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How Do You Prove Who Caused a Boat Collision Accident?

How to determine who was at fault in a boat collision?

Rules of the road, is a term used for regulations that govern the conduct of boats in relation to each other. The purpose of Rules of the Road is to prevent vessel collisions. Think of navigational rules as a set of rules, much like the "rules of the road" apply to car drivers.

There are two sets of navigation rules: inland and international. International navigation rules are standardized all over the world, allowing boats from different countries to follow the same rules when they meet. Inland navigational rules can vary from region to region. Nautical charts typically include a demarcation line which shows when the nav rules transition from inland to international, so that boaters can be aware of changing standards of navigation. In general, these demarcation lines follow the coastline and cross inlets and bays. On the seaward side of the demarcation lines, international rules apply.

Understanding navigational rules or Colregs (Collision Regulations) and knowing which is the “stand-on boat” or which is the “give-way boat”, is essential to determining which boat was the cause of a collision.


There are various rules that apply to specific situations. Here are some examples:

Rule 5    Look out
Rule 6    Safe Speed
Rule 7    Risk of Collision
Rule 8    Action to Avoid Collision
Rule 9    Narrow Channels
Rule 14  Head-On Situation
Rule 15  Crossing Situation

Many States, have navigational rules. For example, California Harbors and Navigation Code and Arizona Revised Statutes. However, like poker, the Federal Rules of the Road / Nav Rules trump the State rules.



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William Turley
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