If you ask people what their perception is of the state of New Jersey, a lot of negative characteristics probably come to mind; ignoring that most of these are misconceptions, what probably does not pop into their heads first is a state that is a superhighway for vessels, ships and boats of all sizes and types. Upon closer inspection, however, it should come as no surprise that New Jersey owes a substantial part of its economic, transportation and social growth to the fact that it is substantially impregnated with water; and with tens of thousands of boats using hundreds of miles of navigable waterways, including the northern terminus of the Intercoastal Waterway, New Jersey is a virtual maritime hub.
But unfortunately, all this bustling boating activity in turn means that one’s chances of being involved in a serious boating accident are also heightened. And given that virtually all of such activity is governed by federal admiralty law, which can be somewhat peculiar and at times quite archaic, it is critical that boat owners and passengers alike be aware of the risks involved each and every time they step in such a vessel.
To this end, one of the most important aspects of admiralty (or ‘maritime’) law is the rule that under certain circumstances, the liability of the negligent boat-owner can rise no higher than the value of his or her boat. Therefore, no matter how badly someone may be hurt as a result of another’s negligence on the water, the injured party may only be able to collect what the boat is worth. This rule also applies to pleasure boats, which, when coupled with a substantial spike in inexperienced operators during the summer vacation time, means that there is a chance the victim will be left with grossly inadequate and insufficient funds to cover their damages.
Yet there are various distinct and subtle nuances that must be fulfilled before a boat-owner is permitted to limit his liability to the value of his or her vessel. As such, it is important that persons injured as a result of incidents that occur on navigable waters, consult an attorney who is knowledgeable in such matters.