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Reporting Your Boating Accident

Filing a report helps identify boat defects, hazardous conditions.
Boating Safety

One last thing:  filing an insurance claim is no substitute for filing a boat accident report, nor does filing a report substitute for filing an insurance claim. Contact your boat insurance agency for instructions and forms related to insurance claims.

When and Whether to File a Report

Remember, it’s the operator of each boat involved in an accident who is responsible for filing. If the operator is unable to do so, responsibility shifts to the boat owner.  Here’s a quick list to help you determine when and whether you need to file a report:

   If, as the result of an accident involving a vessel or its equipment…   You must report:
   …a person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence
   …a person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid
   …a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury
Within 48 hours of the occurrence
   …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
Within 10 days of the occurrence
   Minor accidents not covered above.   No report necessary

The Benefits of Filing

Boaters should know that filing a report allows state boating authorities and the Coast Guard to identify boat defects and boater behaviors that contribute to accidents.  For example, a few years back the Coast Guard received information through a state boating authority that two boaters nearly drowned because the boat they were using lacked the required amount of flotation. The report detailed how the boat swamped, dumping both boaters into the water. When they attempted to hang onto the boat, it began to sink, forcing them to swim to shore.  Both survived fortunately.  The Coast Guard investigation that followed resulted in the recall of 13 models (more than 5500 boats) produced by one manufacturer and very likely saved lives.

Filing also helps state boating authorities and the Coast Guard identify hazardous boater behaviors that contribute to recreational boat accidents and fatalities. These data are compiled in the Coast Guard’s annual report Recreational Boating Statistics, available online at As a result of this information, the Coast Guard was able to confirm that more than two-thirds of fatal accident victims had drowned and that 90 percent of those had not been wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. The Coast Guard also confirmed that fewer than 10 percent of fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit

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