||Last Updated: May 29, 2013 - 9:38:36 AM
With summer upon us and fun on the water beckoning, many boaters are ill-prepared and often unaware of the laws governing the waterways. In the unfortunate event of an onboard accident or incident, do you know what your responsibilities are?
Our waterways are patrolled by up to five agencies, which is reassuring, but boaters also have responsibilities. Under federal law, boaters are required to report accidents to the authorities, even seemingly minor ones. In South Carolina, reports should be made to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
When to file a report:
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the operator of each boat involved in an accident is responsible for filing. If the operator is unable to do so, responsibility shifts to the boat owner. Here's a quick list to help determine when and whether you need to file a report:
If, as the result of an accident involving a vessel or its equipment, any of the following occurs, boaters are required to report within 48 hours:
• A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid.
• A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.
• A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence.
If, as the result of an accident involving a vessel or its equipment, any of these situations occur, boaters are required to report within 10 days:
• Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more (less in some states and territories)
• There is a complete loss of any vessel
• A person dies more than 24 hours after the occurrence
Minor accidents not covered above do not have to be reported. But if someone falls off of a wake-board and cuts their leg, resulting in a visit to the local ER, you must report the incident.
Area medical professionals know the reporting regulations and are increasingly reporting incidents that send individuals to the emergency room. In this situation, authorities can cite boaters for not reporting the incident, and they may administer toxicology tests as well, since alcohol is all too often a factor in boating accidents.
Failure report an accident to authorities also may be considered by insurance companies when filing a claim.
As the temperature rises, and boating season gets into full swing, it’s important for boat owners and operators to know the laws and safety regulations. As a firm handling cases resulting from boating accidents, we see what happens when the rules are not followed. A lax attitude on the water can result in a multitude of issues. Calm the waters by knowing the rules and following them too.
Sam Allen is an attorney with the Clore Law Group, a Charleston-based catastrophic personal injury and business law firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.