How To Prepare A Boating Accident Claim: The Do’s And Don’ts

California’s four million boaters have many options to hit the water. Over 1,100 miles of coast, hundreds of navigable rivers, and lakes have made Golden State a top spot for recreational boating. The California Delta alone is considered a boater’s paradise, featuring a myriad of waterways dotted with over 70 boat launches and marinas.

And freshwater options like Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in North America, and Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir with crystal blue waters, consistently make lists of the best places to go boating in California.

What do the boating accident statistics say?

As with any recreational activity, there’s always a risk of accidents. During the first year of the pandemic, the U.S. Coast Guards’ 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics report showed boating accidents in California jumped 52% at the same time as the National Marine Manufacturers Association noted record sales of new boats.

The latest report from the Coast Guard shows the number of accidents decreased slightly in 2021. In total, 4,439 boating accidents were registered nationwide, causing 658 fatalities. In California, 39 people died in 454 such accidents. Other findings included:

  • The top five contributing factors to U.S. boating accidents were operator inattention, operator inexperience, speeding, improper lookout, and machine failure.
  • 75% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive safety instructions.
  • 83% of drowning victims did not wear a lifejacket.
  • Alcohol was the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents.

Know the do’s and don’ts of filing a boating accident claim

If an accident does happen, it’s important to know how to prepare a boating accident claim to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Although the aftermath of a boating accident can be overwhelming, it’s crucial to act quickly and methodically to ensure the best possible outcome. By being aware of the do’s and don’ts, you can avoid common mistakes and better navigate the process. Note: This article is only discussing a civil claim if you are injured. Seek counsel if there may be criminal issues involved.

Let’s start with a few of the “do’s.”


1. Seek medical attention immediately

It goes without saying that the first order of business is your own health and safety. If you or anyone else involved in the accident is injured, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you may seem fine, it’s typically wise to see a healthcare professional, as some injuries may not be apparent right away. A medical record of any injuries is also critical in supporting your claim.

2. Document the accident scene

If it is safe to do so, take photos and videos of the accident scene, including the damaged boats, any visible injuries, and the surrounding area. This visual evidence can be invaluable when building your case.

3. Collect information from all parties involved

Gather the names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information of all boaters involved in the accident. If there are witnesses, be sure to collect their contact information as well. Witness statements can play a significant role in determining liability.

4. File a boating accident report

In California, a boat owner/operator is required to file a boating accident report with the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) if the accident meets certain criteria. It needs to be filed within 48 hours if:

  • A death occurred within 24 hours of the accident
  • It required medical treatments beyond first aid
  • It resulted in the disappearance of a person

And you have 10 days to file if:

  • A person dies more than 24 hours after the accident
  • Property damage exceeds $500 or if there’s complete loss of the vessel

Note: Failure to submit a required accident report is considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to six months.

5. Be careful with what you say

While it may be instinctive to apologize after an accident, doing so can be interpreted as an admission of guilt. It’s essential to avoid discussing fault with other parties involved, as it could jeopardize you in a number of areas of law.

6. Consult with an experienced attorney

Boating accident claims are often complicated, and California laws can be challenging to navigate without legal expertise. Consult with an attorney who has experience in boating accident claims to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. At Penney & Associates, we review every case in detail and can tell you exactly what you need to move forward with your boating accident claim. Even if you are partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to collect damages.

Now, let’s look at the “don’ts.”

Do nots:

1. Do not provide a statement to insurance companies without legal representation

Insurance companies often look for ways to minimize the amount they have to pay out in claims. Speaking with them without legal representation could lead to providing information that might hurt your case. Consult with your attorney before speaking to any insurance company representatives. There may also be criminal implications so consult a lawyer.

2. Do not wait too long to file your personal injury claim

In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including boating accidents, is generally two years from the date of the accident. However, there may be exceptions, such as when a government entity is involved. It’s crucial to consult with your attorney to ensure you file your claim within the appropriate time frame.

3. Do not accept a settlement without consulting your attorney

Insurance companies may offer you a settlement that seems reasonable at first glance. Again, seek the advice of your attorney before accepting any offer, as it may not adequately cover all of your damages and losses.

4. Do not neglect to follow your doctor’s advice

Following your doctor’s advice is vital to your health and recovery, but it also matters to your claim. If you ignore your doctor’s recommendations, the insurance company may argue that you’re not seriously injured or that you’re not taking the necessary steps to recover, which could hurt your claim.

Final word

Preparing a boating accident claim in California requires attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that govern these incidents. By following these do’s and don’ts, you can help protect your rights and increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

Penney & Associates can help. We have the right experience and deep expertise to prepare your boating claim and get the crucial details right from the start. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Read more
Accident or negligence? What to keep in mind if you’ve suffered traumatic injuries
Jet ski accidents: Understanding risks and your right to pursue legal action
Wrongful death: Who can bring a lawsuit and other facts you should know

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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