Riding on a boat on waters off the coast of California should be an enjoyable time for you and your family. You want to be confident that your boating experience will be free of tragedy. Sadly, this is not always the case, as accidental deaths can occur if a person falls off a boat and drowns or by sustaining an injury on the boat itself. In such a situation, you may wonder who should be held liable for the wrongful death of your loved one.

BoatU.S. defines the duty of a boat operator to provide reasonable care to passengers of the boat. A boat operator is mandated to provide reasonable safety, to make sure that proper effort is exerted to give passengers a safe ride. But boat guests have their responsibilities as well. Passengers cannot act carelessly while on a vessel. However, if they do not know about hidden dangers on the vessel, such as defective equipment that can cause injury, the ship’s operator should inform them early on.

Liability will be determined by whether the boat operator should have known about the dangerous conditions that caused the wrongful death. If the boat operator knew that hazards existed, then the operator should have informed the passengers about the conditions, or at least be aware that passengers might not know about the perils present on the vessel.

You should be prepared for the other side to vigorously contest liability. The major difference between riding on a road and sailing on water is that roads are stable surfaces while water, while it can be still at times, does bob up and down and can make a boat ride a little shaky. The boat operator may contest that some elements of riding on the water simply cannot be controlled for, so the operator does not bear full responsibility. These questions can complicate a liability case, so it is important to consult with an attorney about your options.

People may suffer injury or death in many ways while on the water. Because of this, you should not consider this article as legal advice. It is only written to inform readers on the subject of wrongful death on boats.