Let Our Boca Raton Boat Accident Attorney Assist With Your Claim
South Florida hosts some of the nation’s most famous beaches and waterways. Experiencing them often involves spending time on a boat. The dangers involved in driving a large vessel only increase when out in the open water, where a careless driver or faulty machinery may lead to serious injuries. If this happens to you, a motor vehicle accident attorney can guide you through the process of bringing a personal injury claim. Each Boca Raton boat accident attorney at The Grife Law Firm is committed to helping victims assert their right to financial support. We provide aggressive legal representation throughout the settlement negotiation process and any litigation that may be needed.
Florida Boat Accidents Can Have Serious Consequences
Year after year, Florida leads all states in the rate of recreational boat accidents, with 737 reported in 2015. As Florida’s total registered vessels continue to increase, so does the potential for these types of accidents and the injuries that accompany them. Many of these involve lacerations, contusions, broken bones, head injuries, internal injuries, or neck and back injuries.
Depending on the circumstances, multiple parties may have contributed to harming a victim, including a boat’s operator, its passengers, or a product’s manufacturer. Boat crashes may not only affect a boat’s occupants but also another vessel’s passengers as well as surrounding swimmers. The U.S. Coast Guard cites alcohol use as the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Among the other top contributing factors are inattentive or inexperienced drivers, machinery breakdown or failure, and traveling at high speeds.
Common Causes of Boating and Watercraft Accidents
While boat accidents are similar to other types of motor vehicle accidents in many ways, one of the key differences is that there are no traffic laws or other regulations that govern how people should drive their boats. Whether it is on the ocean, a river, a lake, or some other body of water, boat operators must use prudence and good judgment in order to avoid accidents. Unfortunately, most boat accidents are the result of negligence – the failure to use prudence and good judgment. Some of the most common causes of boat accidents include the following:
Inexperienced Boat Operators
Operators are not required to have a license in order to drive a boat. As a result, the person driving the boat may have little or no experience, which means they are unable to appreciate potential hazards or know what to do in order to avoid an accident. Many accidents are caused by young, inexperienced operators who may be driving a boat for the first time. For instance, imagine a novice boat operator who fails to navigate a narrow channel correctly. As a result, their boat collides with a submerged object or runs aground, leading to damage to the vessel and potentially causing injuries to passengers.
While distractions while boating are common, drivers have just as much of an obligation to avoid driving while distracted as when driving a motor vehicle. Operator inattention can result in collisions with other boats or fixed objects. Using a smartphone, talking with passengers, or looking at the scenery are examples of distracted driving that can result in an accident. For example, a boat operator who becomes distracted by their phone or conversation with passengers may fail to notice a navigational buoy in their path. This lack of attention can lead to a collision with the buoy, causing damage to the boat and posing a risk to those on board.
Speeding and Reckless Operation
Even though there may be no traffic laws, drivers can still be reckless. Driving at excessive speeds, passing too close to other boats, or engaging in other dangerous maneuvers can quickly lead to an accident. Consider a scenario where a boat operator disregards posted speed limits and navigates at high speed through a congested area. The operator loses control of the vessel while making a sharp turn, causing the boat to capsize and eject passengers into the water.
Passengers can also be guilty of causing an accident. Unruly or drunken behavior can distract the driver at critical moments, blocking their vision or even causing them to lose control of the boat. Passengers who engage in reckless or unsafe behavior are just as much a danger to our waterways as inexperienced operators. For instance, imagine a group of passengers on a small boat who start horsing around and rocking the boat from side to side. The sudden shifts in weight and movement may destabilize the vessel, causing it to tip over or throw occupants off balance, leading to falls or even capsizing.
Boating While Intoxicated
Just like driving a car, operating a boat while intoxicated significantly increases the risk of an accident. Unfortunately, alcohol use and sometimes drug use are common while boating, making for a very dangerous situation. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times. For example, a boat operator who consumes alcohol excessively and then tries to navigate through a narrow channel may lose control of the vessel, resulting in a collision with a dock or another boat. Intoxicated boating poses significant risks to both the operator and other individuals on the water.
Not Having the Proper Safety Gear
Not having the necessary safety gear on board can lead to hazardous situations and increase the severity of accidents. For instance, imagine a boat that ventures out into open waters without life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all passengers. In the event of an unexpected emergency, such as a sudden storm or equipment failure, the absence of life-saving devices can put individuals at a higher risk of drowning or injury. Proper safety gear, including life jackets, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals (flares), and navigation lights, are essential to ensure preparedness and mitigate the potential consequences of accidents on the water.
Boating accidents can occur due to adverse weather conditions. For example, imagine a boater who ignores a severe weather warning and proceeds to navigate through a storm. The high winds and rough waves make it challenging to control the boat, leading to capsizing or collisions with other vessels or objects. Ignoring or underestimating weather conditions can significantly increase the risk of accidents and jeopardize the safety of boaters.
Unsafe water conditions can contribute to boating accidents. For instance, if a boat operator fails to recognize shallow areas or submerged hazards, such as rocks or sandbars, the boat can run aground or sustain damage. Similarly, large waves, strong currents, or sudden changes in water depth can destabilize the vessel, causing accidents such as swamping, capsizing, or passengers being thrown overboard.
Boating accidents can occur in congested waterways due to the increased likelihood of collisions. For example, during a holiday weekend, multiple boats may gather in a popular boating destination. If operators fail to maintain a proper lookout or follow navigation rules, collisions can happen, resulting in property damage, injuries, or even fatalities. It is crucial for boaters to exercise caution, maintain safe distances, and be aware of their surroundings when navigating crowded waterways.
Equipment and Mechanical Failures
Mechanical failures or malfunctioning equipment can lead to boating accidents. For instance, a boat’s steering system may suddenly fail, making it difficult for the operator to control the vessel. Additionally, engine failures or fuel system issues can result in sudden loss of power or fires on board. Regular maintenance, proper inspections, and addressing any equipment issues promptly are essential to minimize the risk of accidents caused by equipment or mechanical failures.
Boating Accidents When Someone is at Fault
Of course, not all boat accidents are caused by the operator’s negligence. Weather and water conditions can play a role. Congested waterways can also be an issue. Equipment and mechanical failures can cause accidents that lead to injuries. That said, these may not be mere accidents – someone may be at fault. For example –
- The driver of the boat may have been driving too fast for the conditions
- The owner of the boat may have been negligent in maintaining it
- A mechanic may have made inadequate repairs
- The accident may have been caused by defective parts
Whatever the case may be, a Boca Raton boat accident attorney will be able to determine what caused your accident and whether you have a claim for compensation.
Our Boca Raton Boat Accident Attorney Answers Your Top Questions
Does Florida require boaters to have liability insurance?
Unfortunately, Florida does not require boat owners or operators to carry liability insurance. Despite this fact, many boat owners purchase liability insurance in the event that they cause an accident. In this situation, you would make a claim against the owner’s insurance policy for damage to your boat, your injuries, and any other losses you may have suffered. If they don’t have insurance, the situation becomes much more complicated and you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options.
What do I do if the other boater doesn’t have insurance?
If the other boater doesn’t have insurance and is at fault for causing the accident, then they will be personally liable for your injuries and other losses. Depending on the extent of your losses and the severity of your injuries, they may not have the financial resources to make you whole. The best thing you can do is contact a Boca Raton boat accident lawyer to discuss your options.
The boat owner has insurance but someone else was driving. Will this be a problem?
Most liability insurance policies cover people who have the owner’s permission to drive the boat such as one of their children or a friend. Their policy should provide coverage even if the owner isn’t on the boat at the time of the accident.
What do I do if the operator who caused the accident had rented the boat?
In this situation, you may be able to pursue a claim against the rental company or boat club that rented the boat. Any entity that rents boats has a legal responsibility to ensure that the operators have sufficient skill and knowledge to operate the boat. Failing to ensure that they understand the principles of safe boating or understand how to operate the boat safely can trigger liability. That said, pursuing a claim against a rental company can be difficult, but a Boca Raton boat accident attorney can help.
Is it against the law to operate a boat while under the influence (BUI)?
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs under Florida law. Just like with a motor vehicle, operators with a BAC of .08% or higher could be charged with BUI. However, you can still pursue a claim for an accident caused by an operator who was under the influence even if they weren’t charged with BUI – boating while under the influence is negligence.
What damages can I pursue in my boat accident claim?
If you have been injured in a boat accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Damage to your boat
- Your medical expenses, both current and future
- Any lost income as a result of your accident, both current and future
- Your pain and suffering
- Any other losses caused by your accident
Under the law, you are entitled to be made whole. An experienced attorney can provide you with an estimate of what your claim may be worth at your initial consultation.
Boat Accident Attorney for Boca Bash
Every year, the Boca Bash attracts thousands of people to its exhilarating party filled with boats, rafts, and various watercraft. While the event is widely known for its large crowds and lenient law enforcement, it also carries inherent risks that can lead to boating accidents and serious injuries. If you or someone you know has been injured during the Boca Bash or any other watersport event, it’s important to understand your rights and options for compensation.
Other Popular Florida Boating Events
- Miami International Boat Show
- Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
- Tampa Boat Show
- Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival
- Key West Super Boat International World Championships
- Islamorada Sailfish Tournament
- Palm Beach International Boat Show
- Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run
Safety Tips for Boca Bash and Other South Florida Water Festivities
Although Florida does not require a boating license, individuals born on or after January 1, 1988 must meet certain criteria, such as completing a National Association of Boating Law Administrations (NASBLA) approved boating education course or passing an equivalent examination. Operators in Florida should possess a boating education ID card and a photo identification card if they operate a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more. Collecting evidence of the other party’s liability in the event of an accident is crucial, especially when details such as vessel size or the operator’s state of intoxication are unknown. A qualified Boca Raton boat accident lawyer can assist in gathering evidence to support your case and prove liability.
- Wear a Life Jacket – Prevent drowning by always wearing a life jacket while boating. Learn more about choosing the right life jacket.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings – Maintain 360-degree awareness and pay attention to avoid collisions and accidents caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
- Designate a Sober Driver – Operate a boat with a sober driver to prevent alcohol or drug-related accidents, as well as potential legal consequences.
- Take a Boating Safety Course – Enhance your knowledge and skills by taking a boating safety course, even if it’s not mandatory. Education leads to safer boating.
- Check your Safety Gear – Ensure your boat is equipped with life jackets, a whistle or horn, and consider having an emergency locator beacon on board. Additional safety gear like lights, fire extinguishers, and flares may also be required.
- File a Float Plan – Inform family and friends of your boating plans and expected return time. A float plan helps rescuers locate you quickly in case of an emergency.
- Know Where You’re Going – Familiarize yourself with local boating speed zones and travel at a safe speed for environmental conditions.
- Watch the Weather – Check the forecast and be aware of changing weather conditions before and during your boating trip. Stay alert for storms and rough seas.
- Stay with the Boat if You Capsizes – In the event of an accident or capsizing, stay with the boat, even if it’s partially submerged. Being near the vessel increases visibility and improves the chances of being found by rescuers.
Responsibility of Boat Operators and Compliance with Laws
Similar to drivers on the road, boat operators at the Boca Bash and other events have a duty to operate their vessels safely and responsibly while prioritizing the well-being of others on the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) outlines the obligations for vessel operators, including operating in a prudent and reasonable manner considering other vessel traffic, adhering to posted restrictions, being aware of divers-down flags, and avoiding actions that endanger individuals or property outside the vessel. Engaging in careless operation of a vessel may result in civil liability if an accident occurs as a consequence.
The Consequences of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) at Boca Bash
Operating a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in Florida. When an intoxicated operator causes an accident, they are held liable for the resulting damages. According to Florida Statute 327.35, penalties for BUI include fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 for a first conviction and $1,000 to $2,000 for a second conviction. Additionally, imprisonment can range from six months for a first offense to nine months for a second conviction. Multiple violations carry even more severe penalties. A finding of guilt for BUI strengthens your claim for compensation related to the injuries caused by the intoxicated individual.
Turn To A Boca Raton Boat Accident Attorney At The Grife Law Firm
No Fees Unless You Win
If you have been injured because of someone else’s careless actions on the water, you should contact a Boca Raton boat accident attorney at The Grife Law Firm to find out more about your legal options. We assist injured individuals throughout Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, including in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Call us at 855-998-0770 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. We also are available to assist people who need a cruise ship accident attorney when they are injured on vacation.
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