A boating accident is a stressful experience, and although maritime collisions are far less common than automobile accidents, they do still happen. According to statistics published by the U.S. Coast Guard, over 4,000 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2013, totaling more than $39 million in property damage.
Should you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being involved in a boating accident, it will be important for you to know how to appropriately respond, not only for personal safety reasons, but also to protect you from any potential legal trouble. Contact a Palm Bay personal injury lawyer if you’ve been involved in a water related accident.
Provided that the boat is still afloat and you are still aboard the vessel, the first step you should take when involved in a boating accident is to assess the situation and determine if you or anyone else aboard the boat requires medical attention. If any member of the crew has fallen overboard, assist them in getting back onto the boat as soon as possible.
Once you have verified that everyone is on board, do your best to keep the vessel out of harm’s way while attending to any person who may have been injured. Contact the Coast Guard immediately to let them know that an accident has occurred, provide them with your location details, and make sure to inform them as to whether or not anyone on board may need medical attention.
Once you have ascertained that everyone is okay, you will need to gather some critical information for the sake of your own legal protection. You will need the names, addresses and contact numbers of the following persons:
- The boat operators who were involved in the accident
- The passengers who were involved in the accident
- Any eyewitnesses who may have observed the accident from another vessel or from the shore
You will also need to obtain the registration/identification numbers of the vessels involved in the accident, as well as their respective insurance companies and policy numbers. If you have access to a camera, make sure to take pictures of any damage to the boat, as well as the location where the accident took place. File an accident report with the Coast Guard as well; in some cases this may be required by law, but either way, it is a good legal protocol to follow.
Determining liability (i.e., who is at fault) in a boating accident is not a straightforward process; there are several factors to consider including negligence, actual and proximate cause, compliance to maritime law, and other important points. You should not claim responsibility or admit fault for the boating accident, even if you believe you may have caused it. This type of occurrence requires a thorough discovery and investigation process, where all of the facts are taken into account, before determining the exact cause of the accident.
Since maritime laws are significantly different than the laws governing land-based incidents, it is wise for you to consult with a trained legal professional who understands these distinctions. An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist you with preparing the appropriate reports in order to help you pursue your claim.