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What to Do If You Are Injured in a Boating Accident


Rescuers helping an injured boating accident victim If you are involved in a boating accident what is the first thing you must do? Boating accidents are more common than most people think. According to the American Boating Association, there were 4,168 recreational boating accidents in 2019, resulting in 2,559 injuries, 613 deaths and approximately $55 million in property damage. While a boating accident can be a traumatic experience, it is important to react appropriately to ensure that any injuries are promptly addressed and the victims’ legal rights are protected. There are certain things that boat owners should always do when injured in a boating accident.

Steps to Take After a Boating Accident

The first priority following any type of disaster is getting appropriate medical attention. Boat owners should first examine themselves for injuries, and if no serious injuries are discovered, assist others onboard. If anyone fell overboard during the accident, assist the person back onto the boat, if possible. Boaters should always have a first aid kit to help with more minor injuries.

Immediately following the accident, contact the Coast Guard to notify them that an accident has occurred, the location of the accident and whether medical assistance is needed. Victims may pursue a claim for damages after the boating accident. To increase the likeliness of a successful claim, follow these guidelines:

Start Documenting the Accident with Photos

Today, most people have a cell phone on hand at all times. If a boat owner does not carry a cell phone or prefers not to bring it on a boat, consider having an inexpensive prepaid phone that is stored on the boat or a digital camera.

Ideally, photos should be taken directly after a boating accident to document where the accident occurred and the extent of the damage. Take photos of the entire boat and close-up pictures of any areas that received damage. Also take photos of any other vessels or property involved in the accident.

Gather Information from Those Involved

Processing documents containing boat accident reportsAfter snapping some photos of the accident scene, begin the process of gathering paramount information from any other people involved. This includes the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the boat operators, as well as any passengers aboard during the time of the crash.

If possible, obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who witnessed the accident from another vessel or from shore. Write down the identification number or registration number of any other vessels involved in the accident. Also ask for the insurance company name and policy numbers of those involved in the accident.

Report the Accident to the Proper Authorities

Just like a car accident, a boating accident should always be reported to the proper authorities directly after it occurs. In addition to contacting local law enforcement, the boat owner should report the accident to the U.S. Coast Guard.
In certain cases, reporting a boating accident is required by federal law. A boating accident report must be filed if:

  • A person is killed during the accident.
  • Someone is seriously injured and in need of medical care beyond first aid.
  • There is damage to the vessel or property that equals or exceeds $2,000.
  • The vessel is destroyed or a complete loss.
  • A person disappears from the vessel due to a possible injury or death.

Reach Out to Your Insurance Provider

Closeup of a hand reaching out hand. Insurance provider should be contacted within 24 hours of the boating accidentIn addition to contacting the Coast Guard, a boat owner and operator will also want to reach out to their insurance provider. Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, it is important to speak with the insurer as the boat owner may need to make a claim for damages in the future.

Ideally, the insurance provider should be contacted within 24 hours of the boating accident when the details of the accident are still fresh. Also, be sure to get a copy of the accident report and keep it in a safe place.

Seek Legal Counsel from a Personal Injury Attorney

If the other boat operator was careless, negligent or broke the law in a way that caused or contributed to the boating accident, legal action may be taken by the victim. A victim of a boating accident may be entitled to certain compensation, such as the payment of medical bills and compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, pain and suffering and wrongful death.

If an injury or death occurred during a boating accident, the victim should immediately seek legal counsel from a personal injury attorney with experience in boating laws and regulations.

Speak to the Experienced Personal Injury Law Firm

Injuries are fairly common after a boating accident due to the nature of the incident. It is important to always speak with an experienced personal injury attorney soon after a boating accident occurs to obtain legal advice. For more information about what to do when injured in a boating accident or to speak with a personal injury law firm, contact Parnall and Adams Law today.

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Articles published by Parnall & Adams Law are purely for educational purposes and provides generalized information of the topic(s) covered. These articles should not be considered as legal advice.

Please contact the personal injury attorneys at Parnall & Adams Law for more information regarding your case.