The exceptional geography and mild weather of Florida make boating a common outdoor activity in the state. Every year, many tourists visit the state to enjoy the natural beauty and the chances to have fun on the water. Boating can be thrilling, but it can lead to accidents.
Boating Accidents in Florida
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement division in Florida is in charge of the implementation of boating safety laws within the state. The division’s 2015 Boating Accidents Statistical Report stated that approximately 737 boating accidents were reported in the year 2015. A boating accident can be reported if it meets any of the following requirements:
- Someone Dies
- An individual is missing under conditions that suggest possible injury or death
- An individual has an injury necessitating medical attention beyond instant first aid
- There is a minimum of $2,000 total property damage to the boat or other assets
- The boat was damaged completely
Generally, crash with other vessels is the common type of accident, leading to twenty-six percent of the overall accidents. When it comes to deaths from boating crashes, fifty-two fatal cases were reported in 2015, which gave rise to fifty-five fatalities. Sixty-four percent of the victims died by drowning, which makes it the leading cause of death in deadly boating accidents, whereas forty-two percent of the total fatal boating accident involved falling overboard. Furthermore, alcohol or drug usage was stated to have a major impact on nineteen percent of boating death toll.
Types of Accidents
Majority of boating accidents are not triggered by bad climate or dangerous sea conditions; but, many of the accidents are outcomes of human mistakes during periods when there is poor visibility, water is still, and the winds are light. The usual leisure boating accidents include:
- Crash with another vessel: Because Florida is a state that is surrounded by the ocean and that includes many rivers and lagoons, boating is a common frivolous activity in the state. Actually, Florida heads the country in the figure of registered vessels, 915,713 vessels were recorded in the year 2015. Therefore, the waterways in Florida can become pretty crowded, particularly all through the summer months and areas close to the coasts of popular cities like St. Petersburg. Jam-packed waterways boost the risk that two vessels will crash with each other, which can lead to injuries such as scratches, bruises, and falling overboard.
- Hitting another boat’s wake: Vessels generate waves termed wakes that moves behind the boat when they are moving. The dimensions of these wakes are determined by the size and speed of the boat and can become big. If another vessel moves too close to this wake or moves near it at the wrong angle, it may make the vessel overturn.
- Hitting a wave: This is similar to hitting a large wake, the size of the wave will determine if it will either swamp the vessel and make it take on water and probably sink, or it can make the boat overturn if it gets close in the wrong way.
- Collision with a fixed entity or land: There are many types of things on the water that boat drivers must notice besides other boats, for instance, sandbanks, harbors, and buoys. Hitting any of these static things can cause a brutal jolt, which can throw or toss passengers overboard.
- Lack of suitable safety equipment on board: The vessels operating on Florida channels are required by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to have specific safety equipment on the vessel, as well as individual flotation devices, good lighting, distress signals, and fire extinguishers. The failure to comply with these rules can lead to accidents and aggravate injuries.
Liability for Boating Accidents
Liability for the majority of boating accidents is similar to the liability for vehicle accidents, both are based on negligence. The accuser must prove that the boat driver didn’t operate the vessel in a sensibly harmless manner that caused an injury to the accuser in order to win a claim for negligence. This can include any behavior that does not conform with the standard of care which a sensible boat operator would work with, as well as keeping the boat out when climate conditions are not optimal, directing the vessel the wrong way toward a wave and causing it to overturn, over speeding to dodge another vessel, or not making provisions for enough safety equipment.
Proving fault of a boating accident in Florida
Despite the fact that boating and jet-skiing can be a nice way to have fun on the water, and relax, numerous boaters take a careless attitude toward boating safety and protocol. Regardless of stricter rules, boating accidents happen at a disturbing rate in the state. Although there were fewer fatalities recently, almost all boating accident caused serious injuries.
If you are a victim of a boating accident in Florida and you get seriously injured or losses because of the accident, you are definitely allowed to take legal action against the person you believe to be at fault. Nevertheless, attorneys will advise their clients that attesting liability in a boating accident can, sometimes, be problematic. Though, with the right Florida boating accident lawyer with you, getting your compensation is possible.
If you want to make your case fruitful, you need to show evidence that the other boat driver was careless; your wounds alone is not enough to prove the other party’s negligence. In order to prove the boat driver’s negligence, you are required to present evidence that the other boat driver or operator didn’t operate with reasonable care, this means that they committed an offense. This may perhaps be that the offender was boating under an influence of alcohol or drugs; were moving fast in a marked speed zone; were controlling the boat carelessly or wildly; were boating without having a boating license; were jumping a wake; failed to follow to equipment lighting necessities; were not up to 14 years of age; and were moving the vessel during a restricted period. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website to get the entire list of Florida’s boating rules.
When Proving Negligence Is Difficult
In certain situations, determining negligence is not easy, for instance, if two vessels were speeding in a marked speed zone, or they were moving their boats during a restricted time of day (in this case, both entities would be accountable). Though, there are other cases when proving fault is much more difficult. It is important to understand how to prove negligence of the three main types of boating accidents.
- Collision with Another Boat: After the collision of two boats, it may not be easy to prove liability because both entities might be at fault. In this situation, the judge may determine each victim’s part in the boat accident and allocate a proportion of fault, because Florida is a comparative fault state. In this law, the person with the larger percentage will need to present whatever proportion he/she was given of the awarded payment. Therefore, for example, if the payment would have been $2,000, and the magistrate estimated that one party was sixty percent liable and the other forty percent liable, the party with the higher liability would pay $1,200 – sixty percent of $2,000.
- If the judge declared that both parties are liable equally, none of them would collect a settlement; nevertheless, the passengers of both vessels can get a settlement if they decide to take legal action.
- Hitting Another Boat’s Wake: Although it is unlawful for boat operators to hit another boat’s wake in Florida, there are reasons that can move liability to the boat operator who generated the wake. If the boat that generated the wake was moving fast in a no-wake zone, was controlling the boat recklessly through a jammed area or was driving wildly when there was low visibility, such party may be accused to be liable for an accident prompted by another vessel hitting their wake.
- Collision with an Unseen Object: Hitting an unnoticed object can happen because of negligent boat driving. Boat operators in Florida are requested to utilize navigation equipment, which can spot unseen objects. When a boat operator didn’t use such equipment, they can be held liable for a crash caused by such a collision. In addition, the boat operator can be held liable if they are moving very fast and didn’t see the object in time, if they were speeding through the thick mist, or were controlling the boat recklessly and negligently.
However, it may not be easy to prove negligence of some boating accidents, with a help of a skilled and well-informed boating accident attorney, you will be able to claim compensations for your injuries.