Home > Accidents > Boating accidents and operator’s negligence

Boating accidents and operator’s negligence

Summer has arrived, walleye season is open, and folks across Ontario cannot wait to get out on their boats.

A picture of Roberts's Canine wearing a life jacketOntario is blessed with many lakes and rivers, and many of us like to get out on the water in the summer.  We go out on the water on everything from stand-up paddleboards to large powerboats.


My favourite spot to go boating is the Ottawa River, where I enjoy the 70 kilometers of navigable waterway between Rolphton and Pembroke. On any given weekend, you can find all kinds of watercraft on the Ottawa River, from stand-up paddle boards, to sailboats, to pontoon boats and everything in between.


While being out on the water is great fun, it can also be dangerous.  The boating season started out tragically this year when three died and five were injured in a boat crash on Bobs Lake, north of Kingston.


Boat accidents can and do happen.  Usually, they’re preventable.


At law, all watercraft operators owe a duty of care to every other person on the water.  Watercraft operators must always act as the “reasonably prudent operator” would.  They must look out for the safety of not only the people on their boat, but also the safety of other boaters, kayakers, and even swimmers.


On average, there are 166 deaths a year in Canada from boating related incidents.[1]  The top three factors in recreational boating related fatalities in Canada are:

      1. Not wearing a PFD or lifejacket;
      2. Alcohol consumption; and
      3. Cold water/poor weather.


Fatalities aren’t limited to boating collisions.  In fact, only 6% of fatalities are caused by a boating collision.  Most fatalities occurred when the person capsized (41%) or went overboard (26%).


Powerboats are involved in boating fatalities more often than any other type of watercraft.  Most powerboats in boating fatalities are small powerboats (less than 5.5 m in length).


Of course, there are more boating accidents than just those with fatalities.  Even non-fatal boating accidents can still end with someone being seriously injured.  Some of these accidents also result in serious injuries.


In the case of Woodbury v Woodbury[2], a nine-year-old child suffered a severe traumatic brain injury  when his father was towing him on a tube behind the boat.  The tube swung out and struck another boat, causing the child to suffer catastrophic injuries and a lifelong impairment.  In that case, the child’s damages were limited to $1,000,000 because of the  Marine Liability Act, even though the Judge held that “it is clear that his total damages are many millions of dollars”.[3]


If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a boating accident, we can help.  Usually, the boat’s operator will be covered under a boat or house insurance policy, and we can access that policy to compensate you for the injuries and losses caused by the operator’s negligence.


[1] All statistics in this post come from Recreational Boating Deaths in Canada:  Causes + Statistics, MyBoatCard https://myboatcard.com/recreational-boating-deaths-in-canada/#:~:text=Alcohol%20consumption%20is%20the%20cause,%2C%20judgment%2C%20and%20reaction%20time

[2] 2021 ONSC 8620 https://canlii.ca/t/jrrkf

[3] See above at para 134





Rob attended law school at Queen’s University and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 2020.  He summered at and completed his articles with Weaver, Simmons LLP, a full-service firm in Northern Ontario.  During his articles Rob had the opportunity to see personal injury files from both the plaintiff side and the defence side.  After articles, Rob practiced injury law and general litigation with Kelly + Kelly Lawyers in Pembroke, until Kelly + Kelly’s civil litigation practice joined Bergeron Clifford in 2023.

Contact Bergeron | Clifford LLP

Let us help you if you have been injured anywhere in Eastern Ontario. Contact us at 866-384-5886 or fill out our online form. We can meet at any of our office locations, including Kingston, Ottawa, Whitby, Carleton Place, Perth or wherever is most convenient for you.

Insurance Tactics

This article, hosted by the American Association of Justice, shows us how some insurance companies unjustly deny claims, discriminate by credit score, delay payments until death, and employ other tactics to make sure they make the most profit as possible, […]

Bergeron Clifford Takes the Gold!

Bergeron Clifford is proud to support Kingston Literacy by participating in the 15th Annual Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee. The Bee took place on May 17th, 2009, at the Ambassador Hotel, which is a new venue for the event. Team […]