A boating accident is usually a frightening experience, and it can be difficult to know what to do or how to respond. Knowing the steps to take after a boating accident could help you save someone’s life, as well as helping you protect your legal rights. The laws in South Carolina allow boat accident victims to pursue a claim for money damages, but it is up to the victim to protect those legal rights.
Our South Carolina injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm can help you to pursue a claim and advise you on every step that you should take to obtain compensation, but there are things you should do immediately after an accident happens to protect yourself both medically and legally.
What to Do After a Boating Accident
The first thing you should do if you are involved in a boating accident is to stop the vessel immediately and determine whether you or anyone else need medical attention.
If anyone has fallen overboard, then you should assist the victim back onto the boat when possible. If the vessel has broken apart or is sinking, then climbing on floating debris and signaling for help is advised. You should have a life jacket on or accessible at all times to help you to stay afloat in the event of a boating accident. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that 70 percent of boating accident fatalities result from drowning.
Provided that everyone is still on the boat, the priority should be keeping the boat out of harm’s way while providing medical assistance to those on board. South Carolina requires boat operators move their vessel out of the path of oncoming vessels immediately, and then first aid should be provided to injured people. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately to let them know that an accident occurred, the location of the accident and what medical assistance may be necessary.
In addition to making sure everyone aboard the vessel is OK, you should also check to determine if anyone aboard other vessels involved need assistance. You should never leave the scene of a boating accident, especially if anyone is in need of medical help.
Even if you do not initially believe that you were injured in the accident, it is still a good idea to see your doctor following a boating accident. Sometimes the shock of being involved in a boat wreck can mask symptoms of a serious injury. So, you and your loved ones should error on the side of caution and seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Make sure you mention to the physician that you were involved in a boating accident, as they may want to run specific tests or perform certain procedures.
Gathering Information About the Boat Accident
Once ascertaining that everyone is OK and out of immediate danger after the boating accident, you will next need to obtain essential information from those on the other vessel as well as from any witnesses to the accident.
Information that you should gather at the accident scene includes, the:
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the boat operators involved in the accident.
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the passengers involved or aboard any of the vessels in the crash.
- Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have witnessed the accident from shore or from other vessels.
- Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident.
- Insurance company names and the insurance policy numbers of those who were involved in the accident.
You may wish to take photographs of the damage to the boat and the location where the accident occurred. Getting this evidence from the scene of the boating accident can be helpful if you later need to prove that the other boat operator was responsible for the accident.
Reporting the Boating Accident
Reporting a boating accident to the U.S. Coast Guard is a good idea because an accident report from the Coast Guard may be used to help shed light on how an accident occurred. In many cases, reporting the accident is also required by federal law.
Under the federal law, a boating accident report must be filed if:
- Someone is killed
- Someone is injured badly enough to need medical care beyond the most basic first aid
- There is damage to the vessels or to property that equals or exceeds $2,000
- There is a complete loss of a vessel or a vessel is destroyed
- Someone disappears from a vessel under circumstances that indicate an injury or death has occurred.
You may also be required to file a boating accident report with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources or other state agency responsible for regulating boating.
When providing the report, it is important that you offer accurate information, but you should not volunteer unnecessary information or speculate about the cause.
Even if you believe you caused the boating accident, you should not offer apologies or accept responsibility for the crash. Determining who caused the accident must be done by taking into account all of the facts, and you do not want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim. In fact, you should consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can assist you in making the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation.
Making Insurance or Injury Claims
After a boating accident, it is also important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved. You should notify your insurer, regardless of whether you or another boater was to blame, as you may need to turn to your insurer to make a claim for damages.
If the other boater was negligent, careless or broke the rules in a way that led to the boating accident, you may be able to take legal action for compensation. This could provide you with payment of medical bills, as well as compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and wrongful death.
To learn more about your rights after a boating accident or for help pursuing your damage claim, call Joye Law Firm or fill out our free online case evaluation form.