While operating a boat, you likely are not worrying about the “what if’s” and the possibility of a boating accident. However, boat operators are responsible for the safety of passengers. Corresponding responsibilities include operating your boat in a safe manner, keeping proper lookout, and maintaining safe speed.
With over 916,266 registered vessels, it is no surprise that Florida is the leading state in boating accidents. In 2019, nearly 20% of all boating accidents in the United States occurred in Florida. Here are some steps you need to take after a boating accident.
1. Check Boat and Determine Integrity and Safety of Passengers
If you are involved in a boating accident, the first thing you need to do is assess the boat’s integrity and the safety of passengers. Have everyone onboard put on a life jacket. Ensure the boat remains a safe environment for everyone. For example, ensure that there is no leaking fuel, holes in the hull of the boat, or no sparking electrical wires exposed.
2. Assess and Treat Injuries and Document the Accident
Next, assess the situation and determine if anyone has sustained any injuries. If anyone fell overboard, get the victim(s) back onboard. Then determine if anyone needs medical attention.
After assessing the health and wellbeing of your crew and passengers and treating any injuries, document the accident and gather evidence. Photos are the best form of documentation.
Specifically, look to document whether there are other boats, and if so, if they are a safe distance from your boat. Then document the damages to the boat and any injuries. Other important information to gather includes the name, addresses, and telephone numbers of boat operators, passengers, and witnesses, and the registration of any other vessels involved. Also, consider asking the witnesses for contact information and/or statements.
This information is important for both the boat operator and the passengers for insurance purposes and in the event of a claim. Like in any personal injury accident, the passenger must prove that they were injured due to someone else’s negligence. Similarly, the boat operator must prove they were not at fault. This is why the above documentation is so important.
3. Report the Boating Accident
If you are the operator or owner of a boat involved in an accident, you must complete and file an official accident report with your state’s boating authority. This is usually the United States Coast Guard, although individual states like Florida may have additional requirements.
Under Florida and Federal law, a boating accident report is required if there is an injury beyond first aid, disappearance of a person in a way that indicates death or injury, if the accident results in death within twenty-four hours, or if there is more than $2,000 of damage to the vessel.
Federal Regulations require the operator or owner to report their accident to a reporting authority. The reporting authority is the state where the accident occurred, the state in which the vessel is numbered, or if the vessel does not have a number, the state where the vessel was principally used. The reporting agency must forward the report to the Coast Guard within 30 days of receipt. United States Coast Guard Form 2692 satisfies the Federal Regulations.
If Florida is the designated reporting authority, you can report the accident to any one of the following agencies:
- Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- The sheriff of the county within which the accident occurred; or
- The police chief of the municipality within which the accident occurred, if applicable. See Fla. Stat. Section 327.20(2).
In Florida, the operator must notify one of the listed agencies by the quickest means available. The United States Coast Guard’s time limit varies depending on the circumstances. If a person dies or disappears from a vessel, the operator must notify the nearest reporting authority by the quickest means available.
If an accident results in a death within twenty-four hours, injury requiring more than first aid, or disappearance of a person in a way that indicates death or injury the operator must report the accident in forty-eight hours.
If the accident causes more than $2,000 worth of property damage, there is complete loss of any vessel or a person dies more than 24 hours after the accident, then the operator must report the accident within ten days.
4. Notify Your Insurer
After reporting your accident, you should notify your insurer and be sure you get the insurance information from any other boat operators as well, if possible.
5. Speak to an Attorney
If you or a family member were involved in a boating accident as a passenger or operator, speaking to an attorney is important. Contact the experienced trial lawyers at Mase Mebane Seitz. Since 1997, our attorneys have recovered millions on behalf of injury victims and will work hard to get you the maximum compensation available in your case. Call (844) 627-3529 to discuss your case today.
Use the below checklist to minimize your chances of having a boating accident.
If you are in a boating accident, use Coast Guard form CG-3865 or CG-2692 to report the accident. Both forms comply with the Federal Regulations and can be sent to the State authority.