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Towing a vessel in distress (legal question)

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Towing a vessel in distress (legal question)

Old 08-24-2015, 07:14 AM
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Default Towing a vessel in distress (legal question)

Where and what is the law on towing a vessel broken down or in distress? Looking for the actual (regulation,etc) law to determine which party has the responsibility. I've checked through a number of CG regulations but haven't found the law or regulation.
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:26 AM
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Some info here:

http://commettelaw.com/maritime-law-...awyer-florida/
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:39 AM
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I don't know which regulation or law would apply but my understanding is that my first responsibility is to my boat and passengers. I can tow them to a safe location or stand by until help arrives. I believe that any liability (damage or injury) from the tow would be covered under a "Good Samaritan" provision.

I've heard that you should use "their line" to tow with but I don't know the reason for that. In my experience most boats in distress rarely have an anchor, VHF, extra line or a clue!

My two cents :-)
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:49 AM
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Thanks guys really looking to see if their is a CG reg or maritime law on whom (tower or towee) is responsible when towing.
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:56 AM
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It's probably common law because it has nothing to do with government regulation. That really comes down to the private agreement/interaction between two parties. Therefore it's contract and tort law, but with admiralty doctrines applied. Contact and tort law is mostly common law.

I knew once how that worked but have since forgotten...
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Old 08-24-2015, 07:57 AM
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If you use your line it's your responsibility, if you use their line it's their responsibility
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by 805gregg View Post
If you use your line it's your responsibility, if you use their line it's their responsibility
I have heard that many times over the years but is that written anywhere or just a myth? I think there was a thread on here a while back where one boat was towing another, the towed boat swung out on a turn and hit another boat, I think it was determined that the towing vessel was at fault because the towed vessel was 'under the control' of the towing vessel.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:05 AM
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you dont have to tow anyone at any time and they dont have to tow you. you only need to help when there is no clear risk of putting yourself in danger. towing a boat implies putting your vessel at risk and you dont need to do that. The keyword is "Safely".
See:
46 U.S. Code § 2304 - Duty to provide assistance at sea
(a)
(1) A master or individual in charge of a vessel shall render assistance to any individual found at sea in danger of being lost, so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master’s or individual’s vessel or individuals on board.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:05 AM
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I would think the liable falls on the towing boat from the point the two boats are connected if the towing boat is for hire or being compensated. Otherwise, the Good Samaritan laws would protect towing boat and the liability of the entire event falls on the captain of the boat being towed.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by 805gregg View Post
If you use your line it's your responsibility, if you use their line it's their responsibility
there's always room for gross negligence. if you use their line and tow them in front of a freighter and they get run down Good Sam law or not I'd bet you're going to have a problem. Imminent peril can play a factor in it too. Did they run out of gas? Call sea tow and stay on station until help arrives. Do they have a hole in the bottom and are taking on water? Get passengers off that boat without risking your passengers or boat. Are they broken down in a high traffic area? Get them out of harms way without risking your vessels safety.

Common sense is a big factor. Unfortunately in the litigious society we live in a lot of people won't help.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:08 AM
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I am the Good Samaritan when I help someone in need. I never accept $ for my good deed.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by dpowell View Post
I don't know which regulation or law would apply but my understanding is that my first responsibility is to my boat and passengers. I can tow them to a safe location or stand by until help arrives. I believe that any liability (damage or injury) from the tow would be covered under a "Good Samaritan" provision.

I've heard that you should use "their line" to tow with but I don't know the reason for that. In my experience most boats in distress rarely have an anchor, VHF, extra line or a clue!

My two cents :-)
Funny you say that. I live about a 2min boat run from a ramp and to get out they have to come by my house. I'm amazed at how many people will have issues of rough running, motor cutting off, etc.... and keep heading out.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by alligatorgar View Post
I am the Good Samaritan when I help someone in need. I never accept $ for my good deed.

I refused payment for towing someone once and the wife said I was going to heaven. After casting off the husband threw money in my boat and refused to take it back.

Am I going to hell?

(It was a jetski so I used my own ropes, if that matters.)
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:30 AM
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Today with all the tow boats around you shouldn't need to tow anyone, rarely see boats being towed other then by seatow or towboatus.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:33 AM
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If you take a disabled vessel under tow, you are responsible for towing it safely. If it swings wide and bangs into something, it can come back on you. If the dude in the towed boat turns the rudder and it swings wide, then it is on him. If you are towing offshore and drag his bow into a back of a wave, then it's on you. I almost did that once.

Depends on the circumstances. I don't think "who's line" has any bearing.

But non lawyer here.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:36 AM
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This summer alone I've towed in 4 or 5 boats and giving away a few gallons of gas. Never gave it much thought and the boat ramp is only a few minutes from the house.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:40 AM
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This thread has gone somewhat awry but as bigjimmie said, it's a negligence question. Which law will apply? Well I guess admiralty law on the high seas, and state law on inland lakes. Whether you are being a good Samaritan or not, if you are negligent and someone gets hurt, you could get sued and you could be liable. If you are not negligent and someone gets hurt, since this is America you could still get sued, and have to hire a lawyer to defend.......and STILL be held liable (or not).

To quote the great philosopher Billy Joe Armstrong, "nice guys finish last."
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:48 AM
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Well...what happened?
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Old 08-24-2015, 10:28 AM
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I was once passed by a go fast boat, 20'or less off my beam. It was going 40++. Strange part, was right behind it was another speed boat.

I looked close, and the one was towing the other! You can't fix stupid!!
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Old 08-24-2015, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by marlinmike View Post
Today with all the tow boats around you shouldn't need to tow anyone, rarely see boats being towed other then by seatow or towboatus.

This and if there an issue your gratuitous deed will be held to the same standard as a professional tow boat operator.
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