|Reporting Your Boating Accident|
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Boaters may not know it, but unlike motor vehicle accidents where responsibility for ﬁling a report—if one is required—typically falls to law enforcement ofﬁcers, the operator of a boat involved in an accident is the person required to complete and submit an ofﬁcial accident report. The Code of Federal Regulations—33 CFR Section 179, Subpart C—requires the operator, or the owner if the operator is unable to complete the report, to ﬁle with the state boating authority.
That’s important because the U.S. Coast Guard maintains detailed statistics based on boating accident reports, and the resulting data helps the Coast Guard to identify boat defects and boater behaviors that cause injuries and take lives. The more accurate and complete the accident report, the better the job that federal, state and territorial agencies can do to make boating a safe, recreational activity. Also, be assured that no penalties or citations can be imposed solely on the basis of an accident report.
When to File
Guidelines for when to ﬁle can get a little complicated, depending on the severity of the accident and the jurisdiction in which it occurs, but here are the basics:
✓ Federal law requires a report within 48 hours for an accident that involves a vessel or its equipment if, as a result of that accident, any of the following happens: a person dies within 24 hours, a person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond ﬁrst-aid measures, or a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.
✓ A report must be ﬁled within 10 days of an accident in which damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more, the complete loss of a vessel occurs, or a person dies more than 24 hours after the accident.
✓ State and territorial laws vary, especially in terms of the property damage threshold. Some jurisdictions, such as Alabama’s, require boaters to report accidents with as little as $50 in damage, so it’s important to check with the state boating authority.
Of course, when an accident happens, ﬁnding the correct form to complete is usually the last thing on the minds of those involved. That’s why the Coast Guard recommends keeping blank accident reporting forms on board, along with ﬂoat plans and pre-launch checklists.
How to File
Most states have their own boating accident report forms, which may be obtained from state boating authorities. A federal form, which is accepted by many states, may also be downloaded at www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/Publications/cg3865barform2008.pdf. But remember, the form should still be sent to the state boating authority in either the state where the accident occurred, the state in which the vessel is numbered or, if the vessel does not have a number, the state where the vessel is principally used. The state boating authority will review the report, determine the cause of the accident, and forward the information to the Coast Guard.
The state boating authority is typically the Department of Natural Resources; the Department of Fish, Game and Wildlife; a similar agency; or the state police. If you are unsure which it is, you can ﬁnd out online by visiting www.nasbla.org. Click on “people,” and then click on “state boating contacts.”
One last thing: In addition to ﬁling a boating accident report, a boating operator or owner involved in an accident should ﬁle an insurance claim. An accident report is no substitute for an insurance claim, and vice versa. Contact your boating insurance agency for instructions and relevant forms as soon as possible after an accident.
The Benefits of Filing