Recreational boating is a popular pastime the world over. In the United States, people use their boats for pleasure cruising, fishing, and watersports year-round. With millions of boats on the waterways in and around the U.S., the potential for an accident looms large. Recreational marine insurance helps protect boaters against many risks, including injury and property damage resulting from accidents. It is important to share tips with your clients in the steps to take if they should become involved in an on-the-water accident. With preparation and understanding, boaters are able to gain peace of mind, ensuring that their days on the water can be enjoyed to their fullest.

Legal Considerations in Boating Accidents

There are myriad federal and state laws that may apply to boating accidents. The location of the accident, such as state, federal, or international waters, may necessitate different reporting rules. Typically, if an accident occurs in state waters, federal laws mandate that the boat’s owner or operator must file an accident report with the state in which the incident occurs, particularly if there is a death, disappearance, or significant property damage exceeding $2000. 

Liabilities may differ as well. If a boat has an accident with another vessel, who is at fault contributes to recovery claims. Some states follow contributory negligence, while others use comparative negligence, in determining which operator is at fault in an accident. Owners of boats damaged or passengers injured from waves, wakes, and collisions with rocks or subsurface hazards may also be found negligent, particularly if those operators fail to warn passengers of hazardous conditions. 

Steps to Take After a Boating Accident

No matter the type of accident or who is at fault, boat owners/operators must follow certain guidelines in the event of an accident. The first step is to determine if anyone in the incident needs medical attention. Next, it is imperative that anyone who has fallen into the water is recovered and brought safely back onto the boat if possible. 

Next, the Coast Guard should be contacted. Boat owners should report the accident itself as well as where it occurred and if any passengers or crew need medical help. Filing an accident report with the U.S. Coast Guard is an important step, particularly for the purposes of filing a recreational marine insurance claim. In most cases, an accident report is required by federal law. State reporting authorities may also need to be notified of an accident. 

Boat owners or operators involved in an accident should gather the following information at the scene:

  • Names and contact information for all boat owners/operators in the accident.
  • Names and contact information for anyone injured in the accident.
  • Names and contact information of eyewitnesses, either from shore or from other vessels in the vicinity of the accident.
  • Identification information for the vessels involved, including registration numbers.
  • Information – including policy numbers and company contact information — about the insurance of those vessels and people involved in the accident. 

If the vessel or vessels are disabled after an accident, calling a marine towing company is a smart step. Boat owners should keep contact information for towing companies in their area aboard boats at all times. 

Finally, boat owners should contact their insurers immediately after a boating accident occurs. With the proper reports filed with state and federal authorities, insurance claims can be processed more efficiently. Recreational marine insurance is designed to provide financial compensation for medical expenses, vessel repair/replacement, and other liabilities occurring due to accidents. 

By following these steps, boaters can help to overcome the challenges associated with boating accidents. Knowing what to do in case of accidents and who needs to be notified is a vital component of the accident recovery process. With these tips in mind, boaters can continue to enjoy the lakes, rivers, and oceans, knowing that they are prepared for any emergency that may occur. 

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.