Guide for Boat Propeller Accident Victims & Their Families

A Typical Severe Propeller Strike Emergency

When a person, family member, or loved one is involved in a major recreational boat propeller accident, their life, and your life is quickly turned upside down. Things happen very rapidly, rescue crews arrive, the victim (if still alive) is often life flighted to a major hospital.

Sometimes those left at the scene are still frantically searching for limbs (hands, legs, or arms). If they find the limb, it is rushed to the hospital for possible reattachment.

If the victim arrives alive at a major medical center trauma unit surgeons jump into action, major surgeries can last for many hours. The first few days are usually the most life threatening, then focus is turned to saving limbs and preventing infections.

Six Things to Do Right Now

We encourage you to immediately do six things:

  1. Care for your loved one, your family, and yourself.
  2. Be willing to accept help from your support network of family, friends, loved ones, neighbors, your community, and your church.
  3. Make sure a boating accident report has been filed. Contact your State Boating Law Administrator.
  4. Make sure the accident is very well documented. (including many photos of the boat, the drive, the propeller, the operators station, the location the accident happened, and the victim’s injuries). This will be very important if you later elect to pursue legal action. Please note the “other side” often tries to prove the injuries or, at least the worst ones, were not caused by the propeller. Evidence needs to be gathered now, not later.
  5. Start a journal about the accident. Just get a spiral binder and start writing in it. Record your thoughts and emotions. It makes a great place to keep notes about how you might be able to help others avoid similar challenges, and bits of information that might be helpful later.
  6. Consider parking the boat in a garage or other covered area. If you were to file a lawsuit, it is best if the boat remains in the same condition.

We are NOT suggesting everybody sue the industry, we are merely suggesting you capture as much information and evidence as possible before it is no longer available.

A Few Days After The Accident

Sometimes family members or friends will start a Facebook page or a blog to follow the victim’s recovery.

The family begins to recognize they have already accrued unbelievable medical costs and the meter is still spinning. Surgery after surgery adds tens of thousands of dollars to mounting costs. By the next weekend, local businesses may be holding fundraisers for the family ranging from spaghetti dinners to silent auctions. Donation cups appear around town and the recovery blog now has a PayPal donation button.

A Few Weeks After the Accident

Some families begin to consider taking legal action to recover some of the medical expenses, lost earnings, funeral and burial expenses, and compensation for the pain and suffering of their loved one from parties they feel are responsible. Please see our Legal Action page for more information about considerations in pursuing legal actions against boat manufacturers, drive manufacturers, and others in a propeller injury or fatality accident.

Now that things have settled down at least a little bit, some families begin to think about preventing similar injuries to others. We direct those families to our Message to New Propeller Safety Advocates page.

Get ready for a long period of rehabilitation, physical therapy, mental ups and downs, mood swings, more surgeries, and preparing a home so they can get around in it during recovery (if they survived). And eventually, trying to get back into the workforce or younger victims going back to school.

Its all a very challenging process. We suggest you visit with others who have been through it to gain some support, and once things get stable, be willing to do the same for those injured later.

You can do both through SPIN (Stop Propeller Injuries Now) and through the monthly conference calls at Engaging Survivors of Boating Accidents.