Under what circumstances do I need to file a boating accident report and is there a time frame in which I have to file the report?

From the 2007 US Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics Report:

Under federal regulations (33 CFR Part 173; Subpart C – Casualty 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:

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

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.

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:
    1. A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence; or
    2. A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
    3. 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.