Boating injury compensation

Queenslanders love boating. Over 859,000 Queensland residents hold recreational boat licences and one in 19 own a registered vessel. However, being out on the water carries risks.

In 2015, boating incidents in Queensland resulted in 98 cases of injury and seven fatalities. The most common incidents involving boats are collisions between crafts, collisions with objects, capsizing and groundings. Accidents on the water are most commonly caused by driver inattention or negligence; excessive speed; reckless driving; alcohol or equipment failure.

If you have been injured or a family member has been killed in a boating accident, you may be eligible for compensation.

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Common boating accident injuries

Individuals involved in boating accidents might suffer a broad range of injuries ranging from minor to severe. Boating accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries including:

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) - Collision with another boat or object, striking the head on a hard surface or being thrown from a boat may result in the brain hitting the inside of the skull, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
  • Spinal cord injuries - Boat passengers are even more vulnerable than car passengers to spinal cord injuries when collisions occur, as restraints are often not worn. Complete paraplegia or quadriplegia may result if spinal injuries are significant.
  • Bone & Ligament injuries - Impacts with the boat, water or other objects can cause fractures, dislocations and other soft tissue injuries.
  • Death - Drowning presents a serious risk of death, especially to individuals who are already injured. Serious head, spinal or crush injuries or substantial blood loss may also result in death if medical attention cannot be reached in time.

Can I get compensation for boating injuries?

You may be able to claim compensation for injuries you sustain while boating if those injuries are caused by someone else’s negligence. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.

Boating accident at work?

If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:

  • providing safe systems of work;
  • maintaining safe plant, machinery and equipment;
  • maintaining a safe workplace; and
  • providing employees with adequate facilities, training, supervision and instruction.

All vessels used for commercial activities are classified as commercial vessels and must be operated by commercially qualified masters, engineers and crew. The Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Act 1994 requires all vessel owners and operators to ensure that their vessel is operated safely at all times. This requires the boat be safe, properly equipped and maintained. A safety management system must be kept on-board at all times. If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.

Note: Weekly WorkCover payments operate under a separate ‘no fault’ scheme, meaning that you can receive weekly payments to cover lost income even if your injury was not because of your employer’s negligence.
Examples: Jeff sustains severe crush injuries to his right leg when an engine malfunctions causing the boat to suddenly lurch toward the adjacent pier while docking. The engine malfunction was known to his employer but not repaired. Jeff can most likely claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries. Rick is an instructor who works for a diving company. Rick is moving around the dive boat while it is in motion in rough seas when he falls, fracturing his arm. Rick’s employer maintains the boat well and was handling the boat as best he could in the rough sea conditions. Rick is unlikely to succeed in claiming compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.

See also: WorkCover Claims

Collisions with other recreational boats

If you are injured in a boating accident because of the negligent actions of another boat driver or owner you may be able to claim compensation. Unlike road accidents however, there is generally no insurance available to cover the person being sued. Therefore, although you may have a right to sue someone for compensation, they may not have enough money to pay your claim.

Examples: Jeff is slowly steering his boat in through the channel markers late in the evening when another boat with no lights runs, at high speed, into the side of his boat. The driver of the other boat is intoxicated and driving recklessly. Jeff ends up sustaining severe back injuries as a result of being thrown out of his boat. Since the accident was not Jeff’s fault, he may be able to sue the other boat driver for personal injury compensation. However it is unlikely insurance will be available to ensure he receives the compensation he is entitled to. Rick and John are heading home in John’s boat one evening after a full day’s fishing. John is coasting along at a fair speed when he unexpectedly hits a submerged object, causing Rick to be thrown from the boat. Rick sustains a fractured collarbone. John was not driving the boat recklessly or at excessive speed. It is therefore unlikely that Rick will be able to claim compensation for his injuries. 

Injured on commercial recreational boat ride - can I claim compensation? 

A business that offers recreational activities such as boating, diving or fishing will be liable for injuries or loss you suffer, if it is caused by their negligence. This might happen where equipment is not properly maintained, staff are not well trained or inadequate supervision is provided.

If negligent, a recreational service provider may be liable to you:

  1. in negligence for breaching their duty of care;
  2. in contract for breaching an implied term to exercise due care and skill; and
  3. under statute for breaching consumer guarantees which require them to provide services with due care and skill and services that are fit for purpose.

Limitations on claiming compensation for recreational injuries

In Queensland there are statutory limitations on suing for personal injuries that arise out of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity. This may apply to certain water sports, depending on the circumstances.

In addition, recreational activity providers often require riders to sign a liability waiver that can limit their liability for personal injuries. However even where a disclaimer or waiver is enforceable, if your injury results from the activity provider failing to exercise reasonable care, such as by providing faulty equipment or not training their staff properly, you may have a right to sue.

If you have signed a liability waiver and are injured, its best to speak with a lawyer about your options. They can look at the specific circumstances and the waiver you signed and tell you whether or not you still have rights.

How will my compensation be determined?

In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.


The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the injury: more severe injuries will attract more compensation;
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time;
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury;
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater a impact from their injuries; and
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries.

What time limits apply to my claim?

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within three years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply which have their own time limits which must be acted upon much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to pursue your claim if you cannot provide sufficient reasons to the court as to why you delayed and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.

Strict time limits apply - seek legal advice ASAP - In most circumstances, the time limit to start a compensation claim is 3 years from the date of incident. Some processes need to be started much sooner. Seek expert legal advice ASAP. Call us on 1800 266 801 or start a live chat.


The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.

  • If your injuries were sustained at work: Statutory workers compensation claims in Queensland must be filed within six months from the date of the accident or the date you become aware of your injury. If you intend to sue your employer for negligence (otherwise known as a common law claim) you must request an assessment of permanent impairment from the workers’ compensation insurer within 2.5 years of the injury.
  • If your injuries are the subject of a public liability claim: If you are making a claim for personal injuries against an occupier, property owner or public authority, pre-court procedures require you to serve an official Notice of Claim on the party you believe to be at fault within nine months of the injury, or within one month of your consultation with a solicitor in relation to your claim, whichever is first.

If you are under 18 years of age

For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18.

In the case of medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within six years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.

What to do if you have suffered injuries in a boating accident

Depending on the nature of your injuries and the circumstances of the accident, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.

Next steps - get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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