What to Do after a Boat Accident in Fort Lauderdale
The "Yachting Capital of the World," Fort Lauderdale plays host to the International Boat Show, docks thousands of boats daily, with waterways frequently dotted with vessels of all sizes. Learn exactly what to do after a boat accident in Fort Lauderdale.
Assure the Safety of All Passengers
As with any accident, the first step you should take after a boat accident is to secure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If the boat is still afloat and you and your passengers are aboard, first and foremost determine whether anyone needs medical attention. In the case that anyone has fallen overboard, your first step will be to assist the fallen passenger back onto the boat as soon as possible.
If after the accident your vessel has broken apart or is sinking, climb onto the largest piece of floating debris available and begin signaling for help. Your life jacket should help keep you afloat while out in open water. Boat accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and this is further evidence as to why wearing a life jacket is so important. Not only will it keep you safer, but wearing one in the case of an injury-causing accident can help your case if you choose to file a claim.
Moving forward, provided all passengers are aboard, your priority should be keeping the boat out of harm's way. In order to effectively provide medical assistance or first aid to any injured passengers, the boat should be moved out of the path of oncoming vessels. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately to inform them an accident has occurred, where the accident took place, and what medical assistance, if any, may be necessary.
Once you've returned to land, it is advisable to see your doctor following a boating accident. Even if you do not initially believe you suffered any injuries, many times the shock of the accident can mask the symptoms. It is best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention for yourself, as well as your passengers, as soon as possible.
Report to the Coast Guard
As we briefly mentioned in step 1, in the case of a boat accident in Fort Lauderdale, the Coast Guard should be contacted. Under the federal law, a boating accident report must be filed if:
- A passenger was killed.
- A passenger was injured badly enough to need immediate medical aid.
- The vessel was completely lost or destroyed.
- There is damage to the vessels or to property that equals or exceeds $2,000.
- A passenger disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate an injury or death has occurred.
In addition, if any of the above circumstances occurred during the accident, you should also file a boating accident report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). When providing the report, bear in mind that while you should offer accurate information, you should never voluntarily admit guilt or accept responsibility for the accident. An accident report from the Coast Guard or the FWC may be used to help shed light on how the accident occurred, and speculating on the cause can jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim.
To err on the side of caution, consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can aid you in compiling the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation if you've been injured as result of a boating accident.
Obtain Necessary Information
Once you've attended to the immediate needs of yourself and your passengers, you can move onto obtaining necessary legal information from those on the other vessel as well as from any witnesses. Recommended information that you should gather at the scene of the accident includes:
- Names and contact information of the boat operators involved in the accident.
- Names and contact information of the passengers involved or aboard any of the vessels in the crash.
- Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident.
- Insurance information of those who were involved in the accident.
- Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have witnessed the accident.
It is highly advisable that you take photographs, both at the scene of the accident and once you've docked, to fully capture any damage done to the vessel. Also, try to take photos of where the accident occurred as well as the current weather conditions. If you plan on building a case to prove that the other boat operator was responsible for the accident, these images can prove very helpful.
Making a Claim
Following a boating accident, it's important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved. Regardless if you or another boater were to blame, you should still notify your insurance company, as you may need to file a claim for damages. As per your previous step of obtaining information, have the following information at the ready:
- Policy number
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Description of what happened
- Description of damages
- The current location of your boat
- Contact information for any witnesses
Typically, once a claim is filed it will be assigned to a claims representative. However, if you feel as though the other boater was careless, negligent, or broke the law in a way that led to the accident that caused your injuries, you may be able to take legal action for compensation. In this case, contact a qualified South Florida personal injury attorney who can use their expertise to fight for your compensation. Your attorney can help recover damages such as:
- Emergency services and transportation to a medical facility
- Medical expenses
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
Being Aware of Common Causes
Being in a boating accident is a physically and emotionally traumatic experience. While being out on open water, a fellow boater could behave a variety of ways that could constitute as negligence. Common causes of boating accidents caused by negligent boaters include:
- Driving the boat at a dangerous speed.
- Riding a large wave or wake at a dangerous speed.
- Failure to look out for others on the water, including those skiing and tubing.
- Colliding with a fixed object.
- Failure to follow rules and protocol for boat operators.
- Boating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Overloading the boat with too many occupants or too much cargo.
- Failure to ensure proper maintenance of the boat.
Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to accidents. With its ports, docks, marinas, and waterways brimming with yachts, sailboats, motorboats, rowboats, and other personal vessels, it seems accidents are almost unavoidable. While you can't prevent the negligence of other's, you can prepare what to do in the case of an accident. Armed with these tips and the help of a qualified attorney, you and your vessel can be back on the water in no time.