From 2016 to 2017, there were 4,291 boating accidents. This annual report also recorded its second-highest number of fatalities. If you’re ever in a boating accident, you should be prepared for any situation. Acting swift and precise is important to avoid further damage or loss of life, property, and finances.

Legally, you should be following these steps or you could wind up in serious trouble. If you were in a recent boat accident, it’s not too late to follow-up. This can help protect yourself and potentially get the justice you deserve.

On the Scene of a Boat Accident

A boat accident, either with someone else’s boat or property, can put you into a state of shock. You need to quickly assess the situation and determine if it is a medical emergency. If the boat isn’t sinking, check on the status of your passengers.

After your crew has been accounted for, check on the other boat for anyone that needs help. Whatever you do: do not flee the scene of the accident. Don’t assume that just because it was just a scrape that you should just let it be.

Low-Speed Crashes

If your recent boat accident is more of a “fender bender” with another boat or object, priority shifts. Check the boat for damage, remove any debris in the water, then move the boat out of potential traffic. Impeding the ability for proper evidence collection should be prioritized.

Next, call the Coast Guard to notify them of an accident on the water. Even when the accident occurs at low speeds, injuries are still a concern. In fact, just like injuries from a car accident, you can still suffer from concussions, whiplash, and etc.

Immediately following the accident, you should visit your doctor for further tests. Traumatic events like boating accidents can often hide symptoms of injuries. Adrenaline kicks in and blocks pain receptors and hides fractures, internal injuries, and brain injuries.

Collect Evidence and Information

After medical professionals have assessed everything, you should focus on collecting information on all parties involved. You should get all the other passengers’ information written down. This includes their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and insurance policy numbers.

You should also get witness information recorded, too. Write down their names, numbers, and statements. Copy down the other boat’s identification and registration numbers. Yes, the Coast Guard will fill out all this information, but it’s smart to have your own copy.

Photographic evidence is extremely important. You want clear pictures from as many angles as possible. Also, take pictures of your surroundings. This can help prove your case if you were overtaken in a narrow canal, for example.

Why You Must Report

No matter how small the accident, it can just come back to bite you if you don’t report it. By law, you are obligated to report a boat accident under certain conditions. These include:

  • Involvement in a fatality
  • Serious, life-threatening injuries
  • Damage to any property exceeding $2,000
  • A boat has sunk or rendered inoperable
  • Missing persons at the scene

Not reporting an accident under any of these circumstances could carry felony charges. Reporting to a Coast Guard will always help you if you are not at fault. An investigation can help expose more evidence to prove your case.

Less is More

While filing the report, remember to be 100% factual and do not volunteer any circumstantial evidence, opinions, or otherwise unprovable information. You should be running details of what caused the accident by a boat accident lawyer. For obvious reasons, if your statement has inconsistencies, it could indicate guilt.

Reporters are going to be focusing on the “Five Ws” line of questioning. This is the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” of a story.

You’re not going to be thinking clearly immediately after a boating accident. Emotions take over and you could incriminate yourself and not even realize it. Now, if you know you made a mistake that caused the accident: don’t apologize!

It’s possible that the other driver is partially responsible in some way, as well. If you run your mouth and act guilty, then guess what? You’ll forfeit your right to compensation afterward and your insurance won’t foot the bill.

Insurance and Injury Claims

If you are found at fault for the accident, then you’ll see a claim filed against you by the other party. You shouldn’t just file a claim back unless you have a strong case and you have proper insurance coverage. If you just have basic liability coverage, your claim might get denied right away.

You need to have comprehensive boat insurance that covers medical and collision damage. This type of insurance will cover you from stormy waters, vandalism, hidden shallow rock beds, theft, engine failure, passenger injuries, and accidents.


When you’re injured in a boating accident, you will need to prove it was at the fault of the other party. California is a state that practices “comparative negligence” tort law. This means if both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent, the jury allocates fault, usually as a percentage.

Negligence is defined as failing to account for dangers posed to others. So, if you are implicated as partially at fault, the judge can rule that you are responsible for paying a percentage of the other driver’s damages.

This is where you should have an experienced lawyer who has handled boating cases before. They will know how to properly navigate and explain interactions between two vehicles on the water. They can build an air-tight case that the other party failed to reasonably prevent an accident from occurring.

Defendants often use the excuse that there was nothing that they could do or “it was out of my control.” A lawyer can disprove these statements with evidence and compelling arguments. This includes situations where: you hit another boat, hitting another boat’s wake, swerving into a wave, rock, shoreline, dock, and etc.

If you’re a passenger involved in a boating accident, you also have a right to make a claim for your injuries. The driver and the insurance company need to provide compensation regarding your injuries if proven guilty.

Lack of Insurance and Claim Denials

If they don’t have any boaters’ insurance, you could be left out to dry. You cannot collect on an insurance claim if they don’t have coverage for boating accidents.

Homeowner’s insurance includes packages for boaters, but not all boaters opt to purchase this. A home insurance policy provides limited coverage for your boat or watercraft should it be damaged or vandalized. In most policies, you would only be reimbursed up to $1,000 worth of coverage.

Unlike home and auto, boat insurance may allow you to suspend coverage for specified periods or seasons of non-boating. This is yet another layer of uncertainty that must be accounted for when filing an insurance claim.

Lastly, homeowner’s insurance only covers boating accidents with small boats below 50HP (25HP for outboard motors), but not jetskis or airboats.

What Gets Rejected

Your claim can be denied depending on whether you have insurance set up for that claim. A rejection for the accident will be based on the insurer’s own terms and limitations of your coverage. Each protection tier has its clauses. Here are a few common examples:

  • Minor paint scrapes, scratches, and marks are normally not included.
  • Typical wear and fading are definitely not included.
  • Your boat’s policies may cover most of the value to your vessel after a crash, including major engine, body, and instrumentation.
  • Other things lost, destroyed, or damaged, for example, clothes and smartphones, aren’t standard.
  • Body damage from barnacles, marine animals, and insect infestations are viewed as elements that should be navigated/prevented by owners.
  • Typical engine maintenance that can lead to damage, like oil changes, won’t be covered.
  • Boat defects are not the responsibility of insurance companies. You should check under your manufacturer’s own coverage.

Cases can likewise be denied in the event that they are deemed fraudulent by the insurance company. You need to catalog all of the evidence, including bills incurred and statements from medical professionals.

Hiring a Lawyer After a Recent Boat Accident

Immediate action following an accident is preferred, but don’t give up if you thought it was too late to file a claim. The statute of limitations ranges from two years to six years, depending on the state. That means if you were unsure or afraid of filing your claim, you can still do it. Just make sure you still have all the original evidence from the accident.

Get a copy of the police report and contact a boat accident attorney. At Stephen Babcock Injury Lawyers, we have decades of experience dealing with accident claims. If you or a loved one has been in a recent boat accident, give us a call.

We will work to make sure that you receive the compensation that you deserve. Never assume that because you didn’t handle the situation perfectly that you don’t have a case for compensation. Let us handle your claim and make that determination.

If youve been injured, Stephen Babcock is standing by to help you. Your case and your future will be our top priority. When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephens 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee. If you have any questions about this article or want to visit with a lawyer for free, call Stephen at (225) 240-4053 or contact us here. Or if you prefer, feel free to take advantage of our live chat system. Get Even! Call Stephen! Stephen Babcock