According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were close to 1,000 boating accidents in Florida in 2013 alone – resulting in almost 450 injuries. From 2007 to 2013, there were approximately 4,795 boating crashes that claimed the lives of over 500 people. Of those incidents in 2013 which resulted in fatalities, 63% involved operators who had never taken a boating safety course. Boating involves powerful motor vehicles and can therefore be just as dangerous as driving a car or motorcycle. Unfortunately, many see boating as a purely relaxing or recreational activity, and fail to account for the serious accidents and potentially catastrophic injuries that can occur.
Proper boating education is extremely important, because until an individual understands the risks associated with water crafts, he or she is unlikely to act with the level of care that is necessary to prevent tragedies from occurring on the water. This negligence can make the boater liable if he or she causes an accident. Boating accidents can be very traumatic for those who have been wrongfully injured as well as their family members – having an experienced Fort Lauderdale boat accident attorney on your side while you recover from your injuries will help your case go much smoother. In some cases where an accident was caused by someone else’s negligence a boat accident lawyer should be called right away.
Contact Our Florida Boating Accident Lawyers
Personal injury law exists to help injured people seek the compensation they deserve after an unexpected accident they didn’t cause. If you or a loved one have been severely hurt, or have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one, speak with our Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorneys at Kelley/Uustal right away. We provide our clients with effective advocacy, and we refuse to settle for less than the pursuit of a favorable outcome to their cases. Our team offers free case consultations, so don’t wait any longer to contact us. Contact our Fort Lauderdale firm today to discuss your case with a reliable and experienced injury attorney.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents:
- Overloading the boat with too many occupants or too much cargo
- Failure to look out for others on the water, including those skiing and tubing
- Driving the boat at a dangerous speed
- Riding a large wave or wake at a dangerous speed
- Failure to ensure proper maintenance of the boat
- Failure to follow rules and protocol for boat operators
- Colliding with a fixed object
- Boating under the influence of drugs and / or alcohol
What is Considered a Recreational Boat?
Florida is a sought-after destination for recreational boaters. Fort Lauderdale’s ports, docks, and marinas are often filled to the brim with sailboats, motorboats, rowboats, and other personal watercrafts on sunny days. It is important for all licensed boaters to understand boat accident laws in Florida in case of an emergency. Florida Statutes Section 327.30 describes the duty of recreational boat operators involved in accidents to render victims assistance, minimize danger, and stay around to exchange information with others involved. “Recreational boats” refers to the following vessels:
- Jet skis and personal watercrafts
- Pontoon boats
- Kayaks and canoes
- Cabin cruisers
- Inflatable boats
A recreational boat is any water vessel that is not a common carrier. That is, any vessel that does not transport goods or people for money. Instead, recreational boats take people out on the water for fun, or recreation. Recreational boats and common carriers have to obey different laws and duties. It is important to correctly classify the boat that struck you to pursue maximum compensation. If a commercial boat struck you, you may have very different defendants involved in your case than you would in a recreational boat situation.
Who Is Responsible for My Boat Accident?
The process of recovering damages for your boat accident begins with identifying who is responsible. The question of responsibility may not always be as clear-cut as a boater under the influence of alcohol crashing into you on the open water. Many watercraft accidents in Florida involve multiple causes, factors, and defendants (at-fault parties). Boating accident claims can have numerous defendants depending on the circumstances of the incident. A few possibilities include:
- Operator of the boat. If you are hurt on a boat that someone else was operating, you may be able to sue the operator for negligence. This might be true if the operator was unlicensed, incompetent, reckless, or intoxicated at the time of the wreck. You could also sue the operator of another boat if one runs into you.
- Owner of the boat. If you suffered injuries because of a hazard relating to the vessel itself, such as an electrical fire or slippery deck, you may be able to sue the owner. This type of claim would involve the legal concept of premises liability.
- Boat rental company. Companies in Fort Lauderdale that rent out water vessels have duties to maintain them and keep them in good working order. A problem with your rental that causes an accident may come down to rental company liability.
- Manufacturing company. Sometimes a defective boat part causes an accident. If this is the case, injured parties may be able to bring a claim against the part manufacturer or distributor, often without having to prove negligence.
- Third party. Boat-related injuries can also arise when a negligent or irresponsible third party injures others aboard the vessel. For example, one passenger threw another into the water knowing he or she could not swim. If a third party caused your injuries, you could sue the individual or company.
Discover who caused your boat accident, and take the first steps toward holding the person or company accountable for negligent actions with help from a lawyer. Talk with an attorney about the elements of your individual case, and get the ball rolling on compensation for your losses.
How Does Federal Maritime Law Apply to Boating Accidents?
Maritime law is the body of statutes that govern matters that occur on navigable waters (all bodies of water interstate or foreign commerce can use). Maritime law applies to oceans and rivers that flow across state lines or into the ocean. Maritime law would not apply, however, to a lake that sits entirely within a state, such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. Maritime law helps settle disputes and challenges boaters and others in the admiralty community face, from business problems to how to handle commercial boating accidents.
After a boating accident, maritime law may apply to sort out vessel and cargo damage, injuries to operators and passengers, and spills of hazardous materials. While maritime law has historically only applied to common carrier cases, more and more jurisdictions are upholding maritime law in recreational boating accidents if they occur in navigable waters. If maritime laws apply to a recreational boating accident, it could mean a very different legal process for victims. Such a case would follow federal maritime laws instead of Florida’s state-specific laws in dealing with liability and compensation.
What Are Victims’ Rights Under Maritime Law?
Maritime law, or admiralty law, features several provisions and doctrines that could apply to any given boating accident claim. The maintenance and cure doctrine, for example, places an obligation on the owner of the boat to provide medical care to any seaman injured while servicing the ship until the seaman reaches “maximum medical cure.” Ship owners must also provide seamen with basic living expenses while they heal from injuries. If the seaman has to sue the owner to recover these benefits, his or her attorney’s fees may also be included in the payout.
Maritime law also places a duty of reasonable care on the owners of ship, to prevent passengers from injuries (within reason). These duties might include inspecting the boat for potential hazards, repairing discovered hazards, and posting warning signs of hazards that exist but are hidden. If a ship owner fails in the duties maritime law lays out, resulting in passenger injury or death, the law may hold the owner liable for damages.
If maritime law applies to a recreational boating case, it’s important for victims to realize this could mean a shorter deadline for filing. Since the claim would then deal with federal entities, the plaintiff would have a shorter amount of time to file the initial Notice to File. Failure to meet this deadline could result in losing the opportunity to file at all. Victims in Florida boating accidents in navigable waters should retain personal injury attorneys to prepare for the possibility of the case coming under maritime law instead of state law.