How Boat Accident Cases Differ From Other Injury Claims

Posted on: 22 October 2019

Many forms of injury cases have a lot of overlap with each other, but the job of a boat accident lawyer is distinct for several legal reasons. If you've suffered a boating injury, it's good to know how your claim may be different from something like a car wreck or a slip-and-fall incident.


The jurisdiction applied to a boating accident will depend on where it happened. Incidents that occur in federally-governed or international waters are adjudicated according to maritime law. Conversely, claims that take place in state waterways or private property are usually covered by state laws.

Venue Clauses

If you board a craft as part of a contract, such as on a fishing trip into the Atlantic Ocean, there may be a part of the agreement that covers the venue. In law, the venue is where a case is tried and under what laws. It's common for tour operators, for example, to include venue clauses that keep them from having to travel too far for the trial. An operator based out of Miami might include a venue clause agreeing to adjudicate claims according to Florida law rather than federal law, even if the boat goes into international waters or a federal waterway.

The Duty of Care

A duty of care means there's a responsibility to prevent harm from coming to others by your actions or inactions. One of the first questions in injury cases is whether the allegedly responsible party actually had such a responsibility.

Federal and state laws governing the operation of watercraft tend to include greater duties of care compared to what might be seen in automotive or personal injury cases. Under federal law, there are duties for operators to report deaths, collisions, disappearances, medical issues that require more than basic first aid, the destruction of watercraft, and property damage exceeding $2,000. This is a good thing for claimants compared to other types of injury cases because it means it's harder for defendants to wiggle out of responsibility.

Employment Injuries

People employed on boats in navigable waters at least 30% of the time are entitled to sue their employers under the Jones Act rather than pursuing traditional workers' compensation claims. There is a low-clearing standard of evidence under the Jones Act. Individuals classified as seamen must only prove that their employer played a part in the events leading to their injuries. This means even one-percent responsibility entitles an employee to personal injury damages.

Contact a boat accident law service like DeepWater Law Edward R. Petkevis, PC today to learn more.