When should you report a Boat Accident? | Submit this boat accident report (BAR)

Legal requirement to Submit a boat accident report (BAR)

How do you know if a boat accident should be reported?

Under federal regulations (33 CFR Part 173; Subpart CCasualty and Accident Reporting) the operator of any numbered vessel that was not required to be inspected or a vessel that was used for recreational purposes is required to file a Boating Accident Report (BAR) when, as a result of an occurrence that involves the vessel or its equipment:

  • A person dies; or
  • A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury; or
  • A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
  • Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more; or
  • There is a complete loss of any vessel.

Who to report the boat accident to?

If the above conditions are met, the federal regulations state that the operator or owner must report their accident to a reporting authority. The reporting authority can be either in the state where the accident occurred, the state in which the vessel was numbered, or, if the vessel does not have a number, the state where the vessel was principally used. The owner must submit the report if the operator is deceased or unable to make the report. A listing of contacts for the state’s primary boating authority may be found here.

When and how quickly should I send in my boat accident report?

The regulations also state the acceptable length of time in which the accident report must be submitted to the reporting authority. Vessel operators or owners must submit:

  1. Accident reports within 48 hours of an occurrence if:
    • A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence; or
    • A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
    • A person disappears from the vessel.
  2. Accident reports within 10 days of an occurrence if there is damage to the vessel/property only.

The minimum reporting requirements are set by Federal regulation, but states are allowed to have stricter requirements. For example, some states have a lower threshold for reporting damage to vessels and other property.

Federal Regulations (33 CFR 174.121) require accident report data to be forwarded to Coast Guard Headquarters within 30 days of receipt by a reporting authority.

Where is the Boat Accident Database?

The Boat-Alert.com database combines 68+ nationwide databases into a single place so you can search in a matter of minutes. These include records for stolen boats, marine lien claims, boating accidents, pollution incidents, auctioned boats, factory recalls, and boat manufacturers.

Search a Boat Hull ID history report with Boat-Alert.com
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What is the form you need to fill out to submit a boat accident report?

You must use Form CG-3865 (Recreational Boating Accident Report). It is provided here in PDF format and at the original uscg.mil website. The form is 6 pages long and can be filled out before printing then signing it. They estimate that it takes 30 minutes to fill out form CG-3865. The form is available in Spanish (CG-3865-SP Reporte Del Accidente En Barcos De Recreacion), but note that even though most states accept this form, some have their own. For example, this one for for Washington and for California.

What form should you used in Canada?

Transport Canada provides the form here in order to submit a REPORT OF A MARITIME HAZARDOUS OCCURRENCE (82-0703 (1208-06)). It is only 2 pages long and bilingual.

What is the preferred way to search for a boat accident history report?

You may use the Boat Hull Identification Number (HIN) to search boat accidents on the boat-alert.com website. This is not to be confused with the state registration number on the side of the boat.

What is the BAR report used for and why is the USCG taking this data?

The USCG releases annual statistics report on the causes of accidents and their severity. This data is used for safety improvements and to issue recalls. The accident data in the boat-alert.com database can be used in fraud prevention and obtaining a boat history checkup. The USCG can use this data for policy changes as well.

Number of recreational boating accidents in the U.S. from 2002 to 2020
Number of recreational boating accidents in the U.S. from 2002 to 2020

What You Must Do if Involved in an Accident

After a boating accident, contact local emergency services immediately, including law enforcement and medical personnel if someone seems injured. Serious injuries can occur in a boating accident, so it’s vital that people receive medical treatment right away to avoid future complications. An operator involved in a boating accident must:

  • Stop his or her vessel immediately at the scene of the accident and…
  • Assist anyone injured or in danger from the accident, unless doing so would seriously endanger his or her own vessel or passengers and…
  • Give, in writing, his or her name, address, and vessel identification (registration number) to anyone injured and to the owner of any property damaged by the accident.
  • Speak to a lawyer about recovering costs from other persons responsible
Frequency asked questions: about boat accidents:
  • where can you get a boat accident report form
  • when are you required to report a boating accident without delay?
  • in the event of a collision with another boat you are required to file an accident report
  • when is a written boating accident report required?
  • when are you required to report a boating accident immediately?
  • What types of boating accidents must be reported?
  • Where can you get a boating accident report form in my state?
  • Which of these circumstances would require you to report a boating accident?
  • What should I do after a boating accident?
  • What is the first thing you should do in a boating accident?
  • What to do if you’re Involved in a Boating Collision in Canada?
How does the form look like?
USCG Form
Transport Canada Form

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