because of a collision, or someone died on the boat because of an accident. Before filing that report, you will need to contact an attorney to help you make sense of things.

Are there any requirements for boat owners under maritime laws?

Yes, there are several. Any owner of a recreational boat should ensure that their vessel complies with state and federal regulations, which means having the proper license and registration documents and any other necessary paperwork. The boat should also have proper safety equipment like life jackets, as well as visual distress signals for emergencies. It is important that you look up those regulations because complying with them ensures that you will be in a sound legal position should you suffer any boating accidents.

Maritime law is complicated and it’s pretty different from your average state laws. A lot of considerations go into boating accidents, and without an experienced lawyer who knows what they’re doing, you’re going to have a lot of trouble with this entire situation.

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I'm a licensed educator currently exploring life using the lens of a writer. A millennial passionate about all things classic. I love good books and silly jokes. I'm still trying to figure out my super powers.

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