Recreational boating is a popular summer activity for Ontarians. As a province alive with lakes and rivers, Ontario has the greatest recreational boat ownership rate in Canada. Recreational boaters and boating passengers must be aware that boating comes with inherent risks that can result in serious injury or even death.
According to a Canadian Red Cross study of boating deaths, 40% of drowning deaths and 50% of water-related fatalities are the results of boating accidents. Drowning, trauma, and hypothermia are all common causes of water fatalities, with young to middle-aged men being the most frequent victim.
Boating accidents are not limited to motorized pleasure craft incidents; there is an equal risk in non-motorized boats like canoes and kayaks.
As a boat operator, it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding the consumption of alcohol while boating. Operators should know that impaired boating incidents are subject to the same charges that come with the impaired operation of a motor vehicle. There is no leniency in terms of boat size; impaired boating charges apply equally to motorized boats, jet skis, kayaks, and rafts. Boat passengers may consume alcohol while the boat is anchored and if the boat complies with the other onboard requirements.
A boat operator is responsible for inspecting their equipment prior to a boating trip, abiding by all Canadian boating regulations, paying attention to the weather, and operating in a safe manner. Negligence in boating most commonly includes speeding, recklessness, inexperience, inattention, defective equipment, and/or impairment. Victims of boating accidents are entitled to compensation for injuries caused by negligent boat operators. Both the operator of the boat and the boat owner may be liable for injuries sustained.
The factors to prove negligence in boating accidents include:
- A boat owner or operator was responsible for the safety of their passengers and other individuals on the water.
- A boat owner or operator breached their duty by failing to operate or maintain the boat safely.
- The breach of duty led to an accident causing injury or death.
- The accident and resulting damages were foreseeable.