West Palm Beach has many wonderful boating opportunities; whether you own a boat yourself or just like to rent one for a jaunt along the Intracoastal, boating is a great way to enjoy the outdoors here in South Florida. Unfortunately, not everyone you might encounter on the water knows the rules of the road. Boating accidents in West Palm Beach are a fact of life here as much as they are anywhere else. So if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself in a boating accident, what should you do?
The first step takes place before any accident happens. You should learn boating safety, familiarize yourself with all your equipment, study the local charts, review the nautical “rules of the road,” use common sense and good judgment, and be courteous and considerate to other boaters. Being prepared and educated means you’ll minimize the chances of being involved in an accident in the first place. And if an accident should occur, you will most likely not be the one at fault.
If you are involved in a boating accident in West Palm Beach — or anywhere else, for that matter — you may find yourself having to do several things at once, juggling conflicting priorities. Being focused on stopping the bleeding from a person’s leg does not mean you can ignore water levels rising in the bilge. If you have someone else qualified on board, instruct them to take the helm, or tell them to break out the bilge pump and bucket.
As a rule, no matter what happens, you should keep several things in mind during South Florida boating accidents:
- As long as your boat is still afloat, check if anyone is in need of medical attention and help them as well as circumstances allow.
- Immediately call up the Coast Guard, informing them that you were just involved in a boating accident. Tell them immediately if you need emergency medical care. Let them know where you are and give them a description of the boats involved.
- If you can, help the other vessel.
- Once the situation is under control, exchange information with the other boat operator.
Ask for and give the following:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the operator.
- Names of all passengers, including their addresses and phone numbers.
- Names of any eyewitnesses who saw the event, either from another vessel or from shore.
- Name of the vessel.
- ID or registration number of the vessel.
- Vessel’s insurance company and insurance policy number.
Once the medical needs of everyone have been taken care of and there is no immediate danger, take photographs of all vessels involved. After you come ashore, contact the Coast Guard and file an accident report (if required). An accident report is required if:
- The accident results in death or any injuries requiring medical treatment other than first aid.
- The damage to property and vessels is $2000 or more, or a vessel is lost entirely.
- Anyone disappears from their vessel in circumstances that indicate death or injury.
You may also have to file an accident report with the local authorities. Contact your parks and recreation department to determine whether this is the case. Inform your insurance carrier that an accident occurred as soon as possible. Give them copies of all paperwork from law enforcement or Coast Guard.
Finally, before going out on your West Palm Beach boating excursion, be sure to bring this checklist along with you. Knowing what to do ahead of time will give you a far better chance of succeeding should you become injured and litigation against the responsible party becomes necessary.
Be sure to write down the phone number of Marc Schwartz (954-655-0222) an experienced Palm Beach Boating Accident Attorney. This way, if an accident happens and you are not sure about something you should do, you will have a direct line to an expert that can guide you through the process in real time.