the high cost of boating accidents in south florida

With the Atlantic ocean to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the west, Florida is perfect for enjoying tropical beaches and boating across beautiful open waters. Just one more reason why the Sunshine State is widely recognized as a vacation and tourism hot spot. From luxury cruises to family fishing trips, South Florida attracts sea vessels of all shapes and sizes. It is the largest hub of recreational boats in the country. In 2017, the state reported over 944,000 boating registrations. As a result, the state also experiences higher rates of boat accidents than any other state in the nation.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there were 766 accidents in 2017, which is a 7.3% increase from 2016. What is even more troubling is that one-third of those accidents involved collisions between vessels. And even worse, according to a report from the United States Coast Guard:

  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, with 19% of deaths from boat accidents involving alcohol consumption.
  • Where instruction was known, 81% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

Needless to say, knowing how to protect your rights in the event of an accident is a crucial element of understanding boating safety. If you or someone you know has been injured in a boating accident, call lowercase today at 833-LOW-FEE5 (833-569-3335) to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys about taking action.

governed by maritime law

DID YOU KNOW: Florida actually has no minimum age requirement for operating a boat.

Also, for those over the age of 30, there is no requirement for:

  • Having a certified boating license
  • Undergoing any official boating safety courses

Essentially, the law does not dictate that Florida boaters born before 1988 be licensed or even formally trained in boating safety. However, there are a number of state regulations that do apply to certain aspects of maritime law, including:

  • Airboat regulations
  • Water Ski regulations
  • Vessel speed restrictions
  • Personal watercraft regulations
  • Equipment and lighting requirements

Overall, one of the most unique factors about boat accidents involves jurisdiction. More specifically, boat accidents that occur on a public waterway are actually under federal admiralty jurisdiction. As a result, these cases must often be brought to Florida’s federal courts. Therefore, personal injury and wrongful death cases involving vessels by and at sea are subject to various federal maritime statutes and provisions that can be strenuous to navigate. In the end, this can make the process of petitioning for compensation even more complex.

Not only do boat accidents take on a whole new level of litigation in higher courts, these cases frequently have a number of parties involved that can create an even more complicated web of legal status and liability.

liability and admiralty negligence

A prime example of the contrast between litigating car accidents and boat accidents are the standards for liability and negligence. In maritime law, an individual is typically liable for all damages that are due to their negligence. This is often the individual operating the boat, but can also be another individual on the vessel. Every case is different, so liability will depend on the specific details that cause different boat accidents. When applying the “reasonable person test” that is common in most state-based claims, it means to show that the liable party is responsible for not doing what a “reasonable” person would have done under the same circumstances. As a result, this individual’s actions caused an incident, which in turn caused injury.

DID YOU KNOW: The operator of a boat can be liable for an accident without direct contact with another vessel. If a boat creates a wake that capsizes or damages another vessel, the operator of the boat could be liable.

In cases involving boat accidents, it is all about taking the right action. Under maritime law, proving negligence in boat accidents involves convincing a judge and/or jury that the defendant failed to either:

  • Take action that should have been taken
  • Apply proper safety measures

Conversely, maritime law allows for a defendant to make a claim of comparative fault against the plaintiff.  This means the defendant can attempt to show that the plaintiff is in part responsible for his or her own accident. If they are successful, the damages of the plaintiff will be lowered by that percentage of fault.  For example, if a judge determines that the plaintiff is somehow 20% responsible for their own injuries, then the damages they are eligible to receive will be subject to a 20% reduction.

wrongful death on the high seas

When it comes to a wrongful death case under general maritime law, the liability will depend on where the injuries that caused the death occurred. When the cause of death occurs within three nautical miles of the United States then state law supplements federal maritime law. However, according to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), outside these territorial waters a decedent’s spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative can sue alleged tortfeasors and even vessels for pecuniary loss. However, DOHSA actions do limit an individual’s rights to certain damages.

Always remember, any person operating a vessel that is involved in a boating accident who leaves the scene without giving all possible aid to others and without reporting the accident to the proper authorities is breaking the law. In the event of a collision or other serious accident involving ocean-going vessels, be sure to get all necessary information from all parties. Too often an injury becomes fatal because those who can act fail to offer aid.

seeking compensation for serious injuries

Boating accidents happen due to a variety of circumstances. Therefore, the victims of boating accidents can suffer from a range of injuries, including:

  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Lung infections due to water inhalation

The most serious of these often being traumatic brain injuries. One can experience this devastating trauma in a number of ways, such as striking a solid object after being thrown from a boat, or due to a ship capsizing or crashing. For the victims of boat accidents in Florida, claims for compensation can often cover:

  • Medical bills and supplies
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medications
  • Lost income
  • Property damage
  • Other foreseeable damages linked to the accident

However, the victims of boat accidents do often face very challenging hurdles when seeking compensation for personal injuries. While Florida does recommend that boaters obtain liability insurance, unlike with car accidents, it is not a requirement. If you were injured in a recreational boat accident, then, there is no guarantee that you are covered by an insurance company for your immediate medical bills and needs. Therefore, many discover their only option is to seek compensation from the negligent boat operator himself. Sadly, that individual may not have the funds needed to cover your expenses. This is why a lowercase personal injury lawyer with experience in cases involving boat accidents can be extremely beneficial.

why you need an attorney

Looking at this brief summary of maritime law and what makes it such a complex system, it is easy to see why the average individual would have trouble trying to navigate these treacherous waters. However, a skilled Florida boat accident attorney knows how to find out whether the boat owner or rental company carried the appropriate insurance, can be proven liable and held accountable for negligence. A lowercase attorney knows how to work with insurance companies to negotiate the best compensation for our clients whenever possible.

Trying to successfully navigate all the parties involved, the distinctions between jurisdictions, and the varying regulations that apply to each case can be overwhelming. After a traumatic incident on the open water, the last thing you should have to do is fight for your right to the compensation you are entitled to. That is why our team of experienced personal injury lawyers are here to guide you every step of the way and make sure that you can focus on recovering.

call us today

A lowercase attorney is ready to examine your claim and help you find the best course of action to help you or your loved one. Call us today at 833-LOW-FEE5 (833-569-3335).


south florida:

  • • Aventura, FL
  • • Boca Raton, FL
  • • Boynton Beach, FL
  • • Coconut Grove, FL
  • • Coral Gables, FL
  • • Davie, FL
  • • Delray Beach, FL
  • • Doral, FL
  • • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • • Fort Myers, FL
  • • Hialeah, FL
  • • Hollywood, FL
  • • Homestead, FL
  • • Kendall, FL
  • • Key Largo, FL
  • • Key West, FL
  • • Miami, FL
  • • Miami Beach, FL
  • • Naples, FL
  • • Palm Beach, FL
  • • Pembroke Pines, FL
  • • Pompano Beach, FL
  • • Sunrise, FL
  • • West Palm Beach, FL
  • • Weston, FL

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