You can suffer serious injuries or drown if you fall overboard while boating. Here, learn how to avoid falling overboard and what to do if this happens.

Falling Overboard: How to Prevent These Dangerous Boat Accidents and What to Do When it Happens

Falling overboard or watching someone else fall can be a terrifying experience with life-threatening consequences for the person falling into the water. A person can suffer permanent brain damage, hypothermia, respiratory problems, other serious injuries, or death. Many of these accidents are caused by preventable reasons, such as a boat operator speeding, driving when intoxicated, or making fast turns. Waves and other weather conditions can also play a factor in a person falling overboard. If you or a loved one was injured when falling overboard in a boating accident caused by the operator’s or another’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the negligent party.

Dangers of Hypothermia From Falling Overboard

Hypothermia, a condition where your body’s core temperature drops to dangerous levels, is a common threat, especially in the often-cold waters off of the Washington coast. It can be caused by falling overboard into cold water, exposure to cold air and wind when wearing damp or wet clothes, or prolonged exposure to cold weather or water. Hypothermia’s symptoms start with shivering, teeth chattering, numbness, and mental confusion. Moderate hypothermia symptoms include trouble with muscle movement, a warm sensation, trouble seeing, and fatigue. Severe hypothermia can lead to low blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. 

A person suffering from hypothermia requires immediate medical care. The goal of treatment is to bring the body’s temperature back to normal. Treatments for hypothermia can involve passive rewarming, such as covering the person with a warm blanket and giving him warm drinks. More serious cases of hypothermia could require blood or airway rewarming or the intravenous injection of warm saline solutions.

How to Prevent Falling Overboard

Because falling overboard is often preventable, you can take steps to reduce your risk of falling off a boat. Take these safety precautions:

  • Be certain that you and your passengers wear a life jacket any time you get on a boat.
  • Attach the ignition safety switch lanyard to your clothes, life jacket, or wrist to avoid losing it.
  • Do not let anyone sit anywhere on the boat not designated for sitting.
  • Board the boat one person at a time, and keep the weight centered and low on the boat.
  • Do not overload the boat.
  • Slow your boat’s speed appropriately when making a turn.
  • Secure the anchor to the bow and not to the boat’s stern.
  • Do not operate your boat when the waves are rough or in bad weather conditions.

Take These Steps If Someone Falls Overboard

If you or a passenger falls off a boat, immediate steps should be taken by those in the boat to rescue the victim. This is the proper way to rescue someone who has fallen overboard:

  • Reach a fishing pole, oar, or other object to pull the person to safety.
  • If the person is too far to reach, throw him a flotation device or life jacket to hold onto.
  • If you have a rowboat or can move your boat to the person, do so and use an oar or paddle to pull the person to the boat.
  • Once the person is near the boat, you can carefully lift him into the boat if he cannot climb in or paddle to shore to do this.
  • Get help if you cannot swim and cannot rescue the victim using the techniques listed above.

If you suffered injuries due to falling off a boat, you need to hold the negligent boat operator or other negligent party accountable for compensating you. You will need the assistance of a boat accident attorney to do this. Call our office today to schedule your free consultations to learn about your legal options.