Marine Accidents

At Grigoras Law, we understand the complexities of Marine Accident laws and we’re here to provide reliable legal counsel for all parties involved, whether you’re a plaintiff seeking restitution, or a defendant in a maritime legal dispute.

Marine Accidents pertain to incidents that occur in navigable waters or involve ships and vessels. In such cases, the principle of restitutio in integrum is often applied. This principle dictates that an innocent party should be returned to the state they would have been in had the accident not occurred. However, the application of this principle can be influenced by various factors such as the ability of the liable party to limit their liability and defences like inevitable accident.

Our Services

We offer extensive legal support for all facets of marine accidents, serving both plaintiffs and defendants:

Damage to Ships & Other Property: If a ship is partially damaged, entirely lost, or has caused damage, we can help claim or contest claims for repair costs, costs of detention, loss of use, loss of profits, and more.

Economic Loss: We assist in recovering or contesting claims for economic losses that arise from marine accidents. This includes demonstrating or disproving a breach of duty, how losses directly resulted from the breach, and whether such losses were reasonably foreseeable.

Personal Injuries: We represent parties who have either suffered personal injuries due to marine accidents or parties who are facing claims for such injuries. We aim to recover or contest claims for losses, including medical costs, future care costs, loss of earnings, and non-pecuniary losses such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.

Dependants: We represent dependants of injured or deceased persons in marine accidents to recover damages, or parties facing claims from such dependants for losses they have allegedly suffered.

Legal Expertise

Our lawyers possess expertise in both common law and statute law that govern marine accidents. We understand the nuances of the operation and maintenance standards set by these laws and use this knowledge to build strong cases for our clients, whether we are enforcing or defending a claim.

We will handle cases involving owners and operators of vessels who may be liable for damages caused due to accidents; whether it involves owners alleged to have failed to keep their vessels in a seaworthy condition or operators who allegedly failed to exercise reasonable care in the operation of the vessel, we stand ready to assist.

Grigoras Law is proficient in the various regulations that govern vessel navigation and operation, such as the Collision Regulations, Small Vessel Regulations, and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. We are also familiar with how provincial statutes can impact maritime law negligence claims.

Legal Actions

We assist clients in the application of the Marine Liability Act, the main federal legislation for accidents occurring on Canadian waters. Whether you are seeking to bring a claim or defend against one, our firm will guide you through the process, ensuring all relevant parties are properly identified, and the grounds for the claim or defence are clearly stated.

We are mindful of the limitation periods applicable to personal injury and death claims and will ensure actions are timely commenced or defended to protect your rights.

Grigoras Law represents all parties in cases of personal injury or death due to marine accidents. We also guide you through the process of claiming or defending against claims for damages, fully understanding the nuances of apportionment, inclusions, exclusions, and how the nature of damages affects claims.

Choose Grigoras Law

The team at Grigoras Law understands the complex web of laws governing marine accidents. We use this knowledge to provide comprehensive support to our clients, helping them navigate the intricacies of marine accident litigation. Whether you’re seeking damages as an injured party, a vessel owner, a dependant of an injured or deceased person, or if you’re defending against such claims, you can trust us to protect your interests and pursue the best possible outcome for your case.  


Disclaimer: The answers provided in this FAQ section are general in nature and should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. Each individual case is unique, and a separate analysis is required to address specific context and fact situations. For comprehensive guidance tailored to your situation, we welcome you to contact our expert team.

The causes of boating accidents are multifaceted and can range from operator inattention and negligence, to unforeseeable natural phenomena or mechanical failures. Operator inattention, in particular, can indeed be a major cause. Under maritime law, negligence broadly encompasses an owner’s or operator’s failure to abide by common law standards or statutory requirements relating to the operation or equipment of the vessel. In such cases, the failure to exercise due care and caution could result in a boating accident.

However, attributing a boating accident solely to operator inattention and establishing legal negligence involves a complex process. In the Canadian legal context, both the superior courts and the Federal Court of Canada oversee maritime law matters. This jurisdiction encompasses cases based on negligence, especially those emerging from collisions or other incidents involving vessels on inland waters.

When a claim is raised based on negligence, several facets are examined. The claimant must prove that the operator failed to exercise reasonable care, which directly led to the accident. The operator’s actions are evaluated against the legal standard of how a “reasonably prudent person” would have acted under similar circumstances. In addition to this, the claimant should be able to demonstrate that they suffered harm as a direct result of this failure.

On the other hand, defence strategies against negligence claims often revolve around the concepts of contributory negligence and apportionment of liability. Contributory negligence pertains to instances where the claimant’s own negligence played a part in causing the accident. This might reduce the amount of compensation recoverable, but it does not entirely negate the possibility of claiming damages.

Defence strategies may also invoke the argument of ‘inevitable accidents.’ This involves demonstrating that despite exercising the necessary degree of care, competence, and adherence to maritime safety standards, the accident could not have been averted. This applies to situations influenced by unforeseen natural phenomena such as sudden changes in tides or winds, unexpected mechanical or engine failures, or unavoidable collisions with stationary objects.

Another defensive approach could involve the principle of novus actus interveniens, or an intervening act. This requires proof that the accident was a direct result of a subsequent action by the claimant, which contributed to or caused the damage.

Liability in maritime accidents can also be limited according to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976. This international agreement typically applies to shipowners, salvors, insurers, and anyone against whom a claim is made, as long as the claim is attributable to the act, neglect, or default of the shipowner or salvor.

Understanding the tonnage and units of account for limitation of liability is another important aspect, as the liability limit varies based on the size of the ship. This knowledge is crucial in providing comprehensive legal support in the complex field of maritime negligence law.

While operator inattention can certainly cause boating accidents, proving negligence in maritime law is an intricate process. A comprehensive understanding of the law and skilled representation is vital for individuals embroiled in these complex legal proceedings.

Yes, as a dependent, you are entitled to initiate a claim if your spouse or child is injured or killed in a boating accident. The legal recourse is largely informed by the Marine Liability Act, along with common law principles.

In the context of maritime accidents, a “dependent” is legally defined as someone who relies on another for financial or other forms of support. This can include spouses, children, and other close relations such as cohabitees, siblings, parents, and even grandchildren.

Upon establishing dependency and demonstrating a loss that results from the injury or death of the person upon whom they were dependent, these individuals can bring forth a claim under Canadian maritime law or other laws of Canada that deal with navigation and shipping. The demonstrated loss can be financial, emotional, or related to care or companionship.

The law allows for the damages awarded to dependents to be apportioned. If there are multiple dependents involved, each dependent’s compensation will be determined based on the individual loss they suffered due to the injury or death. The damages can include amounts that compensate for the loss of guidance, care, and companionship, which the dependent could have reasonably expected to receive from the injured or deceased person. Furthermore, the law permits the inclusion of any amount that a public authority may be subrogated to pay as a result of the injury or death.

However, it’s important to note that the law has specific limitations and restrictions regarding these claims. One key limitation is that any action to benefit dependents must be initiated no later than two years from the date of the incident causing the injury or death. Moreover, while dependents can receive compensation for tangible losses and non-tangible aspects like companionship, the law typically excludes certain types of damages from being awarded to dependents. This exclusion typically involves punitive, exemplary, or aggravated damages, as well as future premiums payable under a contract of insurance, or any amount paid or payable on the death of the deceased person.

There are other intricate aspects of these laws that can come into play. For instance, in some cases, the person who is alleged to be at fault might choose to pay an amount into the court as a lump sum compensation for all persons entitled to damages, without specifying the shares of each dependent. This is one of many examples of how complex the laws around marine accident liability can be, making it crucial for dependents to consult with a knowledgeable legal counsel for guidance through the process.

While you can make a claim if your spouse or child is injured in a boating accident, navigating these matters can be complex and requires a deep understanding of the Marine Liability Act and other applicable maritime laws. We recommend seeking experienced legal advice to ensure all potential avenues for recourse are explored, and your rights are fully protected.

Yes, it is possible for you to initiate a claim if your dock was damaged by a boater, but the success of the claim can depend on a multitude of factors and relevant legal stipulations.

When a ship causes damage to a harbour, dock, or canal facilities, the shipowner may be held liable, especially in instances where their vessel collides with a stationary object or structure due to negligence. However, in situations where the collision occurred due to uncontrollable external conditions such as strong winds, the deciding factor is whether the shipowner exercised reasonable care to prevent predictable damage.

The validity of the claim can also be influenced by any pre-existing agreements or contracts between the concerned parties. These may regulate the liability of the shipowner and other parties involved, and adjust how damages are awarded.

An important aspect that is considered during such claims is the condition of the property prior to the damage. If your dock was already in a deteriorated or weakened state before the incident, it might impact the compensation awarded. Factors such as betterment and obsolescence are taken into account to assess how the damage has affected the overall value or functionality of the property.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that the owners and operators of harbours, docks, and canals also have certain responsibilities. They are required to maintain their premises in a safe condition for vessels, providing safe berth and passage, and issuing warnings of any potential hazards. If they fail to meet these obligations, it could influence the outcome of your claim.

However, liability is limited in cases of natural obstructions within the harbour. If an obstruction presents a danger, appropriate notification should be issued, and a reasonable time must be allowed for the removal of the obstruction.

When it comes to calculating the liability of a dock, canal, or port owner, it is limited to the greater of $2,000,000 or an amount calculated by multiplying $1,000 by the number of tons of the gross tonnage of the largest ship that was within the area of the dock, canal, or port at the time of loss or had been within the past five years.

It’s important to understand that the term “owner” here extends to any person or authority controlling or managing the dock, canal, or port, including any ship repairer using the facilities. This limitation does not apply if it can be proven that the loss resulted from an intentional or reckless act or omission committed with the knowledge that loss would probably occur.

Ultimately, while it is possible to make a claim if your dock was damaged by a boater, the claim’s success and the amount of potential compensation depend on several variables. Therefore, it would be advisable to consult with an attorney to guide you through the process and to ensure that your rights are effectively represented.

According to Canadian law, not everyone can operate a pleasure craft for recreational purposes. There are specific requirements of competency and age restrictions to consider.

  1. Competency Requirements:

    • For Canadian waters (excluding Northwest Territories and Nunavut), a person operating a pleasure craft fitted with a motor must be competent to operate it and carry proof of competency on board.

    • A person is considered competent if they have scored at least 75% on a boating safety test that complies with the regulations and been issued a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Alternatively, they may be considered competent if they completed a recreational boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999 and carry a Boating Safety Course Completion Card or other written proof of that completion.

    • For rented pleasure crafts, a person is deemed competent if they meet the above requirements or if they, along with the rental agency or representative, complete and sign a rental boat safety checklist containing prescribed information before operating the pleasure craft. This competency is valid only during the rental period.

    • A non-resident of Canada can operate a pleasure craft if they possess a certificate or other similar document fulfilling the requirements of their home state or country, even if they don’t meet the competency requirements for a resident of Canada.

  2. Age Restrictions:

    • Age restrictions apply for operating a pleasure craft in Canadian waters, except in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

    • For personal watercraft (water-jet driven vessels with an enclosed hull and no cockpit), no one under 16 years of age is permitted to operate, nor should anyone allow a person under 16 years to operate such a vessel.

    • For pleasure crafts other than personal watercrafts and propelled by a motor with an engine power greater than 7.5 kW, no person under 12 years of age should operate, nor should anyone allow a person under 12 years to operate. This rule is subject to an exception if the minor is accompanied and directly supervised by a person who is 16 years of age or older.

    • For pleasure crafts other than personal watercrafts and propelled by a motor with an engine power greater than 30 kW, no person under 16 years of age should operate, nor should anyone allow a person under 16 years to operate. Here too, the minor may operate the craft if accompanied and directly supervised by a person who is 16 years of age or older.

  3. Collision Regulations:

    • The Collision Regulations apply to every pleasure craft in Canadian waters.

    • The owner, charterer, operator, and person in charge of a pleasure craft must ensure that all the requirements of the Regulations and Rules are met.

Please note that these rules are subject to change and should be verified from an authoritative source before embarking on any pleasure craft operation.

Operating a boat, like any other vehicle, has specific rules and regulations that one must follow. These rules derive from the common law and statute law, including the Collision Regulations and the Small Vessel Regulations pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The Criminal Code also includes provisions relevant to vessel operation (i.e., see Section V.8 (“Criminal Operation of a Conveyance”)).

1. Common Law:

Under common law, the owner of a boat is responsible for maintaining the vessel in a seaworthy condition, appropriately equipped, and allowing it to be operated only by competent individuals with ordinary requisite skills. The operator must exercise reasonable care and possess reasonable skill typically found in a competent seaman. Factors such as “custom” and “usual practice” also form part of the navigational rules.

2. Statutory Law:

Statutory law introduces formal regulations for boat operation. These include:

a. The Collision Regulations:

The Collision Regulations govern the traffic behaviour and patterns to reduce the likelihood of collisions at sea. These regulations dictate responsibilities between vessels underway and define obligations when vessels meet head-on, cross, or overtake each other when visible to one another and when in restricted visibility. The Regulations originate from the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, with Canadian modifications incorporated.

The Collision Regulations apply to:

  • Every Canadian Ocean Data Acquisition System (ODAS) and Canadian vessel in any waters;

  • Every pleasure craft, foreign ODAS, and foreign vessel located in Canadian waters; and

  • Every seaplane on or over Canadian waters.

However, these regulations don’t apply to vessels or aircraft belonging to the Canadian Forces or foreign military forces or any other vessel under the command, control, or direction of the Canadian Forces.

In situations where a specific Rule doesn’t cover an event, it may be subject to a widely known and followed custom or usual practice in the area.

b. Notices to Mariners and to Shipping:

Boat operators should navigate with caution where navigation may be difficult or hazardous and comply with any instructions or directions contained in Notices to Mariners or Notices to Shipping. These are typically issued under circumstances such as unusual maritime conditions, marine or engineering works, vessel or navigation aid casualties, or changes to hydrographic information.

c. Compliance:

Certain individuals must ensure the applicable requirements of the Regulations and Rules are met:

  • The authorized representative of a vessel and the master of a Canadian vessel;

  • The owner, charterer, and operator of a pleasure craft or seaplane and the person in charge of a pleasure craft or seaplane; or

  • The owner of an Ocean Data Acquisition System.

Please refer to the Small Commercial Vessel Safety Guide for a comprehensive understanding of all rules and regulations governing marine navigation and safety. 

If a vessel is involved in an accident, there are several duties and procedures that those in charge must adhere to. These actions are guided by maritime law and are meant to ensure the safety of all parties involved and the accuracy of information related to the incident.

Firstly, any person operating a vessel involved in an accident has the responsibility to stop the vessel unless they have a valid reason not to. This person must provide their name and address to other parties involved. If anyone is injured or appears to require assistance, the operator is obligated to offer help. This is a legal obligation, and failure to do so can be considered an offence.

In a scenario where two vessels collide, the person in charge of each vessel (usually referred to as the master) has further responsibilities. Without endangering their vessel, crew, or passengers, they must:

  1. Provide necessary assistance to the other vessel, its master, crew, and passengers to save them from any danger caused by the collision. The person in charge should remain with the other vessel until they can ascertain that no further assistance is needed.

  2. Provide their vessel’s name and the name and address of the vessel’s authorized representative (if any), and any other information as prescribed by law to the person in charge of the other vessel.

In terms of reporting the accident, any person responsible for the vessel (master, certificated officer, operator, crew member, or pilot) involved in a shipping casualty, an accident, or a dangerous occurrence must make a preliminary report about the incident as soon as possible. This responsibility applies to both a ship and a vessel being towed by a ship.

Additionally, a detailed written report of the incident must be made within 24 hours, or as soon as possible thereafter. This report should contain all the details about the accident, the actions taken after the accident, and any other relevant information.

Failure to comply with these duties and responsibilities could lead to severe legal consequences, as they are crucial in ensuring the safety of all individuals involved, facilitating accurate documentation of maritime accidents, and fostering responsibility and accountability in marine operations.

In maritime navigation, the term “restricted visibility” refers to any condition where visibility is curtailed due to fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms, or other similar causes. Limited visibility requires vessel operators to adhere to specific navigation rules (set out in Schedule 1 of the Collision Regulations), especially when vessels are not within sight of each other.

Here are the procedures to follow when visibility is restricted:

  1. Safe Speed and Preparedness: In restricted visibility, every vessel should maintain a safe speed that is commensurate with the prevailing circumstances and conditions. A safe speed allows adequate time to take evasive action and stop within a distance appropriate to the visibility conditions. Additionally, engines of power-driven vessels should be ready for immediate maneuver.

  2. Course Alteration: Before altering course, vessel operators must first ascertain the position of other vessels. An unauthorized or reckless course alteration without knowledge of the surrounding traffic can lead to accidents and is considered a breach of the Rule.

  3. Proper Radar Look-out: In conditions of restricted visibility, maintaining a proper radar look-out is crucial. A failure to do so can result in liability. However, the use of radar does not replace the vessel’s other duties under the Rules. If a vessel is detected by radar alone, operators should assess whether a close-quarters situation or risk of collision exists. If such a risk is identified, avoiding action should be taken in ample time.

    When altering course as a part of avoiding action, the following should be avoided:

    • Altering course to port for a vessel forward of the beam, other than for a vessel being overtaken.

    • Altering course towards a vessel abeam or abaft the beam.

  4. Fog, Fog Signals, and Close-quarters Situations: Fog is a common cause of collisions in restricted visibility in Canada. The basic rule is that an appropriate speed in fog allows a vessel to stop within the limits of observation. If a vessel hears the fog signal of another vessel forward of her beam, or if avoiding a close-quarters situation with another vessel forward of her beam is not possible, the vessel should reduce her speed to the minimum that allows her to maintain her course. If necessary, a vessel should take all her way off and navigate with extreme caution until the danger of collision is over.

In summary, vessel operators should proceed with utmost care in conditions of limited visibility, always prepared to adjust speed and course as necessary and maintaining a vigilant watch with all available means, including radar. The overlying principle in all cases is safety and prevention of collision.

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