Most people know what to do following a car accident, motorcycle accident, or even a slip and fall accident but what should you do if you are involved in a commercial vessel accident? Whether you run the occasional fishing charter or you make your living at sea, knowing what to do immediately following a maritime accident is critical. Not only could you save a life one day by knowing how to react to an accident on the water but you may also make recovering compensation from an at-fault party easier as well if someone else was at fault in the accident. While no two accidents present exactly the same set of circumstances, the following steps should be taken after any maritime accident:
- Report the accident to authorities. Local authorities should be contacted by calling 911 or the local Sheriff’s emergency number, particularly if there is even the possibility of an injury to anyone involved. In addition, a commercial vessel accident on U.S navigable waters must be immediately reported by telephone to the nearest USCG, Marine Inspection Office, or Coast Guard Group Office. The report must also be followed up in writing within 5 days on USCG Form CG-2692. If the accident involves an oil or chemical spill it must be immediately reported to the National Response Center by calling 800-424-8802 or 202-267-2675.
- Comply with testing. S. commercial vessel operators are also required to comply with post-accident drug and alcohol testing as well as any additional applicable post-accident regulations.
- Seek medical treatment. Have a complete medical evaluation done as soon as possible. Many serious, even life-threatening injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, do not result in obvious symptoms until hours or days after the injury. Not only will you ensure that all injuries are caught early on by having an immediate evaluation done but you will also establish a nexus between any injuries you sustained and the accident that caused the injuries in the event of a lawsuit down the road.
- Document the scene. Take pictures of the accident scene and all involved vessels with your camera, cell phone or tablet if you are able to do so.
- Preserve the scene. Do not disturb the accident scene unless absolutely necessary so that the authorities may conduct their investigation.
- Obtain contact information. If you are able, obtain the names and contact information for all involved parties as well as any witnesses to the accident.
- Submit a written report to the captain. As soon as possible after the accident make a detailed written report and submit it to the captain. Keep a copy for yourself or create your own report for future reference. Over time, details tend to fade. Having a detailed account you created right after the accident can be helpful should the accident result in litigation.
- Do not discuss the accident. Do not agree to speak to insurance adjuster or anyone else other than the authorities until you have consulted with an attorney. Typically, the USCG will allow you to have an attorney present during an investigation. All too often people make comments that are later taken out of context or used against them should the accident result in a lawsuit which is why you should always speak to an attorney before you agree to discuss the accident with anyone.
- Seek legal advice. Contact an experienced maritime accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the accident investigation and any potential litigation that follows.
If you have additional questions or concerns relating to a maritime accident contact the Louisiana maritime accident attorneys at Broussard & Hart, LLC by calling 337-439-2450 to schedule your appointment today.