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Law Offices of Preston Easley
 Maritime Accident Attorneys • Serving California & Hawaii

Experienced Trial Lawyers for Maritime Injuries and Accident Claims Involving:


• Passengers

• Seamen

• Longshoremen

Hawaii Motorboat Laws And Accidents

Perhaps because motorboats are vastly less numerous than cars, many people mistakenly assume that motorboats are somehow “safer” and less likely to be involved in accidents. The fact is, though, that hundreds of people are killed in motorboat accidents every year, not only these ship’s operators, but also recreational swimmers, fishermen, and other residents and tourists enjoying these states’ ample marine attractions.

Lax Requirements For Motorboat Operators

As you can imagine, given the extensive waterways and coastlines in Hawaii, there are some very specific regulations concerning the operation of motorboats.  Hawaii’s regulations concerning motorboats are very similar to those of California, with a couple of important exceptions. The age limits in Hawaii are lax:  there’s no minimum age requirement to pilot a boat, though the operators of “thrill crafts” must be at least 15 years old. The state of Hawaii defines “thrill crafts” as vessels less than 13 feet long and capable of exceeding 20 miles per hour, which includes many motorboats and jet skis. Hawaiian law  requires that the operators of thrill crafts complete a state-accredited safety course before taking to the water.

In addition to state regulations, local restriction and regulations are in place for the following areas: Waikiki ocean waters, Makapuu ocean waters, Kealakekua Bay ocean waters, Kailua Beach ocean waters, Ahihi-Kinau ocean waters, Pokai Bay ocean waters, Ala Moana Beach Park ocean waters, Manele-Hulopoe marine life conservation district, and Kaanapali ocean waters.  And DUI laws are identical to those on the mainland, with a blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent.

Boat Rental Company Liability

All boat rental companies (“liveries”) in Hawaii bear the responsibility for ensuring required equipment is provided to renters before a boat departs.  Specifically:

“Neither the owner of a boat livery nor the owner’s agent or employees may permit any hired vessel to depart from the owner’s premises unless it is provided, either by the owner or renter, with the safety equipment required by federal and state law.”

Boating Licenses Are Not Required

Hawaii does not require, nor issues licenses to motorboat owners or operators, nor are they required to carry boating insurance, although the vessel does have to be registered each year, with prominently displayed stickers showing the registration number.

The following vessels do not require annual registration in Hawaii:

  • Documented vessels;
  • Lifeboats used strictly for that purpose;
  • Recreational vessels that are manually propelled;
  • Recreational vessels eight feet long or less that are propelled only by sail;
  • Motorboats used only for racing; and
  • Vessels owned by the U.S. government.

In lieu of licenses or other means of regulation, the state of Hawaii offers various boating safety classes.

There are no published statistics on how many Hawaiian motorboaters take advantage of boating safety classes unless it has been ordered to by a judge after a serious accident or infraction.  (It should be noted that Hawaii does require mandatory boating safety education for all operators of Personal Watercrafts (PWCs), this includes both residents and non-residents.)

The Right To Sue For A Boating Accident

As a general rule in Hawaii, the drivers of motorboats, their passengers, and any bathers or fishermen in the immediate vicinity are subject to the same liabilities, and opportunities to recover damages, as their car-driving counterparts on the mainland. If you are an innocent bather or recreational boater who has been injured by a recklessly driven motorboat, you can sue the owner and/or operator of the boat for damages, and if you’re a driver or passenger who has been involved in an accident caused by a defective motorboat, you can potentially sue the manufacturer. The motorboat’s operator can also sue recklessly behaving passengers, or other boaters whose negligence directly precipitates the accident.

Honolulu, Hawaii Motorboat Accident Claims and Wrongful Death Attorneys

Hawaii maritime law concerning minors—and the high percentage of motorboat accidents caused by inebriation—it should be no surprise that many motorboat mishaps in this state involve some combination of underage drivers and excessive alcohol. If you have been injured by a motorboat piloted by an inappropriately supervised minor, you may be entitled to sue the parents (or the boat’s owner) for damages, and if the driver of the motorboat (whether a minor or an adult) was inebriated, you may have recourse to recover damages from the restaurant, bar or liquor store that provided the alcohol. Only an experienced maritime lawyer can tell you for sure — email or call us today to discuss your case for free.

Law Offices of Preston Easley
2500 Via Cabrillo Marina
Suite 106
San Pedro, California 90731

Phone:  (310) 832-5315
FAX:  (310) 832-7730

San Diego, CA (619) 699-4884
Ventura, CA (805) 289-1551
Honolulu, HI (808) 922-2383

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Motorboat Laws In Hawaii

Under Hawaiian law, SL 12. Reckless and Careless Operation:

It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a careless or heedless manner so as to be grossly indifferent to the person or property of other persons, or at a rate of speed greater than will permit that person in the exercise of reasonable care to bring the vessel to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.

It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Riding on bow or gunwales of vessels 26 feet in length or under is prohibited unless proper railings are installed to prevent falling overboard.

SL 9. Boating Accidents

If a boat is involved in an accident, the operator must give necessary assistance to the other vessel and passengers, as long as it will not personally endanger the operator, his or her passengers, crew or the vessel. The operator must also give his or her name, address, and the identifying number of his or her vessel to anyone injured in the accident and to the owner of any damaged property.

In Hawaii, a boating accident is defined as:

• The death of a person;

• The loss of consciousness by any person, the receipt of medical treatment by any person, or the incapacity of any person for more than 24 hours;

• Damage to the vessel and other property totaling more than $200; or

• The disappearance of a person from the vessel under circumstances that indicate possible death or injury.

In cases of disappearance or loss of life, the operator of the vessel must submit within 48 hours of the incident, and within 7 days of every other accident, a written report to the Department of Land and Natural Resources on forms furnished by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaii State Boating Laws (.pdf)