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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Chartering > Skipper's Liability?
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Thread: Skipper's Liability? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
03-21-2007 01:15 AM
hellosailor 42ndSt-
So, you are saying that a "hold harmless" agreement would take priority over legislation, including the Jones Act and foreign legislation that might hold the skipper responsible?

I think the softball coaches have been fairly safe, but the school districts still have had to ante up. (Hey, team sports are combat emulations, participants are supposed to get injured.)
03-20-2007 11:20 PM
42ndstreet HelloSailor, I am actually a licensed insurance agent in NY State. Yes, you are correct in stating that you may spend alot of money just defending yourself. Unfortunately that is true in any legal situation. This would also mean that the deceased family has an equal amount of money to throw away. No attorney will work for free. Especially if there is no proof that the skipper killed his friend by being purposefully neglectful. Again, I believe this situation absolutely requires a hold harmless agreement. The same agreement you would have your roofing contractor sign.
Also, I think the softball coach is safe.
03-20-2007 02:50 PM
chrondi Let me doubt that any waiver clause, private agreement or official participation in the charter fee and signing of contract whatsoever will prevent a potential direct or third party liability case against you if you are officially declared the skipper of the boat. Hence for those minding about getting involved in any court proceedings I would advise them to designate officially the guest as skipper and thus reserve the right to sue him/her in case something goes wrong!
03-20-2007 12:57 PM
hellosailor Bryan-
From the charter company's point of view, the reason they want payment in full from just one party is probably nothing to do with this issue. But rather, if there is any disagreement (i.e. the boat isn't ready, someone wants to cancel because there is a hurricane, someone else thinks that might be fun) the charter company wants to deal with ONE PERSON and not try to play "Solomon and the Baby" with six or eight people.
They deal with too many people every week to start multiplying that by six or eight as parties are made up. And then, if five guys ante up and the sixth bounces his check for a deposit...You may see why no charter company wants to be in the middle of that.

42ndStreet-
You've apparently not met the concepts of "informed consent" versus uninformed consent versus adhesion contracts versus...a whole lot of legal briar bushes and thornpatches. What you might live with for a softball game (banned any aluminum bats lately? Or followed the lawsuits in high school football after necks and spines have broken?) could be very different from what a grieving widow would unleash against the guy "who killed my husband".

You could easily spend $50,000 by simply having to appear and defend yourself--with attorney--in two or three courts or venues as the case was moved around, right or wrong.
03-20-2007 02:24 AM
KeelHaulin I can't say on the money issue because usually it is a shared cost to rent the boat; and most always the person chartering the boat (the skipper) collects the money prior to paying for the charter. On one side you could say that the skipper did not in any way profit from the eneavour so he is not running a vessel for hire; on the other side it could be viewed as a defrayment of costs to the skipper. It would take a maritime lawyer to provide a correct interpretation. I only think it affects you as a skipper in the sense that you may not be compliant with the USCG CFR reg which you -could- be cited if they ever found out and were bothered by the issue of who paid for what. Like I said before; shared expense of rental is commonplace and I don't think the USCG is going to enforce the law against those who share the cost of a boat rental. The law is aimed at people who are operating a vessel for profit and minimal assurance of the safety of the general public who will be buying passage on the boat (boat and captain USCG approved).

On the issue of increased liability; well let's just say that the buck stops with the Skipper and the vessel, in all circumstances (bareboat, charter, private owned, etc). You are no less liable in any scenario; except that if you own the boat it is also an asset (in the eyes of a civil court)!
03-19-2007 11:25 PM
Bryan53
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeelHaulin
Correct me if I am wrong, but another thing you might think about in terms of splitting the charter costs (which is almost always done) is the issue of skippering a vessel for hire. I realize that this is splitting hairs but in terms of "the law" if you accept any money from passengers or crew you are a charter captain and would require the appropriate license (six-pac or similar). It's possible that if each person pays the charter company directly this is a non-issue; not sure.
Well, youíve opened the door to the issue I only hinted at in my earlier scenario- the significance of the money trail. It seems Iíve read somewhere, but I canít find it now, a requirement from one of the charter companies that payment be made solely by the charterer (AKA the skipper). This would mean that others who participate would make their payments to the skipper, which opens up this whole can of worms. Does the skipper become a paid professional under such circumstances? If this payment requirement is not true for most charter companies that would, I guess, relieve some of the burden on the skipper- meaning each party makes payment directly to the charter company. Again, Iím a neophyte in this arena so Iím looking for guidance from those whoíve done this before.
03-19-2007 11:25 PM
sailingdog
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeelHaulin
Correct me if I am wrong, but another thing you might think about in terms of splitting the charter costs (which is almost always done) is the issue of skippering a vessel for hire. I realize that this is splitting hairs but in terms of "the law" if you accept any money from passengers or crew you are a charter captain and would require the appropriate license (six-pac or similar). It's possible that if each person pays the charter company directly this is a non-issue; not sure.

In any case, the skipper could be considered liable for anything that goes wrong that was within his ability to prevent. In addition both him/her (and the boat) are liable for any costs incurred by the boat or crew due to tow, salvage, search/rescue, med-evac, etc. You need to read the fine print of the charter co. paperwork to determine if you would be required to pay for any/all expenses incurred or if they are covering you under an insurance policy. I'm mentioning this (and I am not a lawyer so don't quote me) because there are many other potential sources for liability besides those who are on-board. 99% of the time it is a non-issue; but we should be aware of the potential and be prepared to deal with it if they do come up.
If the charter is in the US, yes, a six-pack would be the minimum required. However, if the charter is in a different country, then it would be subject to thae laws of that country, or possibly the country where the vessel is registered.
03-19-2007 10:55 PM
42ndstreet I doubt I could sue my daughter's little league coach if she hurt herself for sliding into second base on his signal. That is because softball can be dangerous and requires a "hold harmless" agreement. This is definitely the first place to start.
03-19-2007 10:45 PM
hellosailor Bryan, a VERY good question and I suspect there is no simple answer. Liability will be determined by the laws where ever you are chartering, and, by the laws governing the vessel's flag. And, if you are all citizens of the same place, a third set of laws.

I wouldn't even begin to guess what kind of goatfest (PG13) that could become in the various courts. Civil and criminal liabilities, maritime and international laws...and as Keelhaulin mentions, forget about your friends, because you may be dealing with vengeful estates and surviving relations.

Perhaps a liability umbrella from your homeowners or auto insurance? Or it might be worth asking a charter company if they offer some type of "skippers liability" policy as an option?

You raise a very interesting question!
03-19-2007 09:40 PM
KeelHaulin
Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
Sailing with less litigious people would help too
I don't think it would be the person who went sailing with you; it would be in the event of a death that the person's family would want someone held accountable. In this situation I don't think there is any umbrella policy that will cover you for the amount that the family would be suing you for. In regards to this; if you are concerned about the possibility of being sued over injury or a death it would be wise to have a standard release form that each person who crews for you signs before setting out. I know this sounds anal but if you look closely at the back of your ski lift ticket the liability release is written in fine print (among others).

Correct me if I am wrong, but another thing you might think about in terms of splitting the charter costs (which is almost always done) is the issue of skippering a vessel for hire. I realize that this is splitting hairs but in terms of "the law" if you accept any money from passengers or crew you are a charter captain and would require the appropriate license (six-pac or similar). It's possible that if each person pays the charter company directly this is a non-issue; not sure.

In any case, the skipper could be considered liable for anything that goes wrong that was within his ability to prevent. In addition both him/her (and the boat) are liable for any costs incurred by the boat or crew due to tow, salvage, search/rescue, med-evac, etc. You need to read the fine print of the charter co. paperwork to determine if you would be required to pay for any/all expenses incurred or if they are covering you under an insurance policy. I'm mentioning this (and I am not a lawyer so don't quote me) because there are many other potential sources for liability besides those who are on-board. 99% of the time it is a non-issue; but we should be aware of the potential and be prepared to deal with it if they do come up.
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