Back to Recreational Boating Accidents
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My wish to all recreational boaters out there is for safe and carefree days of
boating…enjoying your powerboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, waterskiing, jet skis, wave
runners, personal watercraft, windsurfers with great pleasure. I hope you get out there
enough to make winter storage, mooring fees and launch service worth all the expense. I
hope you experience the thrill of introducing a child or non-boater to taking the helm
underway. And I hope you never experience a boating accident.

And it shouldn’t be that difficult to AVOID a boating learning boating safety,
familiarizing yourself with your equipment, studying local charts, reviewing the rules of the
road, exercising good judgment, using common sense, being considerate and courteous
to other boaters…all these things should give you pretty decent odds.

Unfortunately, it’s not that difficult to HAVE a boating accident either…because even when
you do everything right, there might be someone out there who does not. You can take a
Power Squadron Boating Safety course. You can go to bed with the Chapman’s
seamanship book under your pillow. But you can’t force other people to. You can’t stop
some idiot from pointing a million candle power spotlight in your face as your vessels close
at 40 knots. You can’t convince some people that driving through a crowded bay at high
speed makes them a menace....not a rebel. You can’t make some people appreciate what
a three foot stern wave does to a small boat…especially when they're steering from a flying
bridge twelve feet above the water.

People like this make it necessary to know what to do in the event of a boating accident.
Below is a list of things you should keep in mind. However, nothing in real life works as
smoothly as a neat little list. The trauma of the moment may require doing several things at
once…which means that priorities may be have to be decided on the spot…under
emotional stress…using common sense, or maybe acting so fast you don’t have time to

If you’re focusing on stopping bleeding from someone’s leg, it doesn’t mean you don’t pay
attention to something like water rising in the bilge. If someone else is qualified, you can tell
them to take the controls…or tell them to get a bucket or bilge pump. If a passenger’s
injuries are not life threatening, you can direct your immediate attention to moving your
vessel out of the way of an oncoming tug, etc. These are difficult calls a person has to make
at the time and place they arise.

▪ Provided you still have a boat under you, determine if anyone needs first aid or other
medical attention and render it to the best that circumstances permit.

▪ Call the Coast Guard and tell them you were involved in a boating accident. Immediately
tell them about the need for emergency medical care if necessary. Give them your location
and a physical description of the boats.

▪ Render assistance to the other vessel if you are able to do so.

▪ Once it appears that things are under control so far as urgent medical attention and the
safety of the occupants of the vessels, exchange information with the other operator. Ask for,
and provide:

▪ Operator name - including address and telephone numbers
▪ Names of the passengers - including addresses and telephone numbers
▪ Names of eyewitnesses who witnessed the event from shore or another vessel.
▪ Name of vessel
▪ Registration number or other identification number of vessel (i.e. documented vessel)
▪ Insurance company for the vessel
▪ Insurance policy number

▪ If everyone’s medical needs have been met, and no one is in immediate danger, take
photographs of both vessels….but only AFTER these more fundamental needs have been

▪ After getting ashore, file a boating accident report with the Coast Guard if necessary. A
report must be filed if someone dies (God forbid), someone is injured and requires medical
treatment beyond first aid, damage to vessels and property meets or exceeds $2,000 (or
there is a complete loss of a vessel), or someone disappears from a vessel under
circumstances indicating death or injury. This is required by the code of federal regulations,
under 33 CFR 173.55.

▪ Depending on where you live, you may need to file a boating accident report with the
appropriate state agency also, such as a recreation and parks department, or other such

▪ Notify your insurance carrier of the accident as soon as practicable. Give them copies of
paperwork or reference numbers issued by the Coast Guard or law enforcement vessels,
including citations issued, if any. Fill out their questionnaires and return them in a timely

I hope you never have an accident…and I hope these recommendations are something you
never need to carry out. But there’s nothing wrong in thinking about what to do if the need
arises. It’s called being prepared.

Smooth sailing and SAFE BOATING!

© 2006 by Tim Akpinar - All Rights Reserved
The contents of this website may not be copied or transmitted without the
prior written consent of Tim Akpinar
What To Do In A Boating Accident
New York Boating Accident - What Should You Do - Boating Accident Help Desk - Things to do in a Boating Accident
Knowing what to do is
important, but sometimes it
can be just as important to
avoid trouble. See
preventing boating
accidents through stops
for BUI on the water... part
of the Coast Guard's
program for safety on the
Attorneys should move
quickly to meet with
witnesses before too much
time elapses. The
recollection of an incident
fades with time, witnesses
move out of state, or
become unavailable.

Something that a witness
could have automatically
remembered as clear as
what he or she had for
breakfast that morning
might be lost from clear
and detailed memory 12
months later...requiring
provisions of the rules of
evidence allowing referral
to documents or other
reference materials inorder
to refresh a witnesses
Not every witness that a
maritime trial attorney will
examine on the stand will
be a boat operator,
passenger, eye-witness or
boating safety expert.
Sometimes the emergency
room physician or
orthopaedic surgeon or
family doctor can be called
in. Sometimes the parties
may be able to come to
grips with who was at
fault...but come to an
impasse as to whether the
ensuing injuries could
have been related to the

A doctor who treated the
boating accident injury victim
would be in a good position to
testify as to whether or not the
injuries could have been
related to something else,
such as a workplace
accident...or a car accident
from ten years ago. Were there
previous surgeries? Was the
boating accident victim ever
disabled? These are some of
the medical issues that may
come to bear. The injured
plaintiff's maritime attorney
would need to show that the
injuries were related to the
boating accident by a
reasonable preponderance of
the evidence...unlike the
evidentiary standard in a
criminal trial, where the
defense attorney needs to
show that something could
have or could not have
happened beyond a
reasonable doubt.