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davidpm 07-14-2009 10:09 PM

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?

Boasun 07-14-2009 10:24 PM

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.

sailaway21 07-14-2009 10:38 PM

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.

davidpm 07-15-2009 02:09 AM

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.

RealityCheck 07-15-2009 11:30 AM

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.

AE28 07-15-2009 11:59 AM


Originally Posted by RealityCheck (Post 505538)
Basically depends on which is the best attorney.

The final word in all things legal!!!

bubb2 07-15-2009 02:25 PM

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.

Link to the story

sweepint 05-12-2015 03:06 AM

Re: Captains License Downside
I find it very unlikely that a court will find a passenger guilty for what the driver of the boat did. Regardless of what or if he has a license. That is like saying I have a CDL and sitting in the right seat of the pick-up.... we get in a wreck and its my fault the driver hits someone else.
There is always a lot of what if.... Your in your friends boat and he's at the helm running out of the harbor way to fast and caused some damage do to wake. Who's fault was it? The driver or yours? my opinion would be the driver but you (the license captain) should of stopped it because you knew better is probably what they will say. legal and civil are two different animals as I am sure we are all aware.

capecodda 05-12-2015 06:21 AM

Re: Captains License Downside
You can be sued for any reason by anyone at any time.

If you live your life focused on this, you'll never do anything.

If you want a license, get one. I found the process to be very enlightening, even after a few decades of boating, I learned a lot, and am still learning.

nolatom 05-12-2015 01:30 PM

Re: Captains License Downside
Civil courts will entertain a suit against anyone, if there is enough of a theoretical case to survive a "motion for summary judgement" (rough translation--a reasonable person/juror could possibly find negligence, rule violation, and duty to act, etc).

Having a license, as mentioned above, could make your attempt to "not know any better" or "nothing to do with me, I was just the rail-sitter") sound less than genuine. I see this same issue in scuba, those with Instructor, or Rescue qual cards will keep quiet about it, and instructors who happen to be pleasure-diving may be asked why they didn't "do something" for some other diver who was not their buddy. I must say, this is almost as much a social question as it is a legal one, "when am I my brother's keeper?", or indeed, "who is my brother, anyway"?? But recreational boats (unlike, say, pleasure scuba) do have a "command structure", either stated or unstated, typically with the owner, if aboard, being the unlicensed "captain". So a "mere passenger" should not have to wonder if he/she will be made a "captain" by a judge or jury after the fact (note I said "should", some things can't be predicted).

On the Coast Guard side of things, I believe that any negligence or misconduct must be while "acting under the authority of your license" in order for them to have jurisdiction to proceed against that license for suspension or revocation. And years ago, I was one of those CG guys who could bring suspension proceedings against some license holder. Now I'm a license holder. So I've seen both sides, in a way.

Actually, I think Capecodda and Boasun just said the same thing, only better and shorter ;-)

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