Boating accidents can be as minor as little fender-scuffs or they can be devastating vessel-sinking collisions that put every passenger in harm’s way. It all depends on the relative speeds and point of impact for both boats. Experiencing a boat accident can be surprising, devastating, and even tragic. But when one happens, the best thing you can do is know how to respond quickly and correctly.
Someone will need to keep their head in order to handle the situation and help others involved to deal with the disaster. If you are well enough to make decisions after a boat accident, it can help to know exactly the right steps to take. Let’s dive into the correct process for dealing with a boating accident both ethically and legally.
Rescue Everyone from the Water
According to the US coast guard, over 70% of boating accident fatalities are caused by drowning. If not rescued quickly, they may not have the strength, ability, or wherewithal to stay above water. The accident could become an even greater tragedy if someone was lost during the post-accident chaos.
This is why the first priority in any boating accident is to get everyone out of the water. If either vessel is still afloat, they must render aid to all survivors. Do your best to get everyone in life jackets or hanging onto a sturdily floating piece of debris. Do a headcount immediately to ensure that everyone has been found and rescued from drowning. Remember to include boat staff in your count as well.
Move the Vessels to Safety
In many boating accidents, the collision occurred in an aquatic thoroughfare where water vehicles pass frequently at high speeds. Just like pulling off the highway in a car, you will need to get your vessels out of the direct path of boat traffic. It’s best if the damaged vessels can dock to move on to the next steps. But floating in a low-traffic section of the water is often as much as damaged boats can manage.
Seek Medical Attention for All Involved
Every single person who was involved should go see their doctor and get inspected for signs of long-term damage. Injuries can appear overtime after an experience like the body-displacing whiplash caused by a boating accident.
For anyone overtly injured, call 911 and ask them to meet you at whatever dock you tied up after the accident. Then, for everyone who feels alright, be sure to visit the doctor and have a few tests in the week following the accident.
Do Not Apologize
No matter how rattled you feel or whether you think the accident might be your fault — Do Not Apologize. Saying a sympathetic “I’m so sorry” can be legally construed as accepting fault in the accident which can hurt your chances of a fair insurance claim. No one who has received legal advice will make the mistake of accidentally accepting blame. Keep yourself out of trouble by watching what you say carefully. Help everyone get medical attention, but do not apologize for the accident.
Trade Operator and Insurance Information
Liability is also an immediate concern. Each party should trade the names of their boat operators and their insurance data so the other can make a claim. The drivers will also be held liable but each case will determine whether the fault lies with a boat operator or the company that employs them.
Make sure to give your operator’s card and insurance information to the other boaters and get theirs in return.
Get Contact Info from Witnesses
Witnesses are incredibly useful in describing what they saw and determining who is truly at fault. If there were any witnesses of the accident, especially those that stuck around during the medical assistance, they should not be reached out to. Collect their names and contact info to get started and worry about using them as reference witnesses later.
In the meantime, just be friendly. Locals and vacationers who witness a boating accident are usually not shy about sharing what they saw from their perspective.
Photographs tend to be quite powerful in both insurance and civil court cases. Photographs taken immediately after the accident can also serve as proof and a confirmation of what happened after the evidence and gone and wounds have started to heal.
Report the Accident to Authorities
If anyone or any bot got seriously hurt, you’ll need to report the boat accident to the coast guard. You may also need to make a report to local authorities. You will need to submit a Recreational Boating Accident Report form if anyone was injured, killed, if a boat was lost, or if property damage equals $2,000 in value or more.
Consult a Boating Accident Lawyer
Once you have taken care of your duties to yourself and others to begin post-accident recovery, it’s time to reach out to a boating accident lawyer. If there are no great disputes, then a lawyer can help you get a fair assessment from the insurance companies who may be hesitant to pay your fair share. And if the accident was pointedly caused by another, a lawyer can help you build a strong civil case. Whether you’re filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit after your boating accident, the Freeman & Freeman team can help you. Contact us today for a consultation on your post-boating-accident needs.