These are the first five things you should do after a boating accident:
- Call for help.
- Get to the safest location as quickly as possible.
- Receive emergency medical care as necessary.
- Document the collision and your injuries as best you can.
- Consult a boating accident attorney to explore your legal rights.
Who Can Help With Your Boating Accident
You cannot handle the aftermath of a boating accident by yourself. Contact the local Coast Guard unit immediately and tell them:
- Who you are
- Where you are
- What happened
- If anyone has suffered an obvious injury
Per the United States Coast Guard (USCG), you can call them for help by either dialing 911 on VHF-FM Channel 16 or dialing the emergency number for your local unit directly. The Coast Guard will come as soon as possible to render assistance.
While waiting for the Coast Guard, stay as close as possible to the accident scene. This will make it easier for them to find you. Once they arrive, they will likely ask you questions to ascertain your condition and how the accident happened. Respond to their questions with:
- Brief, honest statements
- No speculation about your condition or who caused the accident (e.g., do not say, “I am fine” when you cannot know that without a doctor’s examination)
- Information about anyone who may be trapped, missing, or in need of assistance
If the Coast Guard tries to interview you again at a later date, consult your lawyer before you respond to their request. An attorney can accompany you to the interview and make sure you do not accidentally say anything that could jeopardize your legal case.
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Finding Safety After a Boating Accident
Your first priority should always be your safety and the safety of your passengers. Only stay on your boat and in place if you are sure it is safe to do so. If there is danger in the area, such as debris, move your boat clear while staying close enough for the Coast Guard to find you.
If your boat is not safe—for example, it is on fire or taking on water—put as much distance between yourself and the boat as you can. This could mean getting into a lifeboat or putting on a life vest and jumping into the water.
Of the five things to do after a boating accident, this is the most urgent. It should even come before calling the Coast Guard if you feel you are in imminent danger.
Boating Accidents Can Cause Life-Threatening Injuries
Depending on the size of the vessels involved, how fast they were traveling, and where you were onboard at the time of the crash, you could sustain very serious injuries in a boat accident. These include life-threatening conditions like:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Bone fractures
- Injuries to the back or spine
- Deep cuts or lacerations
- Near drowning
Part of what makes such injuries so dangerous is that some of them do not present symptoms right away. For instance, as Cleveland Clinic explains, if water becomes trapped in your lungs, you may not develop symptoms for up to 12 hours after the fact.
For your own sake, do not delay seeing a doctor after your boating accident. When the doctor examines you, be as truthful as possible about how you feel and what you remember about how the injuries occurred. Your doctor can then:
- Run tests to diagnose your injuries
- Determine the best course of treatment
- Start a medical record that your lawyer can use to build a case against the liable party
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Evidence From the Boating Accident Scene Is Invaluable
Often, the best time to find evidence of a boating accident is in its immediate aftermath, before conditions change and other people show up to alter the scene. Before leaving the area, try to:
- Take photos or video of your boat, especially any parts that sustained damage, as well as the boat that hit you.
- Take photos or videos of the environment (e.g., weather conditions).
- Get the name, contact information, and insurance information from the person who owns and/or was operating the other boat.
If you are too seriously injured to attend to this step, or if your boat was too badly damaged for you to safely stay aboard long enough to take photos, that is fine. Again, your health should always be your number one priority. Just be sure to inform your personal injury attorney of what you did and did not do after the collision.
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Hiring a Boating Accident Lawyer
This fifth step is very important, but it should never come before you receive medical care. Wait until you are medically stable to contact a law firm.
You can pick the attorney that is right for you by:
- Checking internet reviews and talking with friends
- Making sure the firm in question has experience with boating accident cases
- Calling the firm for a case evaluation (many will assess your case at no charge)
- Scheduling a visit with the firm so you can see their office, meet the team, and ask questions about anything of concern to you
Why hire a boating accident lawyer at all? They can take care of legal matters, giving you more time to focus on getting better. Among other things, a personal injury law firm can:
- Determine your case’s value based on your bodily injuries and monetary losses
- Investigate all aspects of your collision
- Confront the other party—plus their lawyer and their insurance company—on your behalf
- Determine whether it would be best to negotiate a settlement or take your case to court, and then implement that plan
- Review the terms of any settlement offers to make sure they are favorable to you and do not contain any unpleasant “surprises”
- Offer you the benefit of their experience by explaining your legal options and offering you intelligent advice
Call Kaine Law After a Boating Accident
According to O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, you generally have just two years to file a lawsuit after a boating accident. Nevertheless, of the five things to do after a boating accident, seeking legal counsel comes last. Once you have taken steps to safeguard your health, contact Kaine Law to learn about your rights at no cost or obligation.