Boating Accidents

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    Home > Practice Areas > Boating Accident Lawyer

    Boating Accidents

    Boating accidents frequently stem from reckless or negligent actions, leading to tragic outcomes. These incidents often occur due to factors such as lack of attention, failure to follow safety guidelines, or adverse weather conditions. They can happen at any time of the year but may be more prevalent during peak boating seasons or in areas with high boating traffic. The aftermath of such accidents can be devastating, causing significant changes in the lives of those involved.

    Attending to your health and well-being should be your top priority following an accident of this calibre. While you embark on your path to recovery, an experienced accident lawyer can help when you’ve been injured on the water. At Bergeron Clifford, we have a proven track record in personal injury cases. Our team is experienced and has a background in dealing with various claims related to unexpected events, including those involving watercraft.

    image of a boat sailing

    Causes of Boating Accidents

    There are several common causes of boating accidents that are caused by individuals committing negligent acts. However, equipment failure is also responsible for many of these tragedies. 

    Statistics from the Canadian Recreational Boating Trend Report detail that recreational boating activities are a leading cause of fatalities related to vessels.1 The unique circumstances, such as capsizing, collisions, and drownings, can cause further anguish for those involved. Boating is a time to experience the water and beauty of nature, not when you should fear for your safety or worry about the dangers of what might happen.

    Most boating collisions occur due to one or more of the following:


    Boaters who lack experience may miscalculate their ability to turn or slow down to avoid a collision with another vessel or object. This inexperience doesn’t absolve them of responsibility if their actions cause harm to other people. 

    Proper licencing is required to operate most watercraft, and failing to obtain it or forgoing relevant safety courses can be dangerous. Anyone who chooses to drive a boat first must learn how to do so safely, not just for themselves but for others.


    Boating while intoxicated is similarly as dangerous as getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence. According to the Canadian Red Cross, alcohol is a factor in nearly 40% of water-related fatalities. The events can be devastating if you’re involved in an accident with an intoxicated boater. Federal laws are in place to prohibit drunk boating, and provinces have further legislation in place regarding specific circumstances, such as impairment limits. Differing slightly from other accidents, a boat collision lawyer understands the unique circumstances of driving a vessel and can better speak to the unsafe conditions under which the event happened. We will be able to ensure you receive the fair compensation you deserve.


    If you’ve been on a vessel before, you’ve likely encountered speeding power boaters and other people who act without regard for the safety of others. Per the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to operate a boat in a way that is dangerous to the public.2 When the reckless deeds of these individuals result in a catastrophic accident or injury, it’s considerably upsetting, especially to those who mind the rules of the water and exercise the utmost in safety protocols. A reckless boater can be held responsible for providing fair compensation to their victims, which can be used to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


    Sometimes, the other boater has done everything in their power to prevent an accident, but the boat’s equipment doesn’t work as it should. It’s important to know that if this happens, the manufacturer may be held liable for product defects that caused the incident. Recalls and safety defects are just as possible in boats as in other vehicles. At Bergeron Clifford, our boating accident lawyers can help you file a claim against parts companies that produced a faulty product, which resulted in your injury.

    How to Prevent a Boating Accident

    There are several ways to reduce your chances of being involved in a boating accident. It is important to note that while safety starts with you, it is vital for everyone nearby to watch out for each other’s safety as well. Below are some of our suggestions to ensure you are providing the safest possible environment for yourself and other boaters:

    • Obtain your Pleasure Craft Licence

      as needed, depending on your vessel.

    • Complete a boating safety course

      so that you know how to operate the watercraft correctly.

    • Review the Safe Boating Guide

      for terminology, tips, and proper procedures.

    • Inspect your boat regularly

      so that you can have essential repairs taken care of sooner rather than later.

    • Ensure you stow mandatory safety equipment onboard

      to protect yourself and your passengers.

    • Be aware of weather conditions at all times. If you are uncertain how a weather event will affect your boat, it’s best to head back to shore.
    • Never operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    • Watch your speed, and keep in mind that boats can’t come to a stop quickly due to propulsion and lack of brakes.

    What Should You Do After a Boating Accident?

    If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, ensuring everyone is safe is important. 

    Seek Medical Attention

    If you or anyone else needs medical attention, get immediate help. Turning down medical care can cause minor issues to turn into more significant health concerns. In addition, if you file a claim against the person who caused the incident later, it may harm your case if the injuries you sustained weren’t looked after at the time of the event. Therefore, it’s best to see a medical professional regardless of how you feel after the accident.

    File a Police Report

    Next, ensure that you file a police report and collect the contact information of everyone involved in the accident or who witnessed it. Take as many pictures as possible of the damage to each boat in the wreck. Document as much as possible so that you have the evidence needed to establish the sequence of events.

    Maintain a Record of Events

    It’s also important to make a record of each doctor you spoke with, including the emergency room practitioner and any specialists you followed up with. Your healthcare records will establish the value of your medical bills and help estimate what your injuries have cost you and may continue to cost you later in life. Examples include but are not limited to:

    • Lost wages
    • Physical therapy
    • Arm or leg braces
    • Changes to your ability to live happily, such as depression or anxiety
    • Any modifications you have had to make to your home to allow you to move around comfortably

    How Can a Boating Accident Lawyer Help with Compensation?

    If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident or are dealing with a death in the family due to a similar incident, it can be challenging to see a path forward. But you don’t have to navigate the healing process alone. With our team of experienced professionals at your side, we can argue the considerable significance the accident had on your life beyond just one day. We can guide you through the claims process and will ensure that your case reflects the difficulties you now face and that fair compensation will allow you to live as normal of a life as is feasible afterwards.

    Dealing with Insurers

    The other party’s insurance company might contact you regarding details of the case. Allowing a seasoned lawyer to work with these parties on your behalf will assure you that things are being handled correctly by a professional who can protect your rights. Doing so can alleviate the stress of having to deal with this case all on your own.

    Insurance companies often want to limit their exposure and pay as little as possible. You can be sure they will have their legal teams ready to defend against your claim in one way or another. We will remain firmly in your corner during this time and have a proven track record of success that can help your case considerably.

    Retaining a Boating Accident Lawyer

    At Bergeron Clifford, we offer free consultations as a way to help us understand how we can help. Before you can negotiate a settlement or take your claim to court, our team can provide sound advice on the best next steps. Contact us to learn how we can support you during this difficult time.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What if the boating accident was partially my fault? Can I still make a claim?

    Ontario operates under a comparative negligence system, which means that even if you bear some responsibility for the accident, you may still be able to pursue a personal injury claim. However, your compensation might be reduced to reflect your level of fault.

    It’s crucial to consult with our team of injury lawyers to understand how this might impact your specific case. We can guide you through the legal complexities and work to ensure you receive fair compensation based on the circumstances.

    How long do I have to file a boating accident injury claim in Ontario?

    In Ontario, the statute of limitations dictates the time within which you must file a boating accident injury claim. Generally, you have two years from the date of the accident to initiate legal proceedings. Failing to file within this time frame could bar you from pursuing compensation.

    However, the timing can vary depending on the specifics of your case, the nature of your injuries, and other factors. To ensure you meet all legal deadlines and protect your right to compensation, we recommend that you consult with our team as soon as possible after any accident.

    How do I prove negligence in a boating accident case?

    Our injury lawyers will investigate the circumstances of the accident, gather evidence, consult experts if necessary, and build a compelling case to establish negligence on the part of the responsible party.

    Generally, proving negligence in a boating accident case involves demonstrating four key elements:

    • Duty of Care: Establish that the other party had a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm, such as following boating regulations and operating safely.
    • Breach of Duty: Show that the other party breached their duty of care by acting recklessly, negligently, or violating boating laws.
    • Causation: Prove that the breach of duty directly led to the accident and subsequent injuries.
    • Damages: Demonstrate the physical, emotional, and financial harm you suffered from the accident.

    1. “BOATING Immersion and Trauma Deaths in Canada BOATING Immersion and Trauma Deaths in Canada 18 YEARS of RESEARCH 18 YEARS of RESEARCH.” n.d. Accessed August 23, 2023.

    2. Branch, Legislative Services. 2023. “Consolidated Federal Laws of Canada, Criminal Code.” June 22, 2023.

    Contact Bergeron | Clifford LLP

    If you have injured your back or neck, contact us at 866-384-5886 or fill out our online form. We represent clients throughout Eastern Ontario and can meet you at our offices in Kingston, Ottawa, Whitby, Carleton Place, Perth, at your home or hospital, or wherever is most convenient for you.

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