SCUBA diving accident - Checklist

After assuring that victim(s) of the scuba diving accident receive prompt medical treatment for their injuries, there are certain things that should be done in order to assist the victim with the proper documentation and preparation of his/her case. The diving company, dive instructor and/or certifying agency will usually have an insurance investigator on the scene within 24 hours of a serious accident to start the preparation of their legal defense. Certain international diving organizations have actually made it a practice to refer scuba diving accidents to their lawyers within 24 hours of the occurrence so that they may open a file and start case preparation. The scuba diving accident victim would be best advised to seek out legal advice as soon possible. With this in mind, there are certain preliminary actions that you should take:

  • Maintain a copy of any promotional literature that you have reviewed or received relating to the dive.

  • Obtain the name, address and home/work phone numbers of any witnesses that you believe observed any portion of the dive.

  • Obtain the name of the divemaster, dive-buddy and instructor.

  • Many dive operators attempt to capitalize on your dive by taking a video which they offer for resale at the end of the dive. If this is the case for the dive, it is imperative that you obtain a copy of this tape.

  • Obtain a copy of the police report regarding the accident.

  • Obtain a copy of the coast guard report regarding the accident.

  • Have someone photograph injuries as soon as possible.

  • Have someone photograph the scene of the accident. Videotape it if possible. Make sure something like a newspaper is used to enable you to correlate the photo/video to a date.

  • Secure all scuba diving equipment that was used on the dive and make sure that it is not altered in any way. If a fatality or a serious injury is involved the investigating officer may take possession of the equipment for testing. Try to find out where the testing will be done and keep informed of the results. Make sure to take possession of the equipment (or find out who did take possession) as soon as possible.

  • Secure photographs or videotapes from any person in your party that participated in the dive.

  • Get the names, address and work/home phone numbers of any other persons who were in the vicinity who took photos or videotaped any portion of the dive preparation, dive and/or dive aftermath.

  • Obtain all documents that were given as part of dive instruction.

  • Retain all documents that were signed by the victim or obtain a copy of all documents signed by him/her.

  • Often an insurance representative or attorney will contact the victim of an accident in an attempt to obtain a written or recorded statement. Understand that they are not taking the statement so that they can assist the victim - they are on the other side of a lawsuit. Do not give a statement without consulting an attorney.

  • Retain all records of payment for the dive, dive training, transportation, and/or dive course (charge card slip, checks, written receipts).

  • If the accident resulted in the death of the diver the potential defendants (through their insurers, attorneys and doctors) invariably assert that the death was the result of a "spontaneous cardiac disrythmia." A spontaneous cardiac disrythmia is an extremely rare event in real life, but an extemely popular defense. If an autopsy is performed you must make sure that the specimens are properly maintained and that you get a copy of the full written report. If organs are harvested, you should obtain all pathology reports. You should seek a competent medical opinion from a specialist as soon as possible.

This is by no means a definitive list of actions to be taken. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine your rights. It would be wise to consult with an attorney who has experience in handling personal injury cases and especially diving cases. You may contact my office at (617)996-2500 or fax us at (954) 252-3818. If you don't ask me for legal advice, please ask someone else.

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