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Boating Accident

Boating Accident

Injured In a Boating Accident

Each year in Canada approximately 250 boating accidents occur. What are your legal responsibilities are if you are operating a boat? How can you prevent accidents and protect yourself from liability? What should you do if you are involved, or injured in a boating accident?

Legal Responsibility

Alcohol Consumption

It will come as no surprise to most that the leading cause for boating accidents is due to alcohol consumption. If you are planning on enjoying alcoholic beverages on the lake during the summer, there are a few things you should be aware of.  It is illegal to consume alcohol while on or operating a boat unless your boat is equipped with a permanent sleeping accommodation, permanent galley, and toilet.

The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits:

  • Operating a boat anywhere in Canada under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    • Operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08
    • Failing to comply with an enforcement officer to submit a blood sample

Pleasure Craft Operators Card

Boat owners are responsible to license, register, and insure any boat before an excursion. In addition, you must possess a Pleasure Craft Operators’ Card (PCOC) through Transport Canada if you operate any boat powered by a 10hp motor or greater.  The PCOC course can be taken either in person, or online. When you complete the course, you must successfully pass a competency exam. You are required to carry your PCOC when operating a boat. Bylaw, RCMP, or volunteer officers can legally pull over any boat and request your PCOC card. Renting a pleasure craft does not currently require a PCOC, but you must complete the rental safety checklist. The PCOC course does not require renewals each year.

Required Equipment

Check the minimum legally required safety equipment for power boat list and make sure that your boat is properly equipped before you head out. In addition, The Canadian Safe Boat Council offers comprehensive safety resources, in a variety of formats, for anyone planning to own or rent a boat.

If you are found to be in breach of the rules, regulations, or criminal code, you can be held criminally liable for any injury or death.

Protect Yourself from an Injury Claim

  • Everyone on the boat must always wear a PFD.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • Complete the PCOC course
  • Make sure that you have adequate and working safety equipment
  • Prepare for cold water and weather conditions.
  • Make sure that your boat is seaworthy
  • Keep your speed to a safe limit according to the weather, water conditions, hazards, and traffic activity on the water
  • Carry a first aid kit

Common reasons for boating accidents or fatalities where personal liability, and compensation may be involved include:

  • Collision of two or more boats.
  • Hitting a Wave
  • Hitting a Submerged item
  • Not wearing a PFD
  • Falling Overboard

Situations without legal liability:

Sudden weather changes or strong winds, heavy rain, or lightning storms

Common Boating Accident Injuries

  • Whiplash
    • Traumatic Brain Injuries
    • Lacerations
    • Burns
    • Spinal Cord Injuries
    • Drowning
    • Broken Bones
    • Limb Amputations

After A Boating Accident

Following a boating accident, make sure that everyone involved seeks medical attention as soon as possible. You are required to report any boating accidents to the local Canadian Coast Guard, local law enforcement agency (RCMP) and the Transport Safety Board of Canada as soon as possible.

Journal the day’s events, in as much detail as possible, immediately after the incident.  Be sure to include the date, time, weather, who was operating the vessel, everyone involved, names of any first aid or law enforcement members attending, and any of the events prior to and after the accident. Refrain from talking about the incident with other parties or posting on social media. If there are injuries seek legal advice and notify your insurance company immediately.

Summer is a time for friends and family to have fun outside together. Please take a few moments to take those extra precautions and stay safe. Unfortunately, accidents happen and if you have been injured and are not sure what you should do, please contact our office for assistance.


Download the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide here.

Small Vessel Regulations – Canada Shipping Act 2001