As rare as a boat accident can be, it may leave you disabled or leave your loved one deceased. You are allowed to get compensation for boat accidents under Florida personal injury laws. The Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm is one of the leading firms in Jacksonville that can help you seek compensation if you are involved in a boat accident. We also represent clients who are seeking compensation for injuries resulting from a bicycle, auto, railroad accident among others.
An Overview of Boat Accidents
The FWC (Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) recently released a report covering boat accidents in Florida. The report suggested that failure to maintain a water vessel and operator negligence were the leading contributors to the accidents. While 714 boat accidents were reported in 2016, this figure increased by 52 in 2017. About 81 percent of the victims did not have a life jacket on them at the time of the accident.
As boat accidents continue to make the news in Florida, authorities are putting in place boat safety policies. The FWC, to be particular, reviews, analyzes and compiles boating accident data for the state of Florida. Furthermore, Florida’s personal injury laws shed light on ways to seek compensation for accidents such as boat accidents.
Laws Governing Boating Activities
Florida Statute 327.46 encourages the establishment of boating-restricted areas to protect public safety. The statute also suggests that the restrictions help mitigate hazardous water levels or currents, boating accidents, traffic congestion, and other navigational hazards. Counties and municipalities in Florida have the jurisdiction to establish the areas based on ordinances. The boating-restricted areas can be set 300 to 500 feet from a confluence of water bodies or fuel dispensers and pumps.
The Florida DHSMV (Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) has jurisdiction over boating activities occurring in the state of Florida. FLHSMV encourages security and safety in various transportation means through education, enforcement, and service. The DHSMV mandates boat owners in Florida to have their vessels registered and titled. The registration and titling help protect the owners against irresponsible actions initiated by other vessel operators.
According to the DHSMV, most boat accidents occur due to people's carelessness and inability to operate a vessel safely. It merely takes less than a second when you are not attending to a boat to cause an accident. Here are the tips the FLHSMV recommends to protect you and your passengers from boat accidents.
Remember to have your kill switch lanyard on you at all times to avoid getting cut by the propeller getting thrown off of your boat
Always be alert for danger and scan for any possibilities
Develop a habit that allows you to have a life jacket on you every time you are cruising over a water body
Ensure your passengers can operate your water vessel in case a sudden occurrence happens to you
Taking alcohol/drugs can slow your reflexes especially when you want to operate a boat
In the event a boat accident occurs, the operator should (without delay) speak about the matter with various authorities. They include the police chief of the respective municipality and the sheriff of the respective county. You should also contact Florida’s Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Boat Accidents Occurring as a Result of Fleeing a Law Enforcement Officer
Pursuant to Florida Statute 843.18, it is unlawful for a boat operator to flee or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer in Florida. Though the operator may be trying to avoid any interactions with an officer, he or she may encounter a boat accident in the process of fleeing when asked to stop. Even if you are injured in the process, you may be liable for causing the accident.
Florida Statutes on Making Injury Claims for Boating Accidents
Florida’s comparative fault law (FL Statute 768.81) allows you to pursue a products liability action against a manufacturer. You can base the civil action on nuisance, breach of warranty, negligence or strict liability for damages caused by the manufacturer on your boat. The damages may have occurred during the design, manufacture or assembly of the vessel. Your goal to pursue a product liability action is to seek compensation for injuries caused by a defective product.
What are the Major Causes of Boat Accidents in Florida?
While boat accidents may lead to fatalities, the severity of the fatalities depends on their causes. Among the common causes of boat accidents in Florida are negligence and machine failure. Discussed below are these factors in details.
A hole in your boat may let in water and gradually make the boat to sink. The hole may be in the form of a crack that developed due to over-tightening the plastic fittings on your boat. One way to prevent a boat from sinking is by using brass through-hulls, which are less prone to cracking. An anti-sinking insurance policy may also get you compensated when your boat accident stems from sinking.
Though boat races may seem fun and entertaining, they are occasionally dangerous. Your boat may collide with a rock while you are in the process of racing it. Being clueless about the state of the water body in which you are racing may increase your likelihood of getting involved in a boat accident. The FWC encourages boat riders to slow down, stay sober and keep watch when engaging in recreational boat riding.
Running Out of Gas
Boats, unlike cars, do not have gas stations established at the course of water bodies. Burning up too much fuel or miscalculating your bearing may make your boat run out of gas. The fuel may also run out after you cruised or fished longer than planned. It would help if you calculated the amount of fuel your boat needs and add extra gallons for a safety margin.
The means you choose to handle an overboard tumble will determine whether you can recover from the accident. An overboard tumble may make you drown or expose you to dangerous water creatures. Since you will not be floating with your face up, it is wise to wear a life jacket to help turn you over. You may also find it difficult catching up with your boat after the tumble if you were riding alone.
A boat is likely to experience mechanical failure when it has electrical troubles. The electrical problems, which include a faulty boat engine and a defective battery, may prevent the boat motor from starting. Investing in an absorbed-glass mat battery, which requires no maintenance, may help you avoid mechanical failures. You can also spare yourself the troubles by carrying a backup flashlight to act as a signal when your boat is stuck.
Though there are rare, boat fires are likely to occur due to fuel leaks or spills. You can avoid them by having double-clamped fuel lines and spark-protected mechanical systems installed in your boat. Taking at least five minutes to run the bilge bower before starting the boat’s engine can help prevent sudden fire eruptions. Other safety measures include having fire extinguishers abroad and having your vessel inspected regularly.
Lack of Proper Safety Gear
Majority of boaters tend to neglect the importance of wearing or using safety gears while cruising on deep waters. Failing to wear a life jacket when riding a boat may put you at greater injury risks. Choose the right size of safety gear and encourage your passengers to use one. Your boat's anchors, backup propulsion, lights, and flares should also be working correctly before cruising.
Intoxication, caused by the consumption of either drugs or alcohol, may slow your reflexes and cloud your judgment when riding a boat. While onboard parties are common, the designated boat operator should stay sober. Operating a water vessel while intoxicated may make you avoid obstacles and tumble over water without even knowing.
Failure to be on the Lookout
A boat operator should always be on the lookout to any obstacles or troubles that may lead to a boat accident. Most boaters allege not seeing a boat crash coming when involved in one. Failing to lookout for aggravating accident factors may provide a cause for weakening your compensation claim.
Ignoring the Weather Conditions
Dedicated marine radios or weather radios help update boaters on the current weather conditions. Today, you can even use your smartphone or tablet to check weather updates. Being vigilant about these updates can help you schedule a boat ride when it is convenient. Ignoring them can increase your likelihood of experiencing difficulties when finding your way home due to storms.
For you to qualify as a boat operator, you must have certain skills, knowledge, and experience. Without this expertise, you cannot know how to navigate the obstacles that come up in boat riding. The FWC requires all boaters to have boater education and be compliant with the Florida boat laws. Boat operators should also obtain the Boating Safety Education ID.
Improper Boat Loading
Allowing too many passengers or heavy cargo on your vessel may prevent the vessel from moving through the water with ease. You will also find the boat difficult to steer. An overloaded boat can easily sink since its maximum carrying capacity has been exceeded. It would help if you observed the carrying capacity requirements of a boat when using it.
Types of Boat Accidents in Florida
The types of boats people use when spending time on water may determine the circumstances leading to boat accidents. Different kinds of water vessels are designed to handle different water depths and be operated in different speed settings. Choosing the right boat for your intended activity is the first step to observing boat safety. Explained below are the common types of boating accidents, which we (Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney) believe call for compensation claims:
Jet Ski Accidents
Jet skis are among the most commonly used recreational water vessels. Despite their popularity, they may expose you to tragic consequences when you disregard basic safety rules. They are usually a result of lack of experience, adverse water/weather conditions and lack of coordination. Wearing protective gear when skiing can reduce your likelihood of getting injured.
Party Boat Accidents
The State of Florida is known for attracting partiers from different parts of the country and the world. Patrons who choose to have fun on party boats may be at risk of boat accidents. The accident may occur when a drunk passenger falls overboard, or an intoxicated operator causes a collision. Other causative factors include negligence on the part of the operator, passengers or owners. Compensation claims for injuries from a party boat accident depend on the severity of the injury.
Dock and Marina Accidents
While most boating accidents occur offshore, others tend to occur on the shore. Longshoremen, dockworkers and other technicians present at docks or marinas may be injured when in onshore boat accidents. They are also entitled to obtaining compensation for any injuries experienced.
Pontoon Boat Accidents
Pontoon boats, which are ideal for relaxing on a water body, are susceptible to accidents. Though they are not designed for speed like other water vessels, they may expose you to various accidents. They include run-over accidents, propeller accidents or drownings. Failure to observe pontoon safety rules, drug/alcohol use and lack of training may contribute to pontoon boat accidents.
Fishing and Shrimping Boat Accidents
At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we admire and respect the work of men and women who make a living out of operating shrimping and fishing boats. Just like other workers, these individuals deserve safe working environments. Boat owners can prevent fishing and shrimping boat accidents by having the boats maintained and operated properly. A boat crewperson can seek damages for lost earning capacity or medical expenses when injured as result of unseaworthiness of the vessel or owner negligence.
Without the proper experience and training, you will find it difficult to safely operate a yacht even if you spent thousands of dollars buying it. A yacht accident may result in different kinds of injuries or the death of the operator or passengers. Failure to observe the navigational rules, failure to maintain the yacht and speeding are among the factors that cause yacht accidents.
Passenger Boat Accidents
While most boat passengers enjoy time spend over water, others are not fortunate to have this experience. They may be denied this luxury by injuries experienced in a passenger boat accident. Liability for a passenger boat accident lies on the boat operator or owner depending on the root of negligence. The injured passengers can individually or collectively seek compensation for the injuries suffered.
Kayaking and Canoeing Accidents
Kayaking involves moving across a water body with a double-bladed paddle while canoeing involves using a single-bladed paddle to do the same. Both activities are usually practiced as part of ecotourism, fishing or recreational water sports. Since kayaks and canoes are lighter than other boats, they can easily tumble overexposing you to injuries. With the right gear and training, it is possible to avoid kayaking and canoeing accidents.
What Types of Injuries Can You Experience as a Result of a Boat Accident?
Whether you are a boat passenger or an operator, different parts of your body need to be coordinated when a boat is in motion. A sudden boat crush may make your body to lose balance and start drowning. You may even get hit by another boat or an obstacle along a water path. As complex as the injuries can be, here is how you can categorize them.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Operators of fishing and recreational boats are likely to suffer life-threatening spinal cord injuries brought by boat accidents. A single fall from a boat or collision with another object may lead to serious spinal injuries. With an injured spine, you may suffer full or partial paralysis. You will also lose your ability to perform physical activities either temporarily or permanently.
Though you may have fire extinguishers in place, it may be difficult to control fires and explosions of a greater multitude. Sustaining severe burns from a boat accident will make you deal with disability, scarring, and pain. You may also suffer PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) while trying to forget the events that led to the accident. Severe burns can last a lifetime and affect almost all aspects of your life.
When your boat collides with another one or hits a static obstacle, you and your passengers may suffer bone fractures. A severely broken bone may result in you being disabled for the rest of your life. You may lose your previous ability to earn wages or engage in physical activities. Your hope for being compensated for the broken bones is to have us (Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney) work on your case.
A boat that crashes while traveling at high speed may leave you suffering catastrophic head injuries. At first, you may experience slight headaches or discomfort due to the accident. The injury may worsen and require medical attention when you lose consciousness.
Lacerations and Amputations
A rotating propeller may get you seriously injured when you move too close to it. The propeller, which comprises sharp blades, can slice through your body and result in deep lacerations. You will end up needing extensive treatment and care for the wounds.
You may get your body part amputated by getting too close to a motor or propeller. Your body parts may also be lost from a collision involving your boat and another boat. Body parts that are susceptible to lacerations and amputations include the hand, finger, foot or arm.
How to File an Injury Claim for a Boat Accident in Florida
Florida’s statute of limitations offers four years in which you can file a claim for a boat accident. The filing period is reduced to three years if your claim is against the government. After this period passes, a Florida court will most likely deny your claim. During the process, here are some of the activities to do:
Seek Medical Attention
The most important thing to do when you are injured in a boat accident is to get medical attention. Remember to keep the treatment records safe since they will be needed when seeking compensation. A friend or family member can help you do so depending on the type of injuries you suffered during the boat accident.
Write a Demand Letter Addressed to the Insurance Company
Through the help of your personal injury lawyer, draft a demand letter and have it submitted to the insurance firm. The letter must include details related to your injuries such as proof of lost wages, medical bills and receipts. You should also state in the letter a demand for settlement and the specific time limit the insurer should respond.
What Determines Whether the Injury Claim Proceeds to Trial?
You should expect certain outcomes when sending the demand letter to the insurer. The insurance firm may either decide to offer an immediate settlement offer or refuse to make the settlement. If the insurer does not agree with your claim, it would be best if you file a lawsuit against them. Most insurance companies prefer settling injury claims before trial to save the expenses of a trial.
The process of reaching an injury settlement for a boat accident may take weeks, months or years. Predicting how long a case may take may be difficult until you receive an award of damages or a settlement. The timing may depend on the complexity of the case, amount of damages, severity of injuries, case load in a jurisdiction and your willingness to settle. It would help if you engage a personal injury attorney to get the compensation you deserve.
Seek Help Filing an Injury Claim for a Boat Accident From a Lawyer Near Me
As you or your loved one recover from an injury brought by a boat accident, it would be wise to speak to a personal injury lawyer. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, our goal is to enable you to pursue a lawsuit for the injuries or losses suffered. Our services cater to the needs of Jacksonville, Florida residents. Call our Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney today at 904-800-7557 to let us understand your situation.