What Should You Do After a Boating Accident?

Steps to Take After a Boating Accident

If you follow all the proper safety precautions and conduct protocols, boating accidents should be extremely rare. But it's still important to know what you should do after you're directly involved in a boating accident, or if you witness one.

The Causes of Boating Accidents

While it's useful to know what to do after a boating accident, it's even more useful to know what to do to avoid boat accidents. If everyone followed simple best practices for safe boating, nearly all boat accidents would be prevented.

To this end, it's important to understand the root causes of most boat accidents.

The most common causes of boating accidents are:

  • Operator errors. Overwhelmingly, boat accidents are caused by operator errors. It's possible for the captain of a ship to misjudge distance, inappropriately use signalling, operate at unsafe speeds, or take unreasonable evasive action, and eventually lead to an accident. Most boat owners and operators make errors at least occasionally, with no ill effects, but it only takes one poorly timed mistake to cause a serious problem.
  • Intoxicated operation. Most of us understand that intoxicated driving is a bad idea; drinking alcohol or consuming other intoxicating substances can impair your judgment, slow your reaction time, and cause other effects that make accidents more likely. This same effect applies to boating, though many captains and operators either neglect this or don't take it as seriously as they should.
  • Equipment failure. Sometimes, boat accidents result from equipment failure. It's tempting to think that this is beyond the control of an operator, and it sometimes is, but in most cases, equipment failures are preventable with regular inspections and proper maintenance. This is one reason why it's so important to maintain and inspect your boat regularly.
  • Improper communication/signalling. Bad communication can also cause a problem. If someone goes for a swim in the area, and fails to signal this properly, they could easily be hit by a vessel.
  • Bad weather. Inclement weather can also create conditions that make boat accidents more likely. Limited visibility, high winds, and precipitation can all interfere with your ability to operate a boat safely.

Prevention and Mitigation Strategies

These are some of the most important points to address if you want to prevent and mitigate the effects of boat accidents:

  • Knowledgeable operation. The person operating the boat needs to be knowledgeable and experienced in boat operations. They need to be able to operate the boat safely and reliably, following all laws, proper procedures, and best practices.
  • Safety equipment. You also need to have ample safety equipment on board, including flotation devices, first aid kits, and multiple ways to communicate in the event of an emergency.
  • Safe operations. Boating is an enjoyable hobby, and for several reasons, but it's important not to use this leisure time as an excuse to be reckless. Unsafe speeds, unsafe manoeuvres, and unsafe conditions can all make accidents more likely.
  • An emergency plan. You should also have some sort of plan in place for how to handle an emergency. Who's in charge? What are their responsibilities?

What Should You Do After a Boating Accident?

If, despite all your precautions, you do still experience a boating accident, these are the most important steps to follow:

  • Remain calm. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it's imperative that you remain calm. Keeping a calm, level head allows you to make more objective, rational decisions and can help keep other people calm as well.
  • Prioritise safety. The top priority in any boat accident is the health and safety of the people involved, so take whatever actions are necessary to preserve that health and safety. That could mean moving the boat to a safer location, identifying people thrown overboard, or preparing to administer first aid.
  • Help anyone overboard or injured. If someone has been thrown overboard, deploy a flotation device; hopefully, they already have a properly fitted lifejacket on. If anyone has been injured, and you know how to administer first aid, provide them with preliminary treatment. If you suspect a neck or spinal injury, do not move the affected person.
  • Assess the situation. Take a moment to assess the situation. Is there any further imminent danger? How bad is the damage? How bad are the injuries? You may not have all the answers, but you should have a reasonable precursory estimate.
  • Call for help. Call for help as soon as you understand what has happened. Ideally, you'll have someone else call for help as you follow the preceding steps, so you can expedite the arrival of that help.
  • Get medical attention. If you or anyone else is injured in the accident, it's important to get medical attention right away. Even if you don't suspect you have an injury, you should get a medical examination to see if there are any significant injuries that aren't immediately apparent.
  • Collect information/evidence. It's also important to collect information and evidence. Take photos and video of the accident, collect camera footage if you have it, and get the names and contact information of any people involved. You may also want to get witness testimonies.
  • File a report. It’s prudent to file a report with applicable regulatory bodies. In the United States, it’s important to contact the United States Coast Guard and your state agency for regulating boats. In Europe, you’ll want to contact the Coast Guard or police officers associated with your current jurisdiction.
  • Contact your insurance provider. If there is significant damage to your boat or personal property, contact your insurance provider. They can provide you with instructions for how to file a claim (and help you determine if filing a claim is the right move).
  • Contact a legal professional. If you or someone else was harmed because of another party’s negligence, you may also want to seek legal help.

No boat owner ever wants to get in an accident, but they do happen from time to time – even in calm, relatively sparse seas. If and when your boat is no longer operational, you’ll need another vessel to replace it.

That’s where TheYachtMarket comes in. We’ve got new and used boats for sale in almost every imaginable variety, across the U.S. and Europe. Take a look to see what we have to offer!

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