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What Should I Do if I Was Involved in a Boating Accident?

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Boating season has officially arrived, which means it is the perfect time to brush up on boating safety. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,463 recreational boating accidents in 2016. These accidents led to over 700 fatalities and nearly 3,000 injuries, many of which were life threatening. If you’re ever injured while boating, it’s important to know what to do in the moments following the accident. Follow these steps:

Determine Who Needs Medical Attention

After a boating accident, your first priority should be determining who needs medical attention. Do a quick assessment of your own condition to determine if you are in need of emergency medical assistance. If you are, either call for help or ask someone to call for help on your behalf.

If you are not in need of emergency medical assistance, check in with everyone else who was involved with the accident. It’s very likely that at least one person who was in the accident is injured and in need of help.

It’s important to note that everyone who is involved in a boating accident should seek medical attention either at the scene of the accident or immediately afterwards. If you are not seriously injured, there’s no need to be treated at the scene. However, you should visit a doctor shortly after returning to land. This is true regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of an injury. Symptoms can take hours or days to show up, so it’s best to see a doctor right away instead of waiting to find out if you are hurt.

Move Out of Harm’s Way

The impact of the accident could throw you off of the boat and into the water. If you’re in the water, it’s best to get back onto the boat unless the boat is sinking or unstable. Be sure to look for others that may need help getting back onto the boat as well. Remember, other people may have been thrown into the water even if this did not happen to you.

Everyone should be on board at this point. Once everyone is accounted for, it’s recommended that you move the boat to safety. Make sure the boat is not blocking other boats from traveling freely in the water. If it is, another accident could occur.

Notify the Coast Guard

Contact the Coast Guard as soon as possible after the accident. The Coast Guard will need to know the approximate location of the boat so they can find you quickly. They will also need to know whether or not anyone is badly injured as a result of an accident. If there are seriously injured victims, the Coast Guard can send medical assistance. Do not leave the area after notifying the Coast Guard of the accident unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. If you change locations, the Coast Guard may have trouble finding your boat.

The Coast Guard will gather information from the scene of the accident so they can prepare a boating accident report. If they ask questions related to the accident, it’s important to answer them honestly. This report can play an important role in proving fault and recovering compensation for your injuries.

Exchange Information

Exchange insurance and contact information with other boaters that were involved in the accident. This makes it easier for you to get in touch with the other parties and file an injury claim after an accident. It’s also a good idea to ask for the registration or identification number of the other boats involved in the accident.

You should also ask the other people who were involved in the accident or who witnessed the accident for their contact information. They can provide valuable testimony that can help you prove liability and recover compensation for your injuries. Keep their information in a safe and dry place and tell them you will be in touch later on. Do not discuss the accident with them or speculate about who is at fault.

Document Evidence From the Scene

If you are not seriously injured, try to document as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible. Use your cell phone to take photographs of the condition of the boat, the boat’s surroundings, and the injured passengers. If other boats were involved in the accident, take photographs of the damage on these vessels as well. You should also take photos of anything else that seems significant, such as empty beer bottles or damaged safety gear. All of these pictures can be used to recreate the accident and prove liability.

Seek Legal Representation

After stepping foot on land, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention if you have not done so already. Then, the next task on your to-do list should be contacting a personal injury attorney. But, it’s important to note that all personal injury attorneys are not created equal. You will need to look for a personal injury attorney with extensive experience representing clients who were injured in boating accidents. A boating accident case is very different from other personal injury cases, so if it’s not wise to choose an inexperienced attorney.

Let your attorney handle the investigation into the accident and the negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. While your attorney is working towards a resolution to your case, you can focus solely on recovering from your injuries.

Have you been seriously injured in a boating accident? If so, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our personal injury attorneys have years of experience representing clients who have been harmed in tragic boating accidents. Let us fight tirelessly to recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".