Who bears liability for damage to a rental boat?

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2012

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Who bears liability for damage to a rental boat?

I rented a pontoon boat for a day, and after using it and thinking everything was fine. The owner called and said I hit something and there was a hole in it. The presumption that I’m responsible for any and all damage while renting the boat seems logical to me only if I had been presented with an insurance waiver and accepted damage liability. Since I was not presented with (nor signed) anything, I assumed the boat was covered under their renters insurance. What are the presumptions in the law when there’s no contract?

Asked on June 29, 2012 under Business Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If someone negligently, or carelessly, damages another's property, he or she is liable for, even if you did not "accept" liability when renting. Where insurance comes into play is that the owner can only recover from you any amounts which are not reimbursed or paid for by insurance--typically, a deductible. Furthermore, if you refuse to pay, the owner would have to sue you to recover money--and in the lawsuit, would have to prove that you (and not some other renter or one of their staff) caused  the damage either negligently (carelessly) or intentionally.

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