Boating Accidents in South Florida: Know Your Rights
With almost 1,200 miles of coastline and the warm waters of the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic practically begging you to come on in, it’s no surprise that Florida is a haven for boating enthusiasts. In fact, Men’s Fitness recently ranked Florida as the number one boating state, with over a billion dollars spent each year. Additionally, two of our cities were included in Boating Magazine’s 10 Best Places to Live and Boat – Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale.
Boating can be a fantastic way to get out and enjoy nature while spending time with friends and loved ones, but that doesn’t mean it comes without problems. Floridians should know this better than just about anyone else, because the state has been number one in both boating accidents and fatalities for most of the last decade!
What Causes Someone to Get In an Accident in Their Boat?
There are all kinds of problems that can happen when someone gets a boat out on the open water, and accidents are caused by all kinds of things. Some of these are the fault of the operator, while others are completely outside of their control. The United States Coast Guard puts together a comprehensive report every year on accidents and fatalities nationwide, but here are some of the most common reasons for accidents on water vessels.
Lack of attention while driving. Just like when you’re driving a car on the road, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. Unfortunately, many operators tend to feel like boating time is vacation time and let their guard down and their attention slip. Even though there may be more space and fewer vehicles to worry about when boating (most of the time), that doesn’t mean that you can go on “autopilot” when operating a boat.
Inexperience. When someone is learning how to drive an automobile, other motorists know to be wary because of the giant “Student Driver” sign slapped onto the back of the car. Unfortunately, boats don’t have anything to match this, and every year many accidents are the result of people operating a boat when they still don’t know exactly what they’re doing.
Failure of machinery. Boats are mechanical devices with lots of complicated parts, all of which have to work smoothly for the vehicle to operate the way it’s supposed to. If something breaks down either due to the owner not maintaining it or because there’s a manufacturing defect, it can lead to all sorts of problems, including serious accidents.
Going too fast. Speeding in boats isn’t enforced even close to the extent that it is with cars, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. In fact, in 2012 there were 310 accidents and 30 deaths in boats as a result of someone going too fast. It may be fun to race through the open water, but think about the safety of yourself and those around you before doing anything excessive.
Boating while intoxicated. Almost 300 accidents and more than 100 boating deaths in 2012 resulted from drinking or doing drugs while trying to operate a boat. Engaging in this kind of behavior is not only irresponsible, it’s illegal, and police will hand out punishments to the people they catch. Unfortunately, just like with speeding, there’s less monitoring out on the water and far too many people take advantage of the situation by getting drunk or high and putting other boaters in danger.
Violating navigation rules. Most boaters in Florida respect the rules of the water and care about keeping themselves and others safe, but some seem like they think they can do whatever they want. Navigation rules exist for a reason, and those that violate them should be held accountable for their actions – especially when they result in someone getting hurt or killed.
Not watching for others. Because boating tends to be a relaxing, fun activity for most people, and because the waters tend not to be as crowded as the freeway or your typical parking lot, there’s a tendency amongst some boaters to leap before they look. This can cause serious harm if they end up colliding with another boat or even hitting people who are trying to swim in the water around them.
What Should You Do If You’re In a Boating Accident?
The first thing to do is determine whether or not anyone was hurt. If so, you need to contact emergency personnel and do what you can to help the injured individual without causing any further harm. Then check your vessel (and any others involved) for damage, because you want to make sure that no one is at risk of sinking or being stranded. After you’ve dealt with these immediate issues and are comfortable that everyone involved is safe, it’s time to ascertain what happened.
Regardless of whether you think that you’re at fault or not, one of the most important things you can do is record the evidence. Take video or pictures, if possible, and contact a Florida boating lawyer so that you can protect yourself and start building a case immediately. You might not think that your accident is serious at first, but you never know what can happen in these types of situations, and it’s best to have someone on your side who knows this area of the law and can work to protect your interests. Sometimes people feel fine immediately after boating accidents only to later suffer due to injuries that they received. You need to know what your options are and how to proceed.
Make Sure You Get the Compensation That You Deserve
Far too often people blame themselves for boating accidents, when in fact another party altogether should be held accountable. The problem is that most Floridians don’t know the boating laws well enough to realize when someone else is responsible for causing them harm. Or they don’t believe that the issue is serious enough to follow up on and decide to essentially write it off and move on.
Unfortunately, injuries and damage related to accidents on boats can be catastrophic and long-lasting, so you owe it to yourself to get the compensation that you deserve. Just a few of the possible situations where you might be able to file a lawsuit for damages in Florida include:
- Defective design, construction, or repair. If your boat was sold to you with a product defect or someone was hired to fix it and didn’t do the job right, it’s possible to hold them responsible for what happened to you.
- Boat overloading. Sometimes, companies that operate services on boats will overbook or overload their vessels because demand is so high. This can lead to people falling on the boat or into the water and hurting themselves or to the boat experiencing problems that lead to injuries or deaths.
- Getting hit by a boat. If you’re swimming, water-skiing, or otherwise enjoying the water outside of an actual vessel and a boat hits you, the operator is almost always responsible for any injuries that you suffer.
- Negligence or inattention. It’s a bit more complicated when boats hit other boats, but there are many ways to show that the other operator was at fault, including intoxication, distraction, speeding, inexperience, and so on.
If you really want to ensure that you or your loved one gets the compensation that you deserve, you need to speak with a lawyer in Florida who knows boating law and has a track record of success. Residents of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Deerfield Beach and Fort Lauderdale, contact the Law Offices of Slootsky, Perez & Braxton today for a free consultation at 954-764-7377 in Fort Lauderdale, 561-209-2100 in Boca & West Palm Beach or Toll-Free 877-566-8759. You can also fill out an online contact form here. Remember, we work on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t have to pay anything until we win your compensation.