Liability for Accidents and Injuries on the Water


In the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, commercial and recreational boating is often a way of life. Un- surprisingly, boating accidents are too. Lawsuits involving injuries suffered in boating accidents, often referred to as “admiralty” cases, involve various aspects of state and federal law depending on who the injured parties are and where and in what manner the boating accident occurs.  Admiralty is the body of law which regulates the carrying of passengers and cargo over water and provides remedies to individuals injured while boating.  Generally, when vessels collide with one another, or with an object, causing injuries, a claim can be brought for negligence in the navigation and operation of the vessel. The test regarding fault for causing a collision or other harmful event is whether the operator of the vessel acted as a reasonably prudent mariner at the time of the incident, under the totality of the circumstances.

Under boating or admiralty law, workers injured at sea may be entitled to benefits and compensation under the Jones Act and other federal statutes. In some circumstances, these workers have greater rights than injured workers in other areas. For instance, under traditional negligence law, an employee typically cannot bring a personal injury lawsuit against his/her employer or a co-employee. The remedy is limited to Workers’ Compensation benefits. A “seaman” (a member of a ship’s crew), however, can bring certain types of injury claims against his employer.

Folks injured on whale watching or sight-seeing boats, cruises or other tour boats are also often entitled to compensation, even if waivers or releases have been signed.  Also, Admiralty applies in relation to the operation of the many ferry systems in the waters of New England.

People injured or killed in recreational boating accidents may also seek compensation for injuries and death suffered in such accidents. Boat operators – similar to auto operators – must obey the rules of the “seaborne road”, including those relative to operation under the influence of alcohol. Another category of boating accident cases are those cases involving personal injuries to children and young adults at summer camps from boating activities, or activities occurring on shores or docks. Depending on the mechanism and manner of harm, an attorney experienced in handling boating accident cases and applying admiralty principles is required.

Like any other personal injury case, one of the most important and difficult things a person injured in a boating accident must do is choose an injury lawyer they trust.

Attorney Charlie Perrault is a partner at PERRAULT LAW GROUP, PLLC of Methuen and Salem – a law firm 100% specialized in personal injury matters. He may be reached at 978.975.4100, or