Boating accidents have the potential to cause devastating injuries, and it is vital for everyone involved in a boating accident to know the first steps they should take after these incidents occur. Your actions immediately following a boating accident can have serious repercussions and may influence your liability for the accident. Whether you are a boat operator or passenger, it is vital to know the first thing you should do after a boating accident.

If You Are Involved in a Boating Accident, What Is the First Thing You Must Do?

If you experience a boating accident and the boat remains safely afloat, the first thing you should do is to ascertain whether you or anyone else involved in the incident requires medical attention. If anyone fell overboard, you and the others onboard should work quickly to get them back into the vessel safely. In the event you or someone else sustained an injury, the next step is to get the victim back to shore safely as soon as possible.

Boats should have emergency equipment onboard, including lifejackets, fire extinguishers, flotation devices, and a radio for calling for help if necessary. It’s vital that all of this emergency equipment be in good working order before every outing in case those onboard need to use it for any reason.

What Is the First Action of a Boat Operator Who Is Involved in a Boating Accident?

When a boating accident occurs, the boat operator has a legal responsibility to stop the vessel immediately at the scene of the accident. They also have a legal duty to assist anyone injured in the accident immediately unless doing so would put themselves or the vessel in danger. Boat operators should maintain control over their vessels as closely as possible at all times, and once it is safe to do so, they must call for help using their cell phone or a radio to report the accident and request assistance. The boat operator must also provide everyone involved in the accident with, in writing, their name, address, and their vessel’s registration number.

What is the Mandatory Action to Take When Involved in a Boat Accident?

Boating accident law requires boat operators to take the previously mentioned steps immediately following these incidents, and everyone involved should consider medical treatment for anyone injured as the priority in the situation. The boat operator should stop their vessel immediately and should never leave the scene of a boating accident until the responding authorities allow them to do so. However, they should move their vessel out of the paths of other watercraft in the area.

Another mandatory action that a boat operator must take following an accident is reporting the incident to the Coast Guard. All boating operators should have the necessary equipment and contact information for the local Coast Guard detachment and wait for them to respond before leaving the area.

How Do You Respond to a Boating Accident?

Aside from the previously mentioned rules for boat operators, there are some other things to keep in mind when it comes to responding to a boating accident. It may not be necessary to report a boating accident to the authorities if there is no serious damage to the boat and no one sustained injuries. Typically, a boating accident requires a formal report if:

  • The accident causes a death.
  • The accident sends anyone overboard, and the others involved cannot find them.
  • Anyone suffers an injury that requires medical care beyond basic first aid.
  • The accident causes damage worth $2,000 or more.
  • The accident results in the complete loss of the vessel or renders the vessel no longer seaworthy.

If there is any room for doubt as to whether your boating accident requires a formal report, it is always best to err on the side of caution and report the accident. Failure to report a boating accident when required by law carries severe legal penalties, potentially including fines and jail time.

What to Do If You Are Injured in a Boating Accident

If you or a loved one suffer injury in a boating accident, your first priority should be seeking medical attention. The doctor who treats your injuries can provide you with a medical report that will describe your injuries in detail, as well as the doctor’s concerns for future medical complications resulting from the injuries. This will be an invaluable document if you decide to pursue legal action against the party responsible for causing the accident.

When you have sustained damages due to another party’s negligence, it’s vital to consult a boating accident attorney to discuss your options for legal recourse. Some boating accident claims are highly complex, and some involve multiple defendants. The sooner you seek legal counsel after a boating accident, the better your chances will be of securing compensation for your losses.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Some people make the mistake of believing their cases are so simple and straightforward that they do not need legal representation to secure compensation for their losses. This is a major mistake because most average people with no legal experience or formal legal training will have a very hard time navigating the civil court system, gathering the evidence they need to confirm a defendant’s liability, and taking full advantage of the full scope of claimable damages available to them.

Hiring an experienced boating accident attorney to represent your claim is an investment in the success of your case. When you hire the right attorney to represent you, you significantly increase the chances of success in your claim and will likely obtain much more compensation than you could have secured on your own.

What to Expect in Your Boating Accident Claim

If you believe another party’s negligence directly caused your boating accident and the resulting damages, your attorney will be instrumental in holding the responsible party accountable and obtaining the compensation you need. A boating accident claim will fall under the purview of personal injury law. This means that to secure compensation for your losses, you need to identify the party responsible for your accident and prove that their negligence directly resulted in your damages. You must also provide a complete and accurate accounting of the damages you seek and provide proof that these damages resulted solely from the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause.

What Damages Can I Claim in a Boat Accident Lawsuit?

If another party caused your boating accident, you could hold them accountable for any and all damages resulting from the incident. Some of the damages you could potentially claim include:

  • Medical expenses. A personal injury plaintiff has the right to claim compensation for any and all medical expenses resulting from a boating accident. This includes immediate medical costs like emergency room costs, ambulance fees, and hospital bills, as well as anticipated future medical costs resulting from the incident. For example, if your injury results in a permanent disability or requires significant long-term care, you could claim the associated costs in your lawsuit.
  • Lost income. A boating accident can cause injuries that require significant recovery time, during which you may be unable to work. It’s also possible that you could be rendered permanently disabled and unable to work at all. The personal injury laws of California allow a plaintiff to recover lost wages and lost earning potential.
  • Pain and suffering. Personal injury statutes in California allow a plaintiff to receive compensation for their physical pain, mental anguish, and psychological trauma resulting from a defendant’s negligence. The amount you receive in pain and suffering compensation will generally reflect the severity of your injuries and their likelihood of imposing long-term medical complications.
  • Property damage. If any of your personal property was lost or damaged in the boating accident, you have the right to claim repair or replacement costs in your lawsuit.

Ultimately, your boat accident claim could yield a significant amount of compensation for your damages. If you want to increase the chances of success with a boating accident claim as much as possible, it is crucial to obtain legal counsel from an experienced attorney who can provide responsive and comprehensive legal representation through every phase of your case.

Proving Fault for a Boating Accident

When you believe another party is responsible for your recent boating accident, it is essential to understand the process of legally establishing their liability for your damages. Typically, boating accident claims will be subject to personal injury laws. This means that success in your claim will hinge on your ability to establish negligence:

  • First, you must identify the defendant and prove that they owed you a duty of care in the situation in question. For example, if you chartered a boat and believe the accident was the fault of your boat operator, establishing their duty of care would include proving they were responsible for safely operating the boat.
  • Second, you must show how the defendant breached this duty of care. Considering the previous example, if you observed the boat operator drinking alcohol while piloting the vessel, you could assert boating under the influence as their breach of duty.
  • Third, you must provide an accurate list of all the damages you intend to claim in your case. Your attorney can guide you in collecting the documentation you will need to prove the extent of your damages.
  • Finally, you must establish causation between the defendant’s breach of duty of care and your claimed damages. You can only receive compensation for damages that directly resulted from the defendant’s negligence. For example, if you had a preexisting injury, you could not seek compensation for this injury, but if your boating accident made it worse, you could seek compensation for any medical bills you incurred for your worsened condition.

A defendant confronted with accusations of liability for a boating accident may attempt several defenses. For example, they may claim that the accident was entirely beyond their control, and they did everything they could to prevent it. They may also assert comparative negligence on another party. California’s pure comparative negligence statute will reduce a plaintiff’s compensation by a percentage equal to their percentage of fault for causing a boating accident if an investigation reveals they were partially responsible for the incident. A defendant may also attempt to cast blame on the manufacturer of the vessel or a piece of safety equipment that malfunctioned and caused the plaintiff’s injuries, citing product liability law.

Why You Need Reliable Legal Counsel

Boating accident claims are similar to other motor vehicle accident claims in many ways, but they also often involve unique factors that require the attention of an attorney who has solid experience with boating accident claims. If you attempt to navigate a complex boating accident lawsuit without legal counsel, you face a significant risk of not only receiving much less compensation than an attorney could have secured on your behalf but also a risk of your case being thrown out on procedural grounds if you are unfamiliar with the civil court system’s policies and procedures.

Your attorney can handle your legal affairs on your behalf while you focus on your recovery. Attempting to manage your own representation while also recovering from painful injuries is incredibly difficult, and your legal counsel can provide much-needed relief as your case unfolds.

At Easton & Easton, our team understands how devastating boating accident injuries can be, and we have years of experience handling challenging personal injury claims on behalf of our clients. If you are unsure of your legal options following a boating accident, it is vital to consult with our team as soon as possible.

Find Your Boating Accident Attorney Today

Easton & Easton is a family-operated law firm providing legal counsel across a wide range of cases to clients in California. If you are unsure of your legal options following a boating accident on the Pacific Ocean, the Colorado River, or any other waterway in California, we can provide the legal guidance you need as you seek recovery for your losses. If you are ready to take legal action for a recent boating accident, contact Easton & Easton today to learn how our firm can assist you with your claim.