Collisions or Accidents; Reporting Accidents (O.C.G.A. § 52-7-14)

Legal Commentary. If you are involved in an accident, there are important steps to take in order to comply with the law. You must stop at the scene of the accident, help anyone you can, and give your information, including vehicle identification number, to the other people involved if there is any damage to the other vessel. You should keep in mind that you will not be considered liable for assisting someone in an accident if your actions are taken with good intentions, due to the "Good Samaritan Clause." If anyone is injured in the accident, you must report the accident to the authorities. You should also make sure that these injured people seek medical attention for their injuries, especially because some injuries like serious brain injury may present more severe symptoms later on. The way you report an accident is by filing an accident report form. Accidents must be reported within 5 days, unless the matters are more serious in which case they must be reported in the first two days following the accident. Examples of these more severe circumstances are when someone requires medical treatment, disappears, is disabled as a result of the accident, or passes away.  Other situations, besides when someone is injured, in which you might have to report the accident is if the property damage is more than $200,000, or if the accident resulted in the death or disappearance of someone involved in the accident.

See the full text of the statute below:

Collisions or Accidents; Reporting Accidents (O.C.G.A. § 52-7-14)

(a) Duty to render assistance and identify vessel and self. It shall be the duty of the operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty, so far as he can do so without serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers, to render to other persons affected by the collision, accident, or other casualty such assistance as may be practicable and as may be necessary in order to save them from or minimize any danger caused by the collision, accident, or other casualty and also to give his name, address, and identification of his vessel in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the collision, accident, or other casualty.

(b) Good Samaritan clause. Any person complying with subsection (a) of this Code section who gratuitously and in good faith renders assistance at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty without the objection of any person assisted, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of the rendering of assistance or for any act of assistance in providing or arranging salvage towage, medical treatment, or other assistance if the assisting person acts as a reasonably prudent man would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.

(c) Accident reports required.

(1) All boating accidents must be reported to the department within 48 hours of the accident if:

(A) A person dies within 24 hours as a result of the accident;

(B) A person is disabled for more than 24 hours;

(C) A person requires medical treatment for injuries;

(D) A person disappears from a vessel.

(2) Reports of reportable boating accidents must be made within five days if not earlier required by paragraph (1) of this subsection.

(3) Accident reports must be on forms supplied by the department, which must be filled out in their entirety and dated and signed by the person submitting the report. Such reports shall be filed by the operator or, if no operator, by the owner of any vessel involved in the boating accident. If the operator or owner is incapable of making the report, the investigating officer shall submit the report. Reports must contain at a minimum the following information:

(A) The name, address, and telephone number of each operator of each vessel involved;

(B) The number and name of each vessel involved;

(C) The name, address, and telephone number of each owner of each vessel involved;

(D) The name of the nearest city or town, the county, the state, and the body of water on which the accident occurred;

(E) The location of the accident on the water;

(F) The time and date of the accident;

(G) Visibility, weather, and water conditions;

(H) The age, date of birth, vessel operating experience, and boat safety training of the operator making the report;

(I) The number of persons on board or towed on skis by each vessel;

(J) The name, address, and date of birth of each person fatally injured;

(K) The cause of death of each;

(L) The name and address of each owner of property, other than vessels or boats, involved;

(M) The availability and use of personal flotation devices;

(N) The type of fire extinguisher used;

(O) The nature and extent of each injury resulting from the accident;

(P) A description of all property and vessel damage within an estimated cost of repairs;

(Q) A description of any equipment failures that caused or contributed to the accident;

(R) A description of the accident;

(S) An opinion of the cause of the accident;

(T) The make, model, type, hull identification number, beam width, length, horsepower and type of motor, and hull material of the reporting operator's vessel, and the year it was built.

(4)(A) As used in this paragraph, the term "medical facility" means any licensed general or specialized hospital, institutional infirmary, public health center, or diagnostic and treatment center. The term also includes, without being limited to, any building or facility, not under the operation or control of a hospital, which is primarily devoted to the provision of surgical treatment to patients not requiring hospitalization and which is classified by the Department of Community Health as an ambulatory surgical treatment center.

(B) Any:

(i) Physician, including any doctor of medicine licensed to practice under the laws of this state;

(ii) Licensed registered nurse employed by a medical facility;

(iii) Security personnel employed by a medical facility; or

(iv) Other personnel employed by a medical facility whose employment duties involve the care and treatment of patients therein

having cause to believe that a patient has had physical injury or injuries inflicted upon him or her as a result of a reportable boating accident shall report or cause reports to be made in accordance with this paragraph.

(C) An oral report shall be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and shall be followed by a report in writing, if requested, to the person in charge of the medical facility or his or her designated delegate. The person in charge of the medical facility or his or her designated delegate shall then notify the local law enforcement agency having primary jurisdiction in the area in which the medical facility is located of the contents of the report. The report shall contain the name and address of the patient, the nature and extent of the patient's injuries, and any other information that the reporting person believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries and the identity of the perpetrator.

(D) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, copies of medical records relating to the treatment of such patient shall be furnished to the investigatory law enforcement officer of the department, or any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency upon receipt of a written request or subpoena issued by such law enforcement agency or the prosecuting attorney having jurisdiction over such accident. Such medical records shall be handled in a manner which assures the confidentiality of such records.

(E) Any person or persons participating in the making of a report or causing a report to be made to the appropriate police authority pursuant to this paragraph or participating in any judicial proceeding or any other proceeding resulting therefrom shall in so doing be immune from any civil liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed, providing such participation pursuant to this paragraph shall be in good faith.

(d) Salvage rights. Any person who fails to salvage any vessel within 12 months after its sinking shall forfeit his ownership to the vessel and thereafter any person may salvage and claim the vessel.

(e) Official authority. Any officer empowered to enforce this article shall have the authority to stop, board, and detain any vessel involved in a reportable boating accident and to continue the detention of such vessel if necessary for evidentiary purposes for such reasonable period of time as such necessity continues.

HISTORY: Ga. L. 1960, p. 235, § 8; Ga. L. 1968, p. 487, § 8; Ga. L. 1973, p. 1427, § 12; Ga. L. 1977, p. 1182, § 9; Ga. L. 1978, p. 1743, § 4; Ga. L. 1998, p. 679, §§ 3, 4; Ga. L. 2008, p. 12, § 2-39/SB 433.