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Call Miskin Law for Boating Accident Injury

Boating accidents are less common than car accidents. Nevertheless, they can result in serious injuries for which victims will want to recover compensation. It is important to understand the risks of travelling on a boat, and what your legal rights and options are in the event that you are injured in an accident.

What Laws Apply to Boat Accidents Causing Injury?

Boating law is quite complex when it comes to personal injury. Several statutes apply, both at the federal and provincial levels.

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, despite sounding as though it only deals with cars and trucks, also applies to some extent to motorized boats. This statute imposes a legal duty of care on owners and operators of watercraft to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of passengers, failing which a passenger may bring a claim in negligence against an owner and/or operator. However, unlike for those injured in car accidents, there is no “no-fault” Accident Benefits regime for those injured in a boat.

The Marine Liability Act, which is federal legislation, governs the limitations of liability for the owner and operator of a boat for personal injuries. Damages available to injured passengers in a small watercraft for personal injury are capped at $1,000,000, even if multiple passengers make claims. Boat passengers, therefore, take the risk that, in the event of a serious accident, they may be unable to recoup the full amount for their losses. However, if an owner or operator’s conduct goes beyond basic negligence, and can be shown to be reckless or willful, the $1,000,000 cap may not apply, as this cap applies to claims for negligence only. Claims for property damage are capped at $500,000.

The Criminal Code of Canada is also relevant. Criminal offences for driving with a blood-alcohol content over 0.08, and driving while intoxicated are the same for boat operators as for drivers. An intoxicated boat operator may be charged with impaired driving and a conviction can serve as evidence in a negligence lawsuit brought by an injured passenger.

What Insurance Coverage is Available?

Unlike motorists, boat owners are not legally required to ensure their boat for either property damage or injuries. However, many boat owners opt to purchase insurance to avoid personal liability for damages.

Boat owners may also have coverage under their homeowners’ policies. Some homeowner’s policies cover lawsuits and damages arising from the operation of a boat owned by the policyholder, and will typically cover damage to the boat to a certain maximum in the event of an accident.

Insurance coverage with respect to boating accidents can be complicated. In the decision TD, General Insurance Company v. Intact Insurance Company, 2018 ONSC 2352 (CanLII), the operator of a boat was a person other than the owner. The owner carried an insurance policy for his boat, which contained a provision providing coverage to any authorized operator of the boat. However, the operator held a generous homeowner’s insurance policy that covered him for injuries unintentionally caused to others, including as a result of the use of any watercraft. At issue was which policy should be the primary policy for defence of the lawsuit and payout of any damages awarded. The court held that the boat owner’s policy was to be the primary source of insurance coverage.

When Will an Insurance Policy be Voided?

Remember, insurance policies are only valid when the terms of the policy are followed. If you own a boat, be cognizant of who you allow to operate it. In Ontario, a Pleasure Craft Operators Card is required to legally operate a motorboat. If you have secured insurance coverage to shield yourself from liability, allowing an unlicensed operator to drive your boat will likely void your policy.

Drinking and driving may also void your insurance policy. Each insurance policy is slightly different, and a close reading of the individual policy is necessary to determine exactly when a policy may become void. In the decision Haryett v. Lloyd’s Canada, 2015 ONSC 853 (CanLII) an injured passenger sued the estate of a boat driver who had crashed while extremely intoxicated (and tragically, was killed in the accident). The insurer of the boat refused to provide the estate legal representation for the defence of the lawsuit because the policy included a provision stating that defence would not be provided where the boat was operated “illegally”. Although this is a vague term, the court found that it applied in the circumstances.

Who Should You Contact in the Event of a Boating Accident?

Where a boat accident has caused death, injury resulting in hospitalization, or property damage exceeding $5,000, the accident must be reported to the local police. Accidents must also be reported in writing to the Minister of Transport within 14 days if the accident results in an injury requiring anything more than basic first aid, or where the property damage exceeds $2,500.

Contact Miskin Law for a Personal Injury Lawyer in Peterborough or Whitby

If you have been injured in a boating accident, our accident lawyers can help. We can explain your legal rights and/or obligations and work through a contingency-fee arrangement, which means you don’t pay until compensation is obtained for your claim. Speak to us at 1-877-565-8621 today.

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