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When to File a Boating Accident Report in California

October 19, 2021

Boating is an enjoyable recreational activity for many California residents and visitors alike. Unfortunately, no matter how safe you are, accidents can still happen. There are certain situations in which you should file a boating accident report in California. Failing to file a report in some instances may also be against the law. When in doubt, it’s better to file a report.

When Should You File a California Boating Accident Report?

Under California statute, a boat owner or operator should report their boat accident to the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) if the accident caused:

  • A death
  • A disappearance 
  • Injury to an individual requiring medical attention beyond first aid
  • Damage to a watercraft or other property exceeding $500 or complete loss of a vessel, no matter the value

By law, boat accidents must be reported within specific time periods depending on the specifics of the accident. Reports must be submitted to DBW within 48 hours of a boat accident involving:

  • A death occurring within 24 hours of the accident
  • The disappearance of a person
  • Injury beyond routine first aid

Suppose your boating accident involves any of the following but none of the above. In that case, your report must be submitted to DBW within ten days of the accident:

  • Someone who dies more than 24 hours after the accident occurred
  • Property damage totaling over $500, or a complete loss of a watercraft

Generally, it’s a good idea to report a boating accident as soon as possible, no matter the situation.

How to Submit a Boating Accident Report

Boaters can submit a boating accident report online, or they can print a paper copy of the form and either mail or fax it to DBW at:

California Division of Boating and Waterways
Attn:  Boating Accident Unit
PO Box 942896
Sacramento, CA  94296-0001
Fax: 916-327-1772

No matter how you submit your form, make sure that you sign it. When submitting reports by mail, be sure to make a photocopy to keep for your records.

Failure to Report an Accident

Failing to submit a boating accident report as required by law is serious. It can result in a misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to six months, or both.

The Importance of Submitting a Boating Accident Report

DBW uses boating accident reports to help develop safety strategies and make recommendations that may help reduce boating accidents, as well as the resulting injuries and fatalities on California’s waterways.

Keep in mind that the information contained in the reports is confidential and for DBW purposes only. These reports or any information contained in them can’t be used in criminally prosecuting any violations or in civil litigation of any kind.

DBW releases a comprehensive study of boating accidents in California every year. It contains information about accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Referred to as the California Boating Accident Report, this report contains unique topics such as youth operators, personal watercraft, and fatal alcohol-related accidents. It’s also available upon request.

Your Rights After a Boating Accident: Call a Reputable California Boating Accident Lawyer

Even though this report can’t be used in civil litigation, you still have the right to file a legal claim if you were involved in a California boating accident that resulted in your injury or the injury of a loved one. There is likely other evidence that can be used to support your claim. It’s crucial to contact a California boating accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident so that they can help you collect and preserve evidence. Contact Bogaards Law today to schedule your free boating accident case review. 


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