Boating Accidents

Starting with the establishment of the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) in 1971, a great deal has been done to provide the more than 76 million US boaters with the resources they need to operate their vessels in a safe and enjoyable manner.  In this article, we will share many of these resources with you as well as a brief overview of what to do if you have the misfortune to be involved in a boating accident.

Reporting an Accident

Any boating accident that involves a fatality, a disappearance that may indicate death or injury, a personal injury that requires medical treatment beyond first aid, damage to vessels and other property that totals $2000 or more, or a destroyed boat, requires a Boat Accident Report (BAR).  Federal law requires this report be filed by the operator or owner, if the operator is deceased or unable to make the report.  The report must be filed within 48 hours of a fatal accident or within 10 days of a non-fatal reportable accident.

Persons who operate a boat do so with the legal obligation to assure safe operation.  Failure to do so may result in criminal charges.  If an accident does occur, it is important to know that failure to remain on the scene, provide aid, and report the accident is a crime.  If a state or federal report is made, it is also a requirement to report the incident to the insurance company.

It is of equal importance that a boat owner is very careful about whom they allow to operate their boat.  Regardless of operator error, the owner of the vessel may still be libel for the damages.


According to the U.S. Coast Guard, operator inattention and operator inexperience are among the top causes of accidents and fatalities each year.  Statistics also show that there are a significant number of accidents caused by boat failure or equipment failure. Understanding these two main categories of causes will help to identify the responsible party.  If you have been involved in a boating accident, completing the following steps will help to assure a smoother legal process.

Visit a doctor as soon as possible.  Pain from some injuries can manifest at a later date.  It is important for a medical professional to identify any injuries that may have occurred as soon as possible after the accident to minimize any question pertaining to their cause.

Collecting as much information as possible is very important.  Be sure to exchange insurance information if the accident involved a third party.  The names and phone numbers of all persons involved as well as any witnesses that may have been present are also important.

Contacting a boating accident attorney as soon as possible will help you to avoid doing anything that might make it more difficult to settle your claim.


The U.S. Coast Guard has created the Boating Safety Resource Center which is “dedicated to reducing loss of life, injuries, and property damage that occur on U.S. waterways by improving the knowledge, skills, and abilities of recreational boaters”.