Involved in a Boating Accident – Here are the First Steps You Should Take
Last updated Wednesday, August 17th, 2022
If you ever find yourself in the aftermath of a boating accident, a wave of emotions might hit. The world as you know it could turn topsy-turvy. As you try to process what happens, panic can arise.
You could be in harm’s way. Are you wearing a personal floatation device (PFD)? The current could be strong. The propeller may be nearby. Where are your loved ones who were on the boat with you?
Like a car crash, at its best a boat accident can leave everyone frazzled; at its worst, it can kill. These incidents come with the added threat of water. But there is hope. Fill that back pocket with info so you have the confidence to do what it takes to survive.
The team at Shuman Legal represents boating accident victims. When negligence or malice makes a fun trip go sideways, we come to your aid. Whether you need a personal injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney, we’re here to help YOU!
In a Boating Accident – Ensure Everyone is Safe
You may be in shock. Take some deep breaths. Assess your own injuries. If you’ve sustained major injuries, don’t try to move. Surging adrenaline could make you think you aren’t in such bad shape. Look over any areas of concern. If anything looks really bad, get out of danger. Then stay put.
The first aid kit may suffice for minor injuries. Tend to wounds until medical help arrives. Get yourself situated. Were you on a large vessel with many passengers? Accounting for everyone on board won’t be easy. Locate members of your party and keep them together.
If you were on a smaller boat, see if you can find every passenger and crew member. Is everyone accounted for? Toss a PFD to anyone in the water who doesn’t already have one. Give emergency first aid if necessary.
Call for help. When cell phones aren’t an option, ask someone else to call. Use the VHF radio on board for emergencies. Turn the radio to Channel 16. Clearly state one of the following calls:
- Mayday. Use this term only when there is a life-threatening situation.
- Pan-pan. This phrase is for when help is crucial.
- Sécurité. This term is to be used when there is a concern or warning.
Report the Boat Accident
A written report must generally be filed within 48 hours with state boating authorities when an accident causes:
- A death
- Disappearance from the vessel of any sort
- A totaled boat
- One or more injuries requiring treatment from a medical professional
- Property damages that exceed state allowances (many are around the $2k range)
Find the right forms with the help of the USCG or your state’s boating authority.
Collect Information About the Accident
There’s no such thing as too much info after a boat crash. Every bit of data you gather may prove useful. Be sure to find out:
- Contact information of boat operator(s)
- Contact information of witnesses
- Hull identification numbers (HIN) of involved vessels
- Insurance name and policy number of boat operator(s)
Legal Tip: Photos can be invaluable. Take pictures of damages, injuries, the scene, general location, ID cards, insurance cards, and HIN(s).
What Should You do if a Person Falls Overboard?
Someone falling overboard may sound funny in theory, but it can be lethal. Knowing what to do can save lives. If a person falls off a vessel:
- Alert. Loudly yell, “Man overboard!”
- Stop! Interrupt the route. Prevent the vessel from moving forward. While boats don’t have brakes, there are other ways of keeping them in a set position.
- Assist. Help the person in the water. Throw a life ring, life jacket, or a lifesling. Aim well.
- Count. Take inventory to see who fell overboard. Is it one person or could there be more? Knowing what you’re dealing with gives you the upper hand.
- Assign. Get other crew members to keep an eye on the man overboard. This strategy is especially helpful on larger vessels where a tender may be needed to retrieve stragglers.
- Assess. Determine the best way to get the person back in the boat. Is the person capable of swimming back or is further assistance needed?
- Rescue. Carefully pull the person back on board. Seek prompt medical assistance if there is cause for concern.
What Should You do First When a Vessel Capsizes?
Hopefully, this situation will never happen to you but if it should, be prepared. When a watercraft has been overturned, it’s considered to have capsized.
Survival should be your main priority. Are you wearing a life jacket? If not, quickly find a PFD. Don’t see one? Get something- anything that floats. Hold on tight.
Are you able to see if other people are okay? Seek out other capsized boaters and make your way to the floating craft together. If the boat continues to float, try to climb on the exposed hull. Remain on or near the vessel for a better chance of rescue.
How do You Escape a Capsized Ship?
Getting out of a huge craft that has turned upside down can be terrifying. Smaller boats may right themselves. When a large vessel like a cruise ship or megayacht capsizes, prepare for the worst.
The first move is to find PFDs for you and every member of your party. Secure your life jacket first. Then help family and friends.
Follow emergency exit signs. Listen for directions. The captain and crew members have been trained for these situations.
Remain calm. Losing your cool will just contribute to hysteria. Take deep breaths if a situation becomes overwhelming.
Avoid the middle of the ship and anywhere dependent on electricity (such as elevators). Head to the deck where lifeboats are.
Jump in the water only as a last resort. Try to remain out of danger but on the ship for as long as possible. Typically, the longer you can stay out of the water, the better your chances of survival will be.
What is the Correct Order to Rescue a Person from the Water?
If you see someone who is not willingly in the water, offer help. But how do you assist a person who could be drowning without endangering yourself? If you go down too, nobody wins.
The USCG offers the following steps when saving someone from the water:
- Reach. Is the man overboard relatively nearby? Can you use a paddle, pole, or board to drag the person through the water to your boat? Always secure your life jacket beforehand. This approach is even safer when someone on board can grip you firmly before you extend an arm.
- Throw. If the person is too far to use the reach method, prepare to hurl something helpful in that direction. Throw an object that will aid flotation such as a life ring or lifesling.
- Row. When the distance is too great to make a successful throw, get closer. Those in canoes, kayaks, and other smaller boats may be able to row over. Operators may need to guide larger vessels in that direction. Get within range so a buoyant item can be safely tossed to the person.
- Go. Every attempt should be made to help the person by the first three methods. There are times though when more drastic measures are needed, say when a person is unconscious. Entering the water can put the rescuer in danger. Alerting the Coast Guard may be the better play.
Try to use the boat’s platform or boarding ladder to hoist the person into the vessel. A lifting strap is an alternative if climbing aboard isn’t possible. Another option is coordinating a couple of crew members or passengers. Pull the person up by gripping underarm areas.
What Damages Can I Claim in a Boat Accident Lawsuit?
These suits are similar to those filed after car crashes. Has a careless or negligent skipper caused a boating accident? Claims can seek damages for:
- Emotional Trauma
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Lost Earnings When Work Was Missed Due to Injuries
- Pain and Suffering
- Property Repairs
- Related Medical Bills Including Long-Term Care if Needed
How to Prove Fault for a Boating Accident
The main issue you’ll face when pursuing this type of case is proving that an operator is to blame. Maybe you saw the whole thing unfold. You know it was the other boater’s fault, but can you prove it?
Proving the cause of the accident and who was negligent is key to a successful outcome. Take a proactive approach to win your case by:
- Filing an Accident Report. Fill out the proper form based on where the incident occurred. The USCG has recreational boating accident documents too. Operators generally have 48 hours to submit reports when injuries were sustained.
- Gathering Evidence. Document everything that could matter to your case. Note the time of day, location, weather, water conditions, scene, and events leading up to the crash. Record eyewitness accounts and get their contact information. Take photos of your boat and other involved vessels. Be sure to get clear shots of the HINs.
- Hiring a Seasoned Attorney. Before choosing legal counsel, make sure your firm of choice has a successful track record representing boating accident victims. Having a qualified lawyer puts all of their resources and experience to work on your behalf.
- Seeking Prompt Medical Attention. Using a first aid kit is just the beginning. Consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Document how the incident caused your injuries. Keep all of your receipts and exam notes. Request a copy of related X-rays, MRI, CAT scans, and similar images.
What Should I Expect in Boating Accident Claim?
Big hurdles may lie ahead when filing this type of claim. Just because you’ve been injured in a boating accident doesn’t mean another party is to blame. And if negligence is the cause, the burden of proof will be on you.
Another speedbump can be identifying the party at fault. Certain folks have an easier time than others. But some accidents involve several vessels, a wake, a wave, and/or even objects. Who’s responsible? How can your case be proved?
Was your boat a rental? Were there boaters involved in operating rented boats? Boat rental companies factor into the claim process. Depending on the scenario, these companies may be held liable instead of – or along with -negligent boat operators.
You can file a claim with the liable party’s insurance company. What type of settlement will make you whole? What if the operator wasn’t insured?
The list of questions continues. Filing a boating accident claim can quickly become complicated. You may decide it’s in your best interest to go it alone, but that way of thinking can cost you.
Why do I Need a Lawyer?
Pursuing a boating accident lawsuit comes with many more obstacles than the average car crash. There are so many unknowns. Working with a reputable attorney from Shuman Legal can get you your desired outcome.
Benefits of hiring an attorney when you’re in a boating accident include:
- Better Compensation. This reason may be the most important. If you’re truly wanting the maximum amount, then you’ll need a competent attorney skilled in the art of negotiation. There are documents to file, deadlines to meet, specific formats that must be used, and proper legalese used. Without a background in law, litigants don’t have the best chance of coming out on top.
- Lower Stress Levels. Wondering if you have all your ducks in a row can be worrisome. Handing over your case to a lawyer means handing over the burden as well. Knowing a qualified attorney will do what it takes to prove your case lifts a huge weight off your shoulders.
- Reduced Aggravation. If you file a claim with the liable party’s insurance company, everything rests on you. Insurance adjusters may begin tracking you down at all hours of the day. These callers may even offer you a lowball settlement. Referring these people to your lawyer can calm your nerves.
- Time. Anyone can file a claim. Not everyone can file a claim correctly. And even fewer people can file a claim successfully. There can be piles of red tape. You can get through the legal process but how long will it take you to read every single line thoroughly to ensure things are done right?
What to do if You Are Injured in a Boating Accident?
If you sustain life-threatening injuries in this type of incident, try to remain calm. Take in your surroundings. If you’re in imminent danger, make your way to a safer spot. Flag someone down for assistance. Get medical attention as soon as possible.
If your injuries look less severe, find the first aid kit and tend to your wounds. Request medical assistance when help arrives.
Once all passengers and crew members have been accounted for, begin gathering important information. Take notes, look for potential witnesses, get contact information and write out your version of the events.
Shuman Legal is here to help when you’ve been involved in a boating accident. We know how to prove a case to get you the highest amount of compensation allowed. Have questions? We’ll review your case for free! Let us show you how we can help!