After a boat accident, you should do what you would do after any vehicle accident to ensure safety and protect your damage claim. South Carolina’s Atlantic shoreline and its many rivers and lakes provide plenty of opportunities for recreational boating. Unfortunately, along with the pleasure of boating comes the risk of a boat accident, and even a minor accident on the water can result in tragedy if someone drowns.
When a day of boating fun is ruined by a boat crash, it’s important for you to know exactly what to do, not only to keep your passengers and yourself safe but also to protect your legal claim for damages if the boat accident is caused by someone else.
What to Do After a South Carolina Boat Accident
Your first priority after a boat wreck is to see to the safety of all passengers. Anyone who does not have a life jacket or flotation device should be given one. If you’re physically able to do so, you should first assist anyone who’s fallen into the water since the majority of boating accident fatalities result from drowning.
You should also have a first-aid kit on board to clean and bandage cuts, scratches, or other minor injuries to the best of your ability. If someone has sustained damage to the neck or spine, don’t attempt to move that person unless it’s absolutely necessary to prevent drowning or further injury. Once you’ve seen to everyone’s safety, stay at the scene and take the following steps:
Report Your Boating Accident
Even if your boat accident is a minor one, report it to the Coast Guard or law enforcement authorities. An official accident report is vital evidence for the insurance claim or lawsuit you’ll file for your damages if they were caused by someone else: medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. South Carolina law requires you to report a boating accident to the Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) if the crash results in any of the following:
- More than $2000 dollars’ worth of property damage
- A totaled vessel
- A missing person
- A serious injury
- A death
Get contact information, vessel identification numbers, and the names of insurers from any other boat operators involved in your accident. You should also get contact information from passengers and any other witnesses to the accident. Do not discuss the boating crash, argue, or admit any fault for the accident to anyone.
Photographs of the vessels involved, their damage, their identification numbers, their positions, any passengers’ injuries, and the scene of the accident are very helpful in the investigation of the crash to determine the liability of the at-fault boater and the damages resulting from the accident.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you don’t have visible symptoms of injury, you should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Symptoms that might not appear right away can be detected by a doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests. Early diagnosis means a faster recovery, and a prompt examination provides strong documentation that you were injured in the boat accident, which is very important to your insurance claim or lawsuit for damages. Inform your insurer. Report your boat accident to your own insurance company, but do not admit any fault. If you’re contacted by adjusters from the at-fault boater’s insurer, give only the most basic information, do not give a recorded statement, do not grant access to your medical records, and do not accept a quick settlement offer for your damages, the full extent of which you probably don’t know yet. For any further communication, refer the insurance company’s representatives to your attorney.
Consult a Boat Accident Lawyer
In addition to having knowledge of maritime law that the average person does not have, an experienced boat accident attorney will know how to:
- Investigate your accident to prove any liability
- Interview passengers and other witnesses to the boat accident
- Obtain video footage of the boat accident if you happened to be near a security camera on the shoreline or mounted on a dock
- Consult with your doctors, organize your medical evidence, and present it convincingly to an insurer or the court if necessary
- Put a monetary value on your pain and suffering to evaluate your case
- Demand a fair settlement from the defendant’s insurer and negotiate compensation
- File a lawsuit and take your case to trial if necessary to obtain fair compensation
Have You Or A Loved One Been Injured In A Boat or Jet Ski Accident?
If you've been injured in a boating accident or a jet ski accident you should speak with an accident injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.