In the United States, boating is all the rage. Who doesn’t like to go fishing, water skiing, or on a river cruise? However, recreational boating can be dangerous and has accounted for a large number of injuries and deaths. Specifically, in 2019, the United States Coast Guard counted 4,168 accidents that involved 613 deaths and 2,559 injuries. In addition to the injuries and deaths, recreational boating led to $55,000,000 in property damage. More alarmingly, year after year, Florida leads the nation with respect to recreational boating accidents. For many who are injured in boating accidents in Florida, the question that they tend to ask is: Who can I sue for causing my injuries? Here’s everything you need to know about Florida boating accidents and what you should do to protect your rights in Florida if you have been injured.
Collisions, Drownings in Florida’s Navigable Waters
Boat accidents in Florida are commonly caused by collisions, capsizings, fires, explosions, and drownings. They occur in navigable waters including Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, seaports, rivers, bays, and lakes.
Notably, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicated that collisions are the number one reason in which boating accidents occur. Apparently, fatalities were primarily attributed to individuals that drowned who were under the influence of alcohol (known as “boating under the influence” or BUI) or drugs.
Filing a Lawsuit If You Were Injured
If someone caused your boating-related injury, whether it was the operator of your boat or another boat, then you can sue those responsible for negligence to obtain compensation. Even if there has been no collision, if you or your boat was damaged because of another operator’s actions (e.g. creating an unreasonable wake which impacts your boat), then you could sue that operator for negligence.
Critically, those who operate a boat are responsible for ensuring the safety of their passengers and others who could be harmed by their actions. In a legal sense, operators have a duty to protect you from the harm that could be reasonably expected to occur from them operating the vessel unsafely. Often, the question becomes: What would a reasonable seaman do to protect against the risk of harming you given the conditions of the water, boat(s), and other factors?
Also, there has to be a connection between the inappropriate operator’s actions and your injury. For example, the operator could have done something which was inappropriate such as speeding, but this did not result in your injury. Also, it may be that it wasn’t just an operator’s inattention or inexperience that caused your injury, but also a bad part such as a defective flotation device. Or perhaps you were not provided with adequate safety warnings before you operated a watercraft. In these cases, you could possibly bring a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer or retailer of the boat in addition to bringing a lawsuit alleging negligence against the operator.
Injuries on boats commonly include broken bones, brain injuries, and spine injuries, which could be traumatic and take a lifetime to recover from—if there is any recovery at all. For that reason, it is important that you document your pain and suffering and keep track of things like lost income and medical bills because you may be seeking compensation for all of this in a lawsuit.
Finally, even if you signed a waiver of liability before boarding the boat in which you were injured, you still have rights and could sue.
Which Law Governs Boating Accidents?
Boating accident cases in Florida are complex. Particularly, if the boat was operating on navigable waters, maritime law applies. An experienced boating accident attorney must weigh bringing a case in federal admiralty court or in a Florida state court, taking into account the differing laws or rules relating to negligence cases as well as the methods of recovery. For this reason, you should consider hiring an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about navigating boating accident lawsuits.
Hiring a Boating Accident Attorney in Florida
At The Watson Firm, PLLC, our attorneys are experienced at protecting the rights of our clients who have been injured in a boating accident or other watercraft accident in Florida. Our attorneys can advise you as to your options and can aggressively pursue any and all remedies against those at fault so that you can obtain maximum compensation for your injuries.
Feel free to call (850) 607-2929 to schedule a free consult with an experienced Pensacola boat accident attorney regarding your case.