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How Could a Boat Rental Company Be Held Liable for a Crash?

boat rentals on the beachMichigan’s many lakes provide a lot of opportunities for boat enthusiasts to enjoy getting out on the water, especially during the warmer summer months. Due to the cost and inconvenience of owning a boat, however, many people may choose to rent one instead.

Boat rentals are great, but it does raise questions about who may be liable for injuries or damages if an accident occurs. Could the boat rental company be held liable in this situation?

If you were injured in a crash involving a boat rental, we are prepared to help you understand if you may have a case. We encourage you to speak with one of our dedicated boat accident lawyers in Grand Rapids about your situation as soon as possible. Initial consultations are completely free, and there is no obligation to file a claim.

No Upfront Costs if We Represent You. (800) 762-8623

Determining Liability for a Boating Injury

Boat injury claims are often complicated when it comes to determining liability if a crash or other boating accident occurs. There are multiple questions an attorney may ask to determine what factors may have contributed to the accident and if you have a case, including:

  • Was negligence the cause of the incident?
  • Was the boat operator under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
  • Did the rental company fit the boat with all required safety equipment, including life preservers for each passenger?
  • Was the boat regularly maintained and serviced?
  • Did the rental company have you sign a waiver?
  • Is there insurance to cover a claim?

Why Boating Accidents May Happen More Often With a Rental

Boating accidents may happen more often with rentals due to the boat operator's lack of experience. Although Michigan's required boat safety certificate provides a certain level of knowledge, it may not be sufficient in unexpected situations on the water. Some of the most common reasons rental boating accidents occur is because of:

  • Insufficient boat safety training
  • Immature behavior of boat operators
  • Unable to identify or mitigate mechanical boat hazards that may arise
  • Disobeying Michigan's boating rules or laws
  • Failing to pay attention to potential hazards while operating the boat
  • Reckless boat operation, especially in areas where there are swimmers or other water vessels
  • Boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI)
  • Unfamiliarity with the terrain, like sandbars

Can You Seek Compensation From the Boat Rental Company?

It may be difficult to assess a boat rental company with liability for a boating accident. Often, patrons must sign a waiver to rent a boat. This form releases them from liability for injuries you may sustain while using their boat. In short, if you sign this form you are saying that you understand the risks you are taking and agree to accept responsibility for them.

That said, waivers are not always well-written, so an attorney may be able to find a loophole that would allow you to file a claim against the boat rental company if you are injured in an accident.

When Boat Rental Companies May Be Liable

Even if a boat waiver was signed, there are certain situations where the boat rental company could be held liable for your damages, such as if:

The Boat Was Unsafe to Operate

Boat rental companies are required to ensure their vessels are regularly maintained, safe to operate and free of any known dangerous conditions. Additionally, all boats on Michigan waters are required by law to have:

  • Annual boat inspections and display the registration sticker
  • Life jackets or wearable personal flotation devices (PDF) on board for every passenger
  • Functional fire extinguishers
  • Visible distress signaling devices
  • Navigation lights
  • Backfire flame arrestors
  • Sound producing devices

The Patrons Were Not Eligible to Rent a Boat

There are several reasons a patron may not be eligible to rent a boat, including if the patron:

  • Is below the minimum age requirements as set under Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Section 324.44522
  • Cannot provide proof of their boat safety certificate issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG)
  • Is visibly intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Has too many passengers for the size of the vessel being rented

Boat Operated by Improperly Licensed Rental Company Staff 

If a boat rental company hires staff to operate the boat on your behalf, those staff must be properly licensed and obtain any other certifications as required by the state.

The Boat Company Failed to Warn or Advise Patron of Potential Risks

Boat rental companies are required to warn or advise patrons of the potential risks involved with boating. Sometimes these risks are listed on a waiver, but the patron should still be verbally informed by the rental company.

Additionally, the boat rental company may have liability if they knew of other risks, such as a pending storm, that could make renting the boat unsafe.

What to Do After a Boating Accident in Michigan

After any boating incident in Michigan, there are steps you should take to protect yourself, as well as any potential claim you may later file.

Seek Medical Attention

After a boating accident, you should seek medical attention right away. This step is important to your health - especially if you hit your head or possibly sustained other internal injuries. It also helps to link your injuries to the boating accident and provide support to your legal claim.

Report the Incident

If you have a boating accident in Michigan, you are required by law to file a report within 48 hours of the incident under the following circumstances:

  • One or more parties suffered a loss of consciousness during or after the accident 
  • A passenger or the boat operator experienced a disability lasting more than 24 hours
  • An accident occurred, requiring medical care to one or more individuals on board
  • A death resulted within 24 hours of an accident

Other incidents that must be reported within five days:

  • Property damages of $2,000 or more
  • One or more individuals on board disappear or fall into the water, and injury or death is assumed

Gather Evidence

If you can do so without placing yourself or others in danger, take photos of any damages to the boat, external hazards where the accident occurred or visible injuries. This evidence may provide insight to authorities about how the accident occurred and may also help to support your legal claim.

Injured in a Boat Rental Accident? Our Law Firm is Ready to Help

Boat rental accidents are complicated, and it can be difficult to obtain compensation for your injuries without knowledgeable legal representation.

Our qualified attorneys at Jay Trucks not only have extensive experience in personal injury law, but we are committed to fighting for the maximum amount of compensation possible. We know how to determine if you have a valid case and whether a boat rental company could be liable for the damages.

Millions Recovered. Call: (800) 762-8623 today.