Captains License Downside
A comment in another thread reminded me of this question that I had wanted to ask for some time.
Does someones legal liability change if that person has a captains licence (6 pack, 100 ton etc) vs. someone who does not have that licence.
Lets say I get my 6 pack and am not being paid in any of the following situations:
Go out for an afternoon on a friends boad and the boat hits a reef and someone drowns.
I was not driving?
I was driving?
That is a liability having a license. If you go on a friend's boat and he screws the pooch by hitting something, someone or leave a damaging wake where he shouldn't, you may be held liable because of your license, you should have known better. But have you ever try to tell someone that he is screwing up big time and he responds; That he knows what he is doing and to shut up.
The only thing you can do is put on your lifeJacket and pray that that fool gets you back to the dock alive. And promise yourself that you will never go out with him again.
You are held to the same standards as in any accident. The common citizen is held blameless for any efforts made at life-saving or first aid while a doctor performing the same acts is held to the standards we expect of physicians.
If you possess a marine license you will quite likely be held to the same standards. As a practical matter, while engaged in recreational boating, you'd be well advised to not bandy the fact about. While it is a matter of public record, you should feel no compunction towards not leading lawyers, law enforcement, or prosecutors into a search of that public record.
And boasun's words are certainly worth heeding.
About the only thing I can think of is that if you have captains license and do something particular dumb it will be hard to claim you didn't know any better. Kind of like when Martha Steward was a stock broker and couldn't claim she didn't know the laws about insider trading.
Although ignorance of the law is not considered a defense in any case so it may not matter much.
It is often repeated on forums that someone with a captains license will be held to a higher standard but has anyone actual experience where this happened in a real court?
In fact it may work out to the captains advantage if he could precisely identify the six steps he took to avoid the accident that the first time power boater caused. Even if the six steps failed because the captain was going 4 knots and the power boater was going 40 knots.
The court may be inclined to take the side of someone who went to the trouble to get licensed over someone who just bought a big boat.
Liability is something decided by a court and with or with out a license it is usually a 50/50 coin flip on what the out come will be. Basically depends on which is the best attorney.
In any maritime incident no one side is generally held blameless. It is a proportionment of blame. One generally greater than the other but almost always both the blame.
No one can ever be "Sure" how any court will rule but if you have no Command Authority you "Should" find yourself on the lesser end of responsibility with out regard as to license status. Only if you Take Action that is later found to be Culpable would your license status have a greater bearing. But again, no one can ever be Sure of how any court will rule.
NOTE: You will often find those people who use this hypothetical license status downside, to be people with out a license and is their excuse to not taking the necessary steps or being qualified to take the steps to be licensed. Use lots of Sea Salt with such a position.
I have been sued for a boat collision that was not my fault. I had my Captain's license at the time.
The rules of the road are the rules of the road. It does not matter if you are licensed or not, you must operate your boat accordingly.
Think about a unlicensed auto driver saying go easy on me because I am unlicensed, and because of that I failed to stop at the stop sign before I ran over those school kids.
Being licensed, however I found to be a benefit. In court I could prove that I had a working knowledge of the rules of the road and had been tested to make sure I knew them forward and backwards. I understood them better the lawyers that were trying the case. Many times I corrected a statement made or was asked to explain how a rule applies in a particular situation. I think it made points with the judge and jurors.
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