6 Common Causes of Boat Fires: Who Can Be Held Liable?

Boat fires can be devastating, and as a boat owner, it’s important you take time to understand how boat fires can occur so you can take every precaution necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. However, that being said, that doesn’t mean that boat fires aren’t completely avoidable. If you do ever find yourself dealing with one, you’ll want to know who’s liable when it does happen.

To help make your life easier, today we’re going to go through the six main causes of boat fires, describing how it can happen so you can protect yourself, as well as explaining who’s liable in case it ever does happen.

  1. AC Electrical Components

Look at the devices you’re using on your boats, such as phone chargers, microwaves, and power inlets and ensure you’re only plugging in compatible devices and appliances that aren’t going to cause your boat to trip the fuse, or overheat and overwhelm the power circuitry of your boat; thus causing a fire.

2. Electrical Engine Fire

Nearly 20% of boat fire cases are caused because of engine electrical reasons, which is especially the case as boats get older. If you’re the owner of a vintage boat, or a boat over 25 years old and still has original engine parts, this could be incredibly unsafe since the standards are nowhere near what they are today. 

If this is the case, then you’ll be at fault if there’s a five, especially if you haven’t been maintaining the boat properly. If it’s a fault on a modern boat, then it could be the engine manufacturer who’s liable.

3. Battery Problems

With 8% of boat fires caused by battery problems, most notably the voltage regulator, you need to be aware of your battery, especially on older boats. If your boat is over 10 or 15 years old, make sure you’re checking and replacing this part of your boat regularly. You are liable for this level of maintenance.

4. Off-Boat Sources 

Around 26% of all boat fires happen due to off-boat sources, which is why we say it’s so difficult to completely protect yourself from them. You never know what’s going to be happening around your boat all the time. This could be a fire on a neighboring boat or harbour. If you’re keeping your boat at home, then the next-door neighbour fire could be the cause.

Around 70% of all boat fires happen because the marina is on fire. Who’s liable? Well, it depends on who or what causes the fire. If someone else’s boat is the cause, then they will be liable. If the marina is on fire because of criminal damage, the criminal is liable. You’ll need to wait and see how the perpetrator is.

If you find yourself dealing with an external fire, get yourself a maritime accident attorney to help manage your case and get the compensation you’re looking for and entitled too.

5. Cooling Water Fault

This problem typically affects the engine and is where the cooling water of the system gets interrupted basically anywhere along the way, which can then cause overheating which ultimately can lead to a fire. This should easily be resolved with maintenance, and therefore makes you liable for cleaning the filters and giving your engine time to cool down.

6. Assorted DC Electrical Faults

There are a lot of potential electrical faults that a boat can be subject to. This could be things like a loose connection on a wire or your battery, any faulty or chafed cables you may have, and old switches or fuses. Battery-related problems like this tend to be the main culprit, so when working on the battery, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking a picture of what everything looks like so you can put it back properly to minimize the risk of fire.


As you can see, there are lots of different reasons and causes potential boat fires and lots of people who could be liable. If you are subject to a boat fire, make sure you’re following the correct legal processes and investigations to figure out the truth to who caused the fire and who is liable for compensation.