The coastal areas of South Carolina have mild winters with daytime temperatures averaging about 60 degrees. This means boat enthusiasts can still enjoy our navigable waters.
Of course, a boating accident is never enjoyable, especially one that results in injuries. Boaters need to practice safety at all times, but if an accident occurs, what are the next steps?
Accidents and ideal conditions
You may think that bad weather or rough seas cause most boating fatalities. However, such tragedies normally occur during daylight hours, in fair weather and in calm waters. Over half of all fatalities happen either because boats capsize or someone falls overboard.
Boat operators and passengers should follow safety precautions to reduce the chances of injuries or death:
- Everyone aboard should wear life jackets when the boat is underway.
- No one should sit on gunwales, the bow, the motor cover or any other area not made for sitting.
- Keep a low center of gravity – do not allow people to stand or move around on a small boat.
- Balance the load between passengers and gear.
- Slow the boat when making a turn.
- Do not go out during bad weather or in rough water conditions.
- Do not attempt to swim to shore unless there is no other option available for your safety.
Observing South Carolina laws
In our state, the Law Enforcement Division of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the United States Coast Guard enforce boating laws. If there is an accident, the boat operator must stop at the scene and assist anyone injured or in danger unless doing so puts his or her own boat in jeopardy. The operator must report the accident to the SCDNR and provide his or her name, vessel identification, contact information to anyone injured and the owner of any property damaged in the accident.
If you suffer an injury in a recreational boating accident, remember that admiralty and maritime laws apply if you were in South Carolina’s navigable waters. Most small boat excursions end without incident, but you should explore your legal options to learn how these laws cover injuries or wrongful death when the unexpected occurs.