What to do if you are in a boating accident? Over the summer months, increasing numbers of people go out on the waterways of Maryland. The state is defined as much by its waterways as much as its highways. Maryland has more than 40 rivers and more than 400 miles of water tributary leading to the Chesapeake Bay.

Areas like Annapolis and the Eastern Shore are famous for boating. If you are heading out on the water, it’s important to know what to do if you are in a boating accident.

Although there are few things better than heading out to sea over the summer months, there are also inherent dangers. Every year boaters lose their lives or are seriously injured on rivers or the ocean.

About a dozen people die on average every year in boating accidents in Maryland. However, the state saw a spike in 2015 when 21 people lost their lives, the most in two decades, reported the Baltimore Sun.

If you are on a boat you should abide by a series of rules. Not all boaters are aware of what to do if they get in trouble. Here are some questions and answers about what to do if you are in a Maryland boating accident and how to file a report.

Boating Accident Lawyer Maryland

If you are Involved in a Boating Accident, What is the First Thing You Must Do?

If you are involved in a boating accident on the rivers of Maryland or off the coast, the first thing you must do is stop the vessel immediately and assist anyone who is in trouble. The only exception to this rule is when stopping would endanger your own vessel and its passengers.

Try to get anybody who has fallen overboard back onto the boat. If the vessel is disintegrating or sinking, climb onto floating debris and signal for help. You should always be wearing a life jacket.

You should never leave the scene of a boating accident.

What is the Next Thing You Should Do?

If the boat has a communication device, you should radio for help or use another method of signaling like releasing a distress flare. All boats 16 feet or over must be equipped with visual distress signals, states the U.S. Coast Guard.

It’s important to get help as soon as possible if you have been involved in a serious boating accident with injuries or deaths, or if the situation is deteriorating. If you are helping an injured boater, you can render first aid before the U.S. Coast Guard or another first responder arrives at the scene.

After checking all people on the boat are safe, you should obtain information from other parties involved in the boating accident. You must have identification on you and give in writing your name, address and identifying information of the vessel to anyone who is injured. Take the details of the other boaters. Notify the owner of any damage to the vessel.

When Would a Written Boating Accident Report be Required?

The operator of a vessel must submit a written report to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in certain scenarios. The owner of the boat may submit the report if the operator is unable to.

A written boating accident report is required within 48 hours when:

  • A person dies, disappears, or receives any medical treatment beyond first aid

A written report must be submitted within 10 days to the MDNR when:

  • Damage to the vessel or other property is at least $2,000 or more or if a vessel is completely lost in the accident

The operator or owner must report an accident to the MDNR within 30 days when:

  • A vessel with Maryland registration is involved in any wreck on waters outside Maryland and that accident leads to the death, disappearance, or injuries to anyone on the boat or in property damage of $2,000 or more

This does not exempt the operator or owner from any reporting requirements in the jurisdiction where the incident took place.

Some jurisdictions require boaters to report accidents with as little as $50 in damage, as in the case of Alabama. It’s important to check the requirements with that state boating authority where the nautical accident occurred.

What Type of Report Must Be Filed if there is an Accident while Boating?

A casualty or accident report must be submitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources police. Standardized report forms are available by contacting MDNR.  Alternatively, a Recreational Boating Accident Report can be found on the website of the U.S. Coast Guard. It should be sent to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  This is a six-page report that includes an area to describe the accident and to detail the damage to the boat.

You can report an emergency, a violation or an abandoned boat by calling 410-260-8888. Report a boating death by calling  410-576-2525. You will, however, also have to file a written report.

A Boating Accident Occurs. Must the Accident be Reported to the County Sheriff or Police Department?

If you have been involved in a boating accident in Maryland, you can report it to any law enforcement agency. However, it makes the most sense to report an accident to agencies with jurisdiction over the waters.

The U.S. Coast Guard has authority over any waters the U.S. government has jurisdiction over and helps local law enforcement agencies with rescues. A boating accident must be reported to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources if it meets the criteria as outlined above for reporting. There is no obligation to report it to the county sheriff.

Contact an Experienced Maryland Boating Injury Lawyer

It’s important to know what to do if you are in a boating accident. Your actions in the hours and days after a crash on the water could influence the success of a personal injury lawsuit.

Boaters have rights. However, on occasions, they are injured in collisions with other vessels. Another boater may be speeding or driving recklessly. Over the summer months, alcohol is often consumed on the water and this may be a cause of incidents.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a boating accident, please contact our Maryland boating accident lawyers for a free consultation at (410) 694-7291.