Boating accidents are more common than you think, and they can often be just as deadly as a car accident. Whether it’s severe weather, poor navigation, bad judgment or a combination of all three, accidents on the open water can be frightening.
In California alone, there are about 1,000 boating accidents each year, and 50 of those accidents are fatal.
Most of us know what to do if we’re in a car accident, but what steps do you take when you’re in a boating accident?
1. Make Sure Everyone is Okay – Get Medical Attention if Necessary
The first and most important thing is to make sure that everyone is okay and to check whether anyone needs medical attention.
If the boat capsized and you’re close to land, you’ll want to get everyone to safety immediately. Everyone should be wearing life jackets. The U.S. Coast Guard says 70% of boating accident fatalities are caused by drowning.
If someone has fallen overboard and the boat is still afloat, help them get back on the vessel.
Do not leave the scene of the accident, especially if someone needs medical attention.
Even if you don’t think you were injured, you should consider seeing a doctor anyway. Some injuries take a few days to appear.
2. Talk to Witnesses
Once you’re sure that everyone is okay, you can begin gathering information about the accident and talking to witnesses. You will also need information from the people on the other vessel.
Here’s the information you’ll need:
- Contact information of the people aboard your vessel.
- Contact information of the people aboard the other vessel.
- Contact information of witnesses at the scene of the accident.
- Insurance policy information of all people involved in the accident.
- Registration numbers of all vessels involved in the accident.
Having this information will make it easier to file a claim with insurance.
3. Report the Accident to the U.S. Coast Guard
Next, you’ll want to report the accident to the U.S. Coast Guard. Failure to report the accident is illegal in most cases.
Federal law dictates that a boating accident must be reported if:
- The damage to the vessels or property exceeds $2,000.
- Someone is injured badly enough to require medical attention.
- Someone is killed in the incident.
- Someone disappears from the vessel, and is assumed that the person is injured or killed.
- A vessel is destroyed or there is a complete loss of a vessel.
When making a report about the accident, be prepared to give an accurate account of the incident. Do not place blame on the other vessel operator and do not take the blame for the accident.
4. Contact a Lawyer and File a Claim
The next step is to contact a lawyer, and file a claim with the insurance company. If there are injuries, a lawyer can help you pursue compensation for your medical care as well as lost wages and other damages.
If the other party was negligent in any way and that negligence caused the accident, he or she may be held liable for the incident.