SailNet Community banner

1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,113 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
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?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,070 Posts
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.
 
  • Like
Reactions: nolatom

·
Owner, Green Bay Packers
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,113 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
247 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,856 Posts
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

http://www.sailnet.com/forums/general-discussion-sailing-related/8103-can-happen.html
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,745 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,261 Posts
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 ;-)
 

·
Crealock 37
Joined
·
676 Posts
This has come up in aviation as well where a more qualified pilot is riding as a passenger (but possibly with access to the flight controls) and the acting pilot in command makes an error of some kind. In at least some of those cases the more qualified captain was not found liable since he was not acting as PIC or in the capacity of his ratings.

I personally would not let concern about litigation prevent me from advancing my knowledge, certifications, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
428 Posts
You'd be no more responsible than a passenger in a bus would be if the bus driver hit somebody. Now if you volunteered that you knew the driver was drunk and speeding and you saw the other car coming and didn't do anything, you might have a problem. Probably not, but you might. As was previously mentioned, you have to be "acting under authority of your license" for that license to come into play. Passengers, or even crew, have no authority. And operating a vessel for which no license is required (your personal boat) is not "operating under authority". If you were teaching the owner how to sail, and the owner supplied the beer, that might be a problem. Just like a pilot instructor remains"pilot in command" even though he might never touch the controls.

As one of the guys who makes money when people go for their license I might be a bit biased, but I don't think this whole subject is anything to worry about. If you're working your license by all means make sure you or the owners are properly insured, but don't worry about it on your "civilian" time.
 

·
Member
Joined
·
2,448 Posts
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

http://www.sailnet.com/forums/general-discussion-sailing-related/8103-can-happen.html
Wow.

Bubb I missed this way back when. I hope your wife has finally found some relief, and I hope the SOB in the SeaRay is no longer on the water. What a bastard.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bubb2

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,561 Posts
I don't believe that holding a license in any way makes one responsible for the actions of another captain, licensed or unlicensed.
Admiralty law differs widely from civil law, and I believe it does not allow for professionally licensed personnel to usurp the power or decision making of an unlicensed person in a command position, on a private vessel.
However, don't waste your money on a lawyer; this one is the bailiwick of an Admiralty Attorney.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,177 Posts
The clear answer is, it depends.

It depends very highly on what the guy really driving the boat testifies that you said, did or implied and whether he says he was taking your lead. He/she doesn't necessarily have to be telling the truth, if trying to save their own bacon.

The aircraft analogy is pretty good. The pilot-in-command, who holds responsibility for everything, does not have to be the pilot with their hands on the controls. However, it's hard to argue its the guy in seat 15C, just because he holds a certificate. On a boat, there are no positions or seats that make that very clear.
 

·
s/v Ilya
Joined
·
255 Posts
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.
That's the reason I aspire to earn my license in the future. Learning and becoming more competent on the water is really the goal for me: the license is just the recognition of the competence and accomplishment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
404 Posts
It's not worth worrying about.

I have a license, I have often sailed with friends and relatives on their boats. My policy is not to tell the skipper how to sail his own boat. Unless asked. Who enjoys the company of a backseat driver? From time to time their way of doing things is not mine. Their boat

Like any crew worth their salt, if I see something, I say something. Its generally appreciated. I sail with people I know. So I know how we get along.

In the licensed world an occasional situation has occurred where a Co Pilot or Junior Officer knew the Captain was wrong yet was unable to speak up. It's a well known situation which modern training is supposed to eliminate. Even so it still happens. When it does. The Co Pilot or Junior Officer is not held accountable. They are only expected to be able to do or say what would have been reasonable in the circumstance if they were overawed by the Captains power authority and personality.

So it all comes down to the actual situation and what would a reasonable person expect a reasonable person to do. License or no license
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
If he was a friend and you didn't pay him or buy beer or lunch for him, you won't be held liable because it was not your boat and you weren't the captain. Your skills would be considered irrelevant.

On the other hand, as a licensed Captain, if you ever salvage a boat, you can legally lay in a claim for it.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top