boat accident

A boating accident is usually a frightening, completely unexpected experience, and it can be difficult to know what to do or how to respond. For instance, what steps should you take immediately after the accident, and when must you notify the authorities?

Knowing what actions to take after a boating accident could help save your life and protect your legal rights. Our boating accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm can advise you on how to pursue a claim and secure compensation.

Long-Term Impacts of Boating Accidents

Between 2010 and 2019, South Carolina boaters experienced 1,273 accidents and 188 fatalities. When a boating accident happens, it can leave victims with long-term physical and psychological consequences, including:

  • Chronic Pain: Victims often endure long-term pain from injuries like fractures or broken bones, requiring continuous treatment and pain management.
  • Mobility Impairments: Serious injuries, such as spinal damage, may result in lasting mobility issues, requiring the use of aids and home modifications.
  • Cognitive Issues from TBI: Traumatic brain injuries can cause problems with memory, concentration, and emotional regulation, impacting daily life and work.
  • PTSD Symptoms: Experiencing a boating accident can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety disrupting normal activities.
  • Depression and Anxiety: The stress from the accident can cause persistent depression and anxiety, affecting enjoyment of life and mental health.

What to Do After a Boating Accident

Immediately after a boating accident, your actions can help prevent injury or death to you, your passengers, or those in the other vessel. Follow these steps after a crash:

  • Stop the Vessel Immediately: After a boating accident, immediately stop the vessel, assess the situation, and determine if anyone needs medical attention.
  • Assist Overboard Victims: If anyone has fallen overboard, assist them back onto the boat, if possible. If the vessel is sinking or broken apart, try to secure a position on floating debris and signal for help.
  • Prioritize Safety and Provide Medical Assistance: If all passengers are still on the boat, keep the vessel out of harm’s way. Move your vessel out of the path of oncoming vessels, and provide first aid to anyone injured on board.
  • Check for Additional Victims: Ensure the safety of everyone on your boat first, then check if individuals on other vessels involved in the accident need assistance. Do not leave the scene, especially if injuries require medical help.
  • Seek a Medical Evaluation: Even if injuries are not immediately apparent, visit a doctor after the accident. Shock can sometimes mask symptoms like pain, internal bleeding, or head trauma. Inform your doctor about the boating accident, as specific tests or procedures might be necessary to identify hidden injuries.

Gathering Information After the Boat Accident

After you are out of immediate danger following the boating accident, obtain essential information from the other vessel’s operator and any witnesses. This includes the following:

  • Names and contact information of boat operators and passengers involved in the collision
  • Names and contact information of eyewitnesses who may have seen the accident from shore or other vessels
  • Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident
  • Insurance company names and the insurance policy numbers of those involved in the accident

While at the scene, you should also gather notes and evidence that may be useful for a future legal claim, including:

  • Photos of the damage to all vessels involved and any visible injuries
  • The time, date, and exact location of the accident
  • Environmental factors like weather conditions, obstacles in the water, or malfunctions in the boat’s operation that contributed to the accident
  • A record of any conversations related to the accident

Reporting the Boating Accident

As soon as possible, report the accident to the U.S. Coast Guard. Your attorney can use the accident report to investigate the accident and support your personal injury claim. Reporting is required by law in the following circumstances:

  • Someone is killed.
  • Someone is injured badly enough to need medical care beyond the most basic first aid.
  • Damage to the boat or to property 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 must make the report within 48 hours if:

  • A person dies within 24 hours of the incident; or
  • A person suffers a serious injury; or
  • A person disappears from the boat under suspicion of injury or death.

Otherwise, you must file a report within 10 days with the U.S. Coast Guard.

You may also be required to file a boating accident report with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

When providing the report, offer accurate information, but don’t volunteer unnecessary information or speculate about the cause. Avoid apologizing or accepting responsibility for the crash, as this could impact your ability to receive compensation.

Consult an experienced boating accident attorney at Joye Law Firm to help after a boating collision. We can help you file the necessary reports, determine liability based on all relevant evidence, and advise you on legal options for seeking a settlement for your injuries.

Navigating the Legal Process for Compensation

If another vessel operator caused your boating accident, you have the right to file a claim for compensation for damages you or your passengers suffered. This process involves the following steps with the help of a skilled boating accident attorney from Joye Law Firm:

  • Consultation and Case Evaluation: You can meet with an attorney during a free consultation to discuss the details of your boating accident. We can evaluate the strength of your case and advise on the best course of action for seeking compensation.
  • Investigation and Documentation: We can investigate the accident, gathering necessary documentation such as medical records, accident reports, and witness statements to build a strong case.
  • File a Claim With the At-Fault Party’s Insurance: We can submit a thoroughly documented claim to the insurance company of the negligent boater. Using our more than 300 years of collective legal experience, we will negotiate to secure a fair settlement.
  • Filing a Lawsuit: If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, we can prepare and file a lawsuit on your behalf. This step starts the legal process in court.
  • Trial and Resolution: If your case goes to trial, we can present a persuasive case to secure a favorable verdict to compensate you for your medical bills, property damage to your vessel, long-term effects of the injuries on your quality of life, and lost wages and earning capacity.

Joye Law Firm has successfully represented individuals involved in boating accidents in South Carolina’s waters, securing settlements for their injuries and losses including:

  • $455,000 settlement for a passenger who sustained a concussion and shoulder injury in a boating collision. The incident occurred on Thoroughfare Creek, where the at-fault driver veered onto the wrong side of the creek, resulting in a head-on collision after rounding the bend from the Intracoastal Waterway/Waccamaw River.
  • $294,000 settlement for the family of a boat passenger who tragically lost their life when the vessel was overwhelmed by a storm and capsized on Lake Moultrie.
  • $187,500 settlement for another boat passenger who suffered severe foot injuries when a propeller was unexpectedly engaged while assisting in dislodging a boat stuck on a sandbar.

Safety Tips for Avoiding Boating Accidents

Practicing safe boating can help you avoid boating accidents on South Carolina waters. Consider the following tips for avoiding a collision:

  • Wear Life Jackets: Always wear a life jacket while on the water, regardless of swimming ability. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required for all passengers aboard a vessel in South Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 85% of drowning deaths in 2022, the victims were not wearing a PFD.
  • Take Boating Safety Courses: Completing certified boating safety courses provides essential knowledge on navigation rules, emergency procedures, and safe boating practices. It’s required in South Carolina to operate a vessel and ensure your skills remain current, regardless of your experience.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Operating a boat under the influence increases the risk of accidents, and it is illegal. Stay sober to ensure you can navigate safely and respond to any situations that arise.
  • Maintain Your Vessel: Perform regular boat maintenance to ensure your boat is in good condition. This includes checking the engine, fuel and electrical systems, and hull integrity. Routine inspections can reduce the chance of mechanical failures on the water.
  • Know Your Navigation Rules: Understanding and following navigation rules, like the right of way and speed limits, helps prevent collisions and ensures safe passage.

Get Qualified Legal Representation for Your Boating Accident Claim

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. Our team at Joye Law Firm can help you submit a claim seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death.

We’ve won millions in past settlement awards for personal injury victims and can put our experience to work for your boating accident case. Contact us today to schedule a free case review and discuss your next legal steps.