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I've Been in a Boating Accident – Now What do I do?

We love living in New England surrounded by the hundreds of lakes we can take the boat on. People love the water, they love their boats, and there is still a lot of boating season left. But, remember your boat is a motorized vessel just like your car, and can cause personal injury. People, often are merely thinking of fun in the sun as they leave the dock, and are not thinking of the personal injury that can be caused in a boating accident.

In 2017, the Coast Guard counted 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. Causes of boating accident have included operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and sadly, boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol (BUI). Alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 19% of deaths.  Just like on the road, no vessel should be under the control of an inebriated individual (maximum 0.08 blood alcohol content). Not only is it dangerous, it’s also against the law.

Before heading out on the waterways and onto the river, lake or ocean, there are several rules for boating in the State of New Hampshire that people need to learn. For one, New Hampshire has a mandatory boating education law. Everyone 16 years of age and older who operates a motorboat over 25 horsepower on New Hampshire waters must have a boating education certificate.  Here are examples of what is considered a recreational boat:

  • Yachts
  • Sailboats
  • Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis & Wave Runners)
  • Pontoons
  • Kayaks, Paddle-boards & Canoes
  • Center Console Runabouts
  • Cabin Cruisers
  • Tenders
  • Inflatable & Semi Rigid Inflatable Boats

Smooth sailing may be in your future, but if you collide with another boat or hit something, here is some advice.

Check to Make sure Everyone is Safe and Stay with the Boat

Immediately after the accident, make sure you and your passengers are safe. If somebody has fallen into the water, stay calm, toss them a life vest, slowly approach them in the water and cut the engine while they climb back on board. It is much easier to locate a boat in trouble then it is finding individual bodies in the water.

Reporting a Boating Accident

If everyone is safe and unhurt, your next question should be whether or not the boating accident needs to be reported. In New Hampshire, if a boater is involved in an accident, there are some occasions where reporting will be necessary:

  • If a passenger disappears (and it seems likely they’re injured or dead)
  • If somebody is injured or dies
  • If the vessel has been damaged beyond repair
  • If there’s an emergency that requires urgent medical attention
  • If there’s property damage of at least $2,000

Just like a motor vehicle accident, when a boating accident involves another operator, you should swap important information. This includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Insurance Information
  • Hull ID/Registration Number

If there is personal injury or property damage in excess of $2,000 you must file a written accident report with Marine Patrol within 15 days.

If you have been involved in a boating accident, it is also important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved, regardless of whether you or the other boater was to blame, as you may need to make a claim for damages. You may also be able to make a legal claim against any boat operator if there is proof of negligence, carelessness, or boater rules were broken. This could provide you with payment of medical bills, as well as compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and wrongful death.

In the aftermath of your boating accident, the best thing for you to do is to consult with a personal injury lawyer whether or not you are seeking compensation. This way, you can get legal advice that’s specifically suited to your experience. Kenison Law understands that a boating accident can be a scary experience, and we are prepared to guide you through your rights after a boating accident or for help pursuing your damage claim.  Let us advocate for you by contacting us at (603) 471-3550 or through our website:

Helpful boating resources include:

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