California Harbors And Navigation Code Section 656
(a) It is the duty of the operator of a vessel involved in a
collision, accident, or other casualty, so far as the operator can do
so without serious danger to his or her own vessel, crew, and
passengers, to render to other persons affected by the collision,
accident, or other casualty such assistance as may be practicable
and as may be necessary in order to save them from, or minimize any,
danger caused by the collision, accident, or other casualty.
(b) Any person who complies with subdivision (a) or Section 656.1,
656.2, or 656.3 or who gratuitously and in good faith renders
assistance at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other
casualty without objection by any person assisted, shall not be held
liable for any civil damages sought as a result of the rendering of
assistance or for any act or omission in providing or arranging
salvage, towage, medical treatment, or other assistance, where the
assisting person has acted as an ordinary, reasonably prudent person
would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
(c) (1) An individual employee of a public entity engaged in
rescue pursuant to this code shall not be a proper party defendant
and shall be dismissed on motion, unless the employee has violated a
statute other than a statute creating a general obligation to rescue
or is guilty of oppression, fraud, malice, or the conscious disregard
of the safety of others.
(2) The public entity employing such an individual shall be liable
in civil damages where the individual employee has failed to act as
a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or
(3) Where a public entity has given a reasonable printed,
electronic, or verbal warning of the danger causing the distress
which created the necessity for the rescue, and there has been a
reasonable opportunity for the party in distress to receive the
warning, the public entity shall be liable only for acts or omissions
of its employee which were taken in a grossly negligent manner.
(d) The owner, operator, or other person on board a vessel
involved in a casualty or accident shall report the casualty or
accident in accordance with regulations adopted by the department.
The department shall adopt regulations to maintain a uniform casualty
and accident reporting system for vessels subject to this code in
conformity with federal casualty and accident reporting regulations
promulgated by the United States Coast Guard or any successor
thereto. Consistent with Public Law 92-75 and the federal
regulations contained in Part 173 of Title 33 of the Code of Federal
Regulations, a peace officer or harbor policeman, upon receiving an
initial report of a casualty involving the death or disappearance of
a person as a result of a boating accident, shall immediately forward
the report, by quickest means available, to the department.
(e) Neither the report required by this section nor any action
taken by the department with regard to the report shall be referred
to in any way, or be any evidence of negligence or due care of any
party, at the trial of any action at law to recover damages.
(f) All required accident reports, and supplemental reports, shall
be without prejudice to the individual so reporting and shall be for
the confidential use of the department and any peace officer
actually engaged in the enforcement of this chapter, except that the
department shall disclose the names and addresses of persons involved
in, or witnesses to, an accident, the registration numbers and
descriptions of vessels involved, and the date, time, and location of
an accident to any person who may have a proper interest therein,
including the operators involved or the legal guardian thereof, the
parent of a minor operator, the authorized representative of an
operator, or any person injured therein and the owners of vessels or
property damaged thereby.
(g) This section applies to foreign vessels, military or public
recreational-type vessels, vessels owned by a state or subdivision
thereof, and ship's lifeboats otherwise exempted from this chapter
pursuant to Section 650.1.