Often times after a hurricane or strong ‘Noreaster, many boaters strike unmarked vessels wrecked in the storm. Often times, these collisions cause personal injuries to the passengers and guests onboard the moving boat. The question often becomes, who is responsible? There are 3 possible answers.
The obvious first answer is the person who owned the wrecked vessel. The Federal Wreck Removal Statute requires an owner to mark the wrecked vessel immediately and maintain the mark until the wreck is removed. This is a non-delegable duty, meaning if the owner hires someone to mark the vessel and they didn’t, the owner is still liable for any injuries resulting from the failure to mark the wreck. The Federal Wreck Removal Statute also requires the owner to immediately begin removal operations. Should the owner fail to commence removal operations, a person injured by the wrecked vessel may bring a claim against the vessel owner for damages. Like the requirement to mark the sunken vessel, the duty to remove it is also non-delegable.