Helping Boat and Watercraft Accident Victims Obtain Justice
Florida offers residents and tourists access to numerous bodies of water, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean. Watercrafts ranging from fishing boats, ski boats, pleasure barges and even jet skis are very popular. There is no doubt that being out on the water can be fun, but it can also be potentially dangerous. With so many watercrafts on the water and the increasing popularity of smaller and quicker wave runners and jet skis, there is an ever-increasing probability of being involved in a boating accident. If you or a family member have been injured or killed in any type of boating accident, you may be entitled to compensation, and an experienced Fort Myers boating accident lawyer can help you recover your maximum damages.
Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., is ready to assist you with your case. Call us today at (888) 477-4839 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.
Causes of Boating Accidents
Florida's waterways are full of boats every month of the year given the state’s temperate climate and proximity to numerous recreational bodies of water. Unfortunately, many boat operators have little or no experience, particularly if they are tourists or only recreational boat operators. It is not uncommon for many drivers to be without a proper drivers' license required to operate a boat. As a result, boating accidents occur all too frequently throughout the state of Florida, involving both tourists and residents.
Oftentimes, these careless boat operators can cause significant waves that cause other boats or wave runners to crash or overturn. Additionally, negligent boat operators can cause their own passengers to be thrown inside the boat, or even ejected from the boat, resulting in serious injury or drowning. Furthermore, inexperienced boat operators may have little or no safety equipment or life jackets on board for their passengers in the event of an accident. All too often, a boat accident can be fatal for passengers who are unable to swim, who have difficulty swimming in unfamiliar or choppy waters, or who have failed to utilize life jackets properly.
The most common causes of boating accidents include:
- Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 15% of deaths.
- Accidents caused by propellers result in devastating injuries or death.
- Careless boat operators may cause significant waves that cause other boats or wave runners to crash or overturn.
- Negligent boat operators may cause their own passengers to be thrown inside the boat or even ejected from the boat, resulting in serious injury or drowning.
- Inexperienced boat operators may have little or no safety equipment or life jackets on board for their passengers in the event of an accident. All too often, a boat accident can be fatal for passengers who are unable to swim, who have difficulty swimming in unfamiliar or choppy waters, or who have failed to utilize life jackets properly.
- In cases where the cause of death was known, 80% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 83% were not wearing a life jacket.
- In cases where the boat operator’s training status was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats on which the operator did not receive any boating safety instruction.
Boating Accident Statistics
According to the most recent report from the United States Coast Guard, the statistics regarding boating accidents and related injuries and fatalities are somewhat alarming:
- In 2019, there were 4,168 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 613 deaths, 2,559 injuries and nearly $55 million in property damage.
- The boating accident fatality rate in 2019 was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
- Compared to 2018, the number of accidents in 2019 increased 0.6%, while the number of deaths decreased 3.2%, and the number of injuries increased 1.9%.
- Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (45%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (16%).
Fault in Watercraft Crashes
While spending time on a boat is typically much more fun than spending time in a car, boats and cars actually have much in common. Both require experienced, attentive, and responsible people behind the wheel or at the helm. Both require regular maintenance and monitoring to run safely, and both are at risk of equipment failures. Boat and car crashes can also lead to serious injuries or death.
Fault in boating accidents is generally attributed to human error, equipment problems, and weather conditions. Sometimes, a combination of those factors can lead to accidents and injuries, as well as the loss of a vessel.
Propeller accidents cause devastating injuries, and many result in death. Propellers are extremely sharp, and spin at a very high rate of speed. There are a variety of ways that a careless boat operator can cause an injury or death by a propeller. Boat operators who are speeding, driving carelessly, make sudden turns, or drive while intoxicated, can cause a passenger to be thrown from the boat and then struck by the propeller. Operators of a boat who are driving carelessly can also run over a person who is swimming or floating in the water. Another devastating type of accident caused by the operator of a boat occurs when the operator leaves the boat in gear while people are trying to push the boat out of shallow water or from a sandbar. A boat operator should absolutely never have their engine on or the boat in gear while people are near the boat. If the boat is stuck on a sandbar, the safest thing to do is call for help from a professional water based tow company. A boat can easily be pulled off a sandbar in shallow water by a professional tow boat company.
Speeding on a boat is just as dangerous as speeding on the road. Boats don’t have brakes, and stopping suddenly when moving at an excessive speed is essentially impossible. Speeding also limits reaction time and reduces the ability to take evasive action, such as what would be needed to avoid other swimmers, boats, or water hazards. Furthermore, speeding on rough water can cause temporary loss of control of the boat, causing passengers to be thrown overboard.
Aside from speeding, there are other types of reckless boating. Ignoring “no wake” zones, inattentiveness and/or distracted boating, and boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs are all types of operator recklessness that can lead to boating accidents. For example, a boat operator’s use of alcohol is a particularly dangerous form of boating recklessness.
Inadequate Boat Maintenance
Any experienced boat owner knows the work required to keep their boat safe. Boats require consistent, skilled maintenance. Unknown or ignored problems with the engine, steering mechanism, hull, decks, or railings can lead to accident-causing failures.
Fire or Explosions Onboard
Boats contain significant amounts of fuel and flammable materials. That said, both may be stored in poorly ventilated areas, and fuel can spill, causing fires and explosions resulting in severe burns and injuries and may even cause a boat to sink altogether.
Flooding or Capsizing
There simply is no such thing as an unsinkable boat. Leaks or weaknesses in a boat’s hull, along with rough water and stormy weather, often lead to flooding. Smaller vessels are particularly susceptible to capsizing due to bad weather, sending passengers into the water or trapping them inside the boat.
How a Boating Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover Compensation
Many boating accidents in Florida resulting in injury or death are subject to maritime law because they occur on navigable waterways. This makes it even more important to contact an experienced attorney who can review the case, as these cases deal with a highly specialized area of the law with which many attorneys are not familiar. Our team is trained to investigate whether there were defects in the boat or watercraft itself, whether the accident was a result of the carelessness of the boat operator, or whether some other factor contributed to or caused the accident that led to the injuries or death at issue.
Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. handles accidents involving boats, wave runners, jet skis, and all types of watercraft, large, or small. Whether you were an operator or a passenger of a watercraft, or a swimmer who was involved in a boating accident, we can help.
Time Limitations to Make a Claim
In any type of accident involving a boat, wave runner, jet ski, or other instrumentality, it is important to immediately contact experienced Fort Myers boating accident attorney Randall L. Spivey of the Spivey Law Firm right away. Many of these accidents occur on what are known as navigable waters. When an accident occurs on navigable waters, there are special federal and state maritime laws that apply, including time limitations to bring a claim. These procedures and time limitations are generally different than other types of accidents and require an experienced Maritime and navigational boating accident attorney.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today with a Top Fort Myers Boating Accident Attorney
Were you or a loved one involved in a boating accident? A personal injury attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Please contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., for a free consultation about your case. There are no fees or costs unless you win compensation through a settlement or jury verdict.
More Helpful Information
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) reported in 2020 that Florida ranked No. 1 nationally in both recreational boating accidents and fatalities on the water. Florida has ranked No. 1 every year since 2015.