Dealing with weather accidents on the water

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 16, 2002

This past week we have had some truly nasty weather here in Suffolk.

Snow, sleet, hail, rain, high winds, and fog: the list is endless. Unfortunately, we have also had a large number of serious vehicle accidents, some even with loss of life. Most drivers understand their collective responsibilities following an accident. You get out of your vehicle and check for injuries, call the police, exchange information, etc. In fact, some insurance companies provide free of charge a checklist to follow in the event of an accident.

There are four conditions that require a recreational boater to fill out and send in boating accident report. These include: if a life is lost due to the accident; if a person onboard a vessel disappears (under circumstances indicating possible death or injury; if someone is injured and requires medical attention beyond first aid; or if an accident occurs in which there is damage by or to the vessel and other property


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An additional note on damages needs to be addressed.

Effective Nov. 1, damage requirements are set in Virginia at $2,000, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

This is a change from the previous threshold of $500.

According to state law, if a person dies or disappears as a result of an accident, the boat operator must notify the Virginia Department of Game and

Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) without delay by calling (804) 367-1258, or notify the most immediately available Game Warden. In fact an operator needs to notify a State Game Warden or marine patrol officer if a person is injured requiring medical treatment beyond first aid or, if damage to the boat and other property exceeds $2,000.

In addition, a written report of a boating accident must be made. Written reports of accidents involving only property damage must be made within 10 days of the accident. However, you must file an accident report within 48 hours in cases involving a death, disappearance or injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.

All boat owners and operators need to review this issue carefully. The form is usually filled out by the vessel operator unless that person is physically unable. If the operator is not able, then the boat owner must fill out the accident and submit it.

Where do you get them? Go to the Web site: at

Information supplied from these reports is used to refine manufacturing standards and safety laws which directly benefit the boating public. Information gained from accident reports are further used when revising safe boating courses and other initiatives to maintain the safest possible boating environment.

Accident forms are something most recreational boaters don’t give a lot of thought to until it’s too late. Hopefully, this column will gently nudge you to review the state and federal requirements and have a set downloaded and ready to go. Until next week, Boat Safe, Boat Smart!

Joe DiRenzo is a resident of Suffolk and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.