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Old 08-02-2005, 03:00 AM   #1
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Default Legal liability a boat owner takes on with a crew.

Does anyone know the legal liability a boat owner takes on bringing aboard an unpaid crew in the United States? What happens if they get sick or hurt? Is the boat owner legally responsible? Is there a legal form that should be filled out to prevent liability claims. If there is can you show us a copy of it?
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Old 08-02-2005, 05:05 AM   #2
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There is no TOTAL international answer to your question - laws vary from country to country and even state to state. I would suggest that you contact your insurance broker who would probably best be able to give you the answers you need.


Make sure that you have adequate liability cover and that it covers crew (unpaid crew).


Make your crew sign a waiver/indemnity covering at least the following:
  • They acknowledge that they are participating in a sport/activity that involves personal risk and can result in injury or even death and that the owner and/or skipper will not be held responsible for any reason whatsoever.
  • Acknowledge that there is no financial transaction or fees due between crew/vessel OR vessel/crew - that the crew berth is UNPAID.
  • The crew (or his suitably qualified agents) has inspected the vessel AND qualifications of the skipper and any other crew and, as a result, personally accepts the risk of "travel" on the vessel.

You should also have crew sign and accept that they will pay their own repatriation costs should they leave the vessel for ANY reason whatsoever.

<font color="red">N.B.</font id="red"> The above is just a simple suggestion/guide from a layman. Consult a broker and/or laywer.

Beware of any money changing hands along the way (remember - unpaid crew). If you have a "contribution" arrangement, split the bill at the cash register.

If the crewmember (unpaid) comes to you through an "agent" who has charged a "listing fee" or similar, a whole different set of laws apply - crew could claim from the "agent". Likewise, crew paying more than their share of food and living expenses become "paying guests/charter" and commercial law applies.

The above should not frighten you or any prospective crew from enjoying a fantastic experience. Be careful and enjoy the voyage!!

Fair winds.

P.S. Aso read the crew tips and advice at http://www.cruiser.co.za/crewfinder.asp for more thoughts on the whole issue.
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Old 11-13-2005, 02:34 AM   #3
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In our own experience of five years of cruising I was astounded at how FEW cruisers carry ANY insurance cover at all.

It comes as an absolute surprise to "recreation/pleasure boaters" that their activity (particularly offshore or in foreign waters) places them within the realm of "General Maritime Law" - SERIOUS stuff. Most think that this applies only to commercial shipping -WRONG!!

During our years offshore, we observed that there were a few catagories of cruisers and the two main one's were:

1) Those, mostly retired or of good means to support and fund their voyages and lifestyle, who had well-found, well maintained, comprehensively insured vessels.

2) Those who had everything they owned in their vessel and were struggling to keep them afloat. To keep going they were working (illegally) on different islands and taking on "paying crew" to fund their various passages and lifestyle and UNINSURED.

I pass no judgement on either of the above as to their ability to safely sail or navigate from port to port.

What I do suggest is that you MUST discuss all aspects of your cruising/sailing intentions honestly with a GOOD marine insurance broker. My own advice is that you don't consider the wonderful cruising lifestyle without adequate insurance cover and certainly, don't take on crew if they're not covered. Do you drive your car without insurance cover?

Due to a number of "mishaps" it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain entry to good marinas without proof of insurance cover. You have to get into marinas at some stage for haulout and comprehensive maintenence.
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Old 11-13-2005, 06:05 AM   #4
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A lawyer friend once advised me that people cannot sign away their rights. You cannot make a person absolve you from liability from your misconduct or negligence. Our legal system does not allow that.

I do not think that "unpaid crew" absolves you from liability or responsibility. This is not a guest on board, nor a paying passenger (both of which would leave you liable for injury in case of an accident). The term "crew" implies some form of commerce: (s)he is paying you something (his/her labor) in return for something (room & board, transportation). Think about how the arrangement looks to a judge and jury and recognize that you can't escape liability.

I would recommend that you consult with both an attorney and insurance broker to protect yourself, and your unpaid crewmember.
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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