There are almost 800,000 registered boats or watercraft in the Carolinas. Only California, Florida, Michigan and Minnesota have more boats on the water. Unfortunately, hundreds of boating accidents are reported annually in the Carolinas. Although they occur less frequently than car crashes, boating accidents are just as dangerous. And surviving the boating accident itself doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Drowning is the number one cause of boating fatalities.

Boaters have legal responsibilities, just as drivers or passengers of motor vehicles. If you are injured in a boating accident, the operator and/or the owner can be held liable for injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other compensation.

Boating Accident Laws and Regulations

Did you know that South Carolina waterways are patrolled by as many as five enforcement agencies? This is good news because boat operators and owners have a responsibility to report watercraft accidents, even seemingly minor ones, to the authorities. In South Carolina, reports should be made to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, each operator of a water craft involved in an accident must file a report. If the operator cannot personally file one, responsibility shifts to the boat owner. Here’s a short list to help you know when you need to file a report:

If, as the result of an accident involving a vessel or its equipment, any of the following occurs, boaters must report within 48 hours:

  • A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.
  • A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence.

If, as the result of an accident involving a vessel or its equipment, any of these situations occur, boaters are required to report within 10 days:

  • Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more (less in some states and territories).
  • There is a complete loss of any vessel.
  • A person dies more than 24 hours after the occurrence

Minor accidents not covered above do not have to be reported; however, if someone suffers a water sport injury that requires a visit to the ER, you must report the incident.

Medical professionals know the reporting regulations and are increasingly reporting incidents that send individuals to the emergency room. In this situation, authorities can cite boaters for not reporting the incident, and they will typically administer toxicology tests as well, since alcohol is all too often a factor in boating accidents.

Failure to report an accident to authorities also may be considered by insurance companies when filing a claim.

Charleston Watercraft Injuries

As a Charleston law firm handling cases resulting from boating accidents, we see what happens when the rules are not followed. Understanding the laws can minimize the pain and suffering of all involved. Call today for a free consultation if you or someone you know was hurt in a boating accident.