Georgia House Passes Boat Rental Liability Law

Boat Accident

New Law Passed By Georgia House Would Limit Liability For Accidents Involving Boat Rental Businesses

Boat AccidentATLANTA, GEORGIA (May 8, 2024) – The Georgia House of Representatives approved House Bill 994 which addresses liability for companies that lease, charter, or rent motorized boats.

Under the bill, a person who leases, charters, or rents a boat and operates it negligently would be liable for any resulting injuries or damage. By doing this, the bill offers legal protection for boat rental businesses.

However, in order for a boat rental company to not be liable for an accident, they must have the required insurance. Certain other conditions must be met.

  • The boat rental business must ensure that renters are reasonably skilled in the operation of the watercraft that they are renting.
  • The renters must meet certain safety requirements.
  • The vessel being rented must be in a safe operating condition, as determined by an inspection.
  • The vessel must be maintained in a safe condition by the rental company.

The bill also requires that boat rental companies display proof of insurance at their rental locations. House Bill 994 is set to go to Governor Brian Kemp to be signed.

Liability For Georgia Boat Accidents

Boat accidents are a major cause of serious injury and death, particularly during the summer months. According to the United States Coast Guard, “In calendar year 2022, the Coast Guard counted 4,040 accidents that involved 636 deaths, 2,222 injuries and approximately $63 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.” There are a number of factors that could contribute to a boat accident.

  • Driver intoxication remains a leading cause of boat accidents. It is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated, much the same way it is illegal to operate a car under the influence.
  • Driver inexperience is another major cause of boat accidents. There are rules and right-of-way laws for operating boats on public waterways. When a boat operator is unaware of these laws or is otherwise inexperienced, this can contribute to collisions.
  • Weather conditions can also contribute to an accident. Storms or reduced visibility can make boat operators less able to see people in the water or other boats.

Depending on the facts of any case, a boat rental company could be liable for the negligent action of a renter, even with the passage of Georgia House Bill 994. For example, a boat rental company could be liable for the negligent entrustment of their vessel to someone who would otherwise be ineligible to operate a boat. This could include instances where a boat renter was visibly intoxicated or otherwise didn’t have a license.

Liability for a boat accident could also extend to the company that manufactured a boat. Companies that make boats have a legal obligation to make sure that they are reasonably safe. In general, companies can be held liable for the design, manufacturing, or marketing defects of their products. For example, a boat manufacturer may have created a boat with a high center of gravity, thereby making it more likely to tip over. Certain steps should be taken after any boat accident.

  • Eyewitnesses should be interviewed.
  • Medical records should be preserved.
  • The owner of the boat should be identified.
  • A police report should be created.
  • An experienced Georgia boating accident lawyer should be contacted.

The vast majority of boat accidents are completely preventable and involve operator error. These accidents can be very complex and may involve numerous liable parties. This could include the operator of the boat, a boat rental company, or even the company that made the boat. Any person who is injured in a boat accident may have legal recourse through a civil claim. An Atlanta boat accident attorney can examine the unique facts of your case and let you know what your legal options are.

Getting Legal Help For Georgia Boat Accidents

Butler KahnWe at Butler Kahn extend our best wishes to all of the people across Georgia who have been injured in boat accidents. It is important for boat operators and swimmers to both be extra vigilant during the summer months. This is the period when there tends to be a sharp spike in the number of boat accidents.

Have you or someone that you care about been injured in a Georgia boat accident? You may have legal recourse. Our team of Georgia boat accident attorneys is here to help in any way that we can. In fact, our law firm achieved one of the highest settlements in Georgia history for a boat accident case. Our client was awarded a $3.97 million settlement after being catastrophically injured by a boat propeller. Whether you just have legal questions or are thinking about hiring an attorney, we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 678-940-1444.

Picture of Jeb Butler
Jeb Butler’s career as a Georgia trial lawyer has led to a $150 million verdict in a product liability case against Chrysler for a dangerous vehicle design that caused the death of a child, a $45 million settlement for a young man who permanently lost the ability to walk and talk, and numerous other verdicts and settlements, many of which are confidential at the defendant’s insistence. Jeb has worked on several cases that led to systemic changes and improvements in public safety. He has been repeatedly recognized as a Georgia SuperLawyer and ranks among Georgia’s legal elite. Jeb graduated in the top 10% of his class at UGA Law, argued on the National Moot Court team, and published in the Law Review. He is the founding partner of Butler Kahn law firm. Connect with me on LinkedIn



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