Serving You and The State of Florida
Florida is known for its beautiful waters, and boating is one of the most popular recreational activities in the state. Whether you are taking a boat out with the family for an afternoon on the water or going with your buddies for a deep-sea fishing adventure, any day spent on the water is a good day. Boating safely and responsibly is critical to ensuring safety and fun for everyone on the water.
Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong, and a day on the water can turn into a day you wish you could forget. The popularity of boating in Florida also means that it leads the nation in boating accidents. What happens if instead of enjoying the sun and the waves, you suffer an injury because of someone else’s negligence? Knowing what to do following a boating accident is crucial.
If you, or a family member, has suffered an injury in a boating accident, The Lopez Law Group is experienced with the unique problems associated with boating accidents. We know how to work with insurance companies to make sure you receive the settlement you deserve as compensation for damages from the accident. If we cannot reach a settlement agreement, we are familiar with cases that proceed through the federal courts and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to help you recover the damages you sustained.
Florida Boating Laws and Regulations
Florida has lax regulations for boating compared to many other states. In essence, that is because boating is a huge part of the tourism industry in Florida, and regulations cause frustration for tourists. There is no age requirement to operate a boat in Florida, and operators over the age of thirty are not required to undergo a boating safety course, nor to have a boating license.
Accidents that occur on public waterways are covered under the Federal Admiralty Jurisdiction, instead of state law. The case can, and often must, be brought in Florida’s federal courts. Federal courts operate under a different set of rules of procedure, and if you are filing a suit based on a boating accident that occurred on a public waterway, it is imperative that your attorney knows the correct judicial procedures. Make sure the attorney you select is qualified and experienced in maritime law and the federal court system.
What Type of Watercraft are Covered Under Florida Boating Laws
When you use the general term boating, most of us think of sailboat or power boats, but Florida law considers a wide variety of vessels as boats for legal purposes. The wide array of vessels covered under Florida law also explains the significant variables in injuries and damages. Some of the vessels covered under Florida boating laws include:
- Kayaks and canoes
- Sailing vessels
- Powerboats of all sizes
- Personal watercraft such as jetskis
- Commercial fishing boats
- Kite surfing vessels
Personal watercraft devices such as jetskis have become a popular pastime in Florida, but their size, speed, and manueveability, combined with lax laws about their operation, make them one of the most dangerous boats on Florida waters. While jet skis and wave runners can be a great deal of fun when used responsibly, they require training and skill to operate safely. Personal watercraft do have an age restriction and cannot be operated by anyone under the age of fourteen.
What Waterways see the Most Boating Accidents
Florida has two coastlines, a vast array of different waterways, making it one of the most diverse places in the country for boating. The rules and speeds differ depending on the waterway, but most accidents occur on the following:
- Bays and sounds are among the most popular places for tourists and residents alike to enjoy boating, but they are also the most dangerous. Boating accidents happen most frequently in Florida’s numerous bays.
- The ocean and the gulf are also popular choices and see a significant number of accidents annually
- Canals, cuts, and inlets
- Rivers and creeks
- Ports and harbors
On any public waterway, Boating under the influence is illegal in Florida, and it is a significant cause of many boating accidents. Boating under the influence (BUI) occurs if the operator is so intoxicated that their faculties are impaired or if they have a blood alcohol limit of .08% or more.
How Do Accidents Happen on a Boat
In Florida, there are numerous ways to get hurt on a boat. Accidents occur when the operator of the boat is not paying attention to what they are doing, or when they are too inexperienced in operating the boat safely. Excessive speeds are another problem in Florida waters and can lead to collisions with another. Not paying attention to the weather can mean getting caught in waves too large for the boat to handle, causing it to capsize.
Anyone who owns a boat knows that they require routine maintenance to stay in good working condition and that safety features have to be maintained just like the rest of the boat. When those features, such as a fire extinguisher onboard, are not serviced regularly, it can lead to dangerous conditions on the boat.
Tourists are common in Florida, and boating is a favorite past time for them as well. From charter services to renting a pontoon boat for the day, boating plays a substantial role in the tourist industry. Not all operators keep their vessels in the pristine condition that they should, and this can lead to accidents on the water. Tourists who are inexperienced with Florida’s lakes, rivers, and coastal waters can create accidents through a lack of knowledge about the area.
If the negligence of someone else causes you to get hurt on a boat or damages your own vessel, that person can be held liable for the damages you incur.
Who Is Responsible for Damages to the Boat or Injuries Incurred
If someone else collides with your vessel causing damage or injuries, you would have a claim against the person operating the other boat. In a best-case scenario, they would have insurance, and you would make a claim against their insurance company. If they do not have insurance, you would have to make a claim against the operator as an individual.
Your claim will be for any injuries resulting from the accident, damages done to your vessel, or both. If you sustained physical injuries, the process would be similar to a car accident claim. You need to be evaluated by a medical provider as soon as possible if you sustain an injury during a boating accident. You would followup as needed until you have fully recovered or reached the maximum recovery possible from those injuries.
Collisions are not the only way injuries occur on a boat. The boat can malfunction, causing any manner of injuries and property damage. If this happens, your claim could potentially be a product liability claim. If you were injured by the negligence of an operator who took you on a snorkeling or diving excursion, or deep-sea fishing, you could potentially have a claim against them if their negligence caused your injuries.
A boat operator can also be held liable without ever making contact with another vessel. If an operator creates a wake and that wake causes another boat to capsize or otherwise cause injuries, they can be held liable for the damages caused.
What Type of Compensation can you Recover After a Boating Accident in Florida
The compensation you can seek after a boating accident is similar to the damages available in other personal injury cases. You may seek compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages—Money you could not earn because of time missed from work while your injuries heal to heal
- Lost earning capacity—If your injuries leave you unable to work, or to return to the same line of work, you can recover damages for how much of your earning capacity was lost.
- Medical supplies and medical apparatus such as wheelchairs and crutches
- Property damage—compensation to restore your boat to its condition previous to the accident
- Any other damages that can be proven and are linked to the accident
Recovering damages for a boating accident in Florida can be made difficult because though the state recommends liability insurance for Florida boats, it is not required. If the boat is not insured, then your only option may be to seek compensation directly from the negligent boat operator. Unfortunately, the boat operator may not have the funds to cover your expenses. At The Lopez Law Group, we will look into all the possible ways you might recover compensation in a boating accident, and help you decide how to proceed.
Do You Have to File a Lawsuit to Get Compensation
A lawsuit is not always necessary to get compensation for your damages, but consulting with a personal injury attorney is always advisable if there were injuries sustained during the accident. As with any personal injury case, there is a good chance the claim can be resolved in pre-litigation negotiations.
Having an attorney on your side will help ensure that your rights are protected, and they will be a source of expert advice to tell the difference between a fair and lowball offer. A skilled personal injury attorney in Florida can help in the process of determining liability and helping you negotiate the settlement process.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Experienced with Boating Accidents
Boating accidents are different from many other types of personal injury cases, including the fact that they may need to be pursued in federal court. You need an attorney who is experienced with boating accidents in Florida to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
The Lopez Law Group has extensive experience with recreational boating accidents. If you incurred an injury as the result of a boating accident, and someone else was at fault, or partially at fault, contact us for a free case review. We will review your claim, investigate the accident, and give you an honest assessment of your case, including the likelihood of receiving compensation.
You can schedule a free case review by calling us at 1-727-933-0015. Boating accidents have a statute of limitations that can vary depending on the type of accident, so contact us as soon as possible after an accident.
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