What to Do in a Boat Collision

June 6, 2022

Boating in Louisiana can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. To ensure you and those around you can continue to enjoy this pastime, it’s necessary to follow some simple boating safety guidelines.

One of the most important things to know is what to do in case of an accident. After an injury, our Louisiana boating accident lawyers can help protect your rights, but it’s important to know how to prevent boating accidents in the first place, and what steps you should take immediately after an injury.

Safety Gear You Should Have Onboard in Case of a Boating Accident

Safety gear is critical when you are on the water and away from quick and easy access to help in an emergency. There are some basics that everyone is required to have in their boat in Louisiana, depending on the size and occupant capacity of their watercraft:

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for every individual on board
  • Throwable flotation devices
  • Type B fire extinguishers
  • Backfire flame arrestor
  • Daytime and nighttime visual distress signals
  • Engine cut-off switch
  • Navigation lights
  • Ventilation system
  • Underwater muffler/exhaust
  • A horn, whistle, or bell

Using this equipment can reduce the risk and severity of any trauma suffered, but if you do become injured while boating, consulting with a boating accident lawyer at our law firm after getting to safety and getting treatment for any injuries can ensure you get the maximum compensation you’re owed and deserve.

What are the Most Common Injuries in a Boat Collision?

The most common injuries during boating accidents in Louisiana are:

  • Drowning: Drowning is one of the most common injuries sustained in a boating accident and is often fatal in the absence of a lifejacket or flotation device. In 2020, 20 out of 24 boating-related fatalities in Louisiana involved drowning.
  • Brain injuries: Brain injuries can occur if a victim is deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period, like during a drowning or near-drowning. They can also happen due to impacts to the head, such as from being thrown against a wall or railing of a boat. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) reported 754 head injuries in 2020 in boating accidents.
  • Spinal cord injuries: Damage to the spinal cord can be caused by impacts suffered during a collision. Another form of spinal cord injury is compression, which happens when the boat bounces violently. This can often cause a disk hernia, which usually needs surgery to correct. In 2020, 42 people suffered spinal cord injuries due to a boating accident.
  • Lacerations: Cuts are most often caused when a victim in the water comes into contact with a boat’s propellers. The USCG reported 762 laceration injuries in 2020.
  • Electrocution: Most boats have an electrical wiring system, and damage to that system during an accident can expose wiring to water and increase the risk of electrocution. Electric shock was reported in 4 boating accidents in 2020.
  • Whiplash: Whiplash is common during boating collisions due to jarring shocks to the body from impacts. Whiplash is also called neck strain or neck sprain and affects a significant portion of boating accident victims who suffer neck and head injuries.

What to Do Immediately After an Accident

After an accident on the water, the priority is your safety and that of those around you. Get a headcount to determine if anyone is missing and scan the water for people who may have fallen overboard.

Contact the Coast Guard immediately, if possible. Notify them of the accident, location, and any medical assistance that may be needed. If you’re in the water, ensure that you and anyone around you have flotation aids, then get to a safe place.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Injuries like brain or spinal trauma may not always present immediately but can significantly impact your quality of life and result in costly medical treatment. People who suffer head or spine injuries may also have difficulty staying afloat without help.

What to Do Afterward to Protect Your Rights

Once you’re back on land, make sure you file a report with the Coast Guard and any other relevant authorities. Gather as much information for these reports as possible, including names and contact information for operators, passengers, and witnesses.

You should collect insurance information for all vessel operators present and license or ID numbers of all the boats involved. Include any photographs of the scene, damage, and injuries.

Stay Afloat with Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers

While more accidents are reported annually for recreational water vehicles than commercial boats, most of these are caused by human error, no matter the type of vessel.

Equipment malfunctions or misuse and weather conditions are factors. However, alcohol and drug consumption, inexperience, and distracted operators are often the cause of boating incidents that harm the people who come to us for help.

This summer, we want to remind everyone to enjoy your time on Louisiana’s beautiful waterways, but also be safe. Follow boating safety regulations, and if you’ve been injured in a boating collision or accident, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free case review.