Were you recently injured in a boat accident in West Palm Beach, FL? Our experienced West Palm Beach boat accident lawyers at Shiner Law Group are ready to help fight for your legal rights and get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at (855) 462-6878 to speak with an attorney for a 100% free consultation.
You may be entitled to seek compensation for medical bills, loss of income, pain, and suffering, and more. Contact our West Palm Beach, FL law offices to discuss the legal options that might be available to you following your boat accident. The next steps are very important. Let Shiner Law Group help you with your boat accident case today.
Were You Injured In A Boat Accident In Florida?
If you live in Florida, you likely have a boat or know someone who does. Florida is a boating hotspot, with more recreational boat registrations than any other state. Boating is an excellent way to make the most of the sunny weather and enjoy the turquoise waters. But the prevalence of boating traffic also increases the risk of being involved in an accident. If you have been hurt in a boating accident, you can’t always rely on insurance to cover the cost of your damages. A Florida boat accident lawyer can help you navigate the steps that you need to take after the incident.
What Counts as a Florida Boating Accident?
A boating accident can involve any vessel that operates on water, including:
- Jet skis
- Pontoon boats
- Cabin cruiser
Collisions are the most common type of boating accident. Other kinds of accidents that are associated with boating include:
- Sinking or flooding
- Passengers overboard
- Hitting another boat’s wake
- Collisions with submerged objects or land
- Injuries to people being towed for watersports
- Slip and fall injuries
Why Do Boating Accidents Happen in Florida?
Mishaps on the water can happen for a number of reasons. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the top five causes of boating accidents are operator inattention, inexperience, improper lookout, extreme speed and equipment failure.
A vessel’s operator must be alert at all times. They may need to be even more vigilant than the driver of a car. In addition to keeping an eye on the path of travel and potential obstacles, they have to monitor the weather and unpredictable conditions.
There is no minimum age to operate a boat. However, safety regulations require individuals born on January 1, 1988, or later to pass a sanctioned boater safety course before operating a boat with at least a 10-horsepower motor. Still, there are many exemptions and loopholes. Florida visitors who want to rent a boat can get a temporary certificate to operate it if they’re at least 26 years old.
That means that plenty of people who operate boats don’t have the experience or knowledge to do so safely. As well as educating yourself on boating basics and navigation regulations, you should also understand how to manage emergencies. More than 80% of boating accident deaths happen when the operator doesn’t have the proper education and training.
It’s usually safer to operate a boat with at least one passenger than to do so by yourself. The operator needs a skipper to keep an eye out for potential hazards. This person should be looking in all directions for swimmers, diver flags, debris, bridge clearances, and other obstacles.
Many boats are equipped with tools to assist with the lookout, such as radar, binoculars, and VHF radios. The operator is required to know how to use these and take advantage of them.
It’s crucial to obey posted speeds when you’re out on the water. You may need to slow down in rough or inclement conditions. Going too fast can make you lose control, flip the boat or collide with another object.
Florida is home to many types of waterways. You’re more likely to experience an accident in larger areas, where you have a chance to pick up speed, than smaller waterways, such as marshes.
Running out of fuel, depleting the battery, or dealing with a defective navigation system can leave you stranded and vulnerable to threats. The boat owner is responsible for maintaining the vessel and all of its equipment. Exposure to sand, salt, and moisture can cause machinery to break down faster than it would on a car. The operator should also have a working knowledge of all of a boat’s parts so that they can take action if something breaks during their trip.
Other Causes of Boating Accidents
Those are only some of the factors that contribute to accidents on Florida waterways. Other elements that can hinder the safety of your boating trip include:
- Operating a vessel while you’re intoxicated
- Lack of safety gear
- Inclement weather
- Running out of gas
- Dangerous waters
- Violating rules of navigation
Reckless operation of a boat is a first-degree misdemeanor. A boat operator could be cited even if they don’t cause an accident. This legislation is an attempt to prevent dangerous accidents from occurring. If an accident happens because of reckless driving, the injured victim may be able to seek compensation.
Top Ways to Avoid Boating Accidents in Florida
The best way to avoid a wave runner or boating accident is to understand and follow boating rules and regulations. These can be complicated if you don’t undergo dedicated training. Lights and buoys that are intended to direct traffic and keep you safe can be confusing to an inexperienced boater. It’s your responsibility to understand the guidelines.
To maintain your focus, you need to eliminate distractions. That means that you should eat before you head out on the boat. Don’t text while you’re navigating. Boats take longer to stop than cars. Looking at your GPS can also take your attention away from the water. Familiarize yourself with your route before you depart, and understand how to use your navigation equipment.
Boating with friends can serve as a distraction. Therefore, your passengers should understand the importance of letting you concentrate. Delegate tasks and ask for their help when necessary. Have a passenger serve as a lookout.
You should also stock proper safety gear onboard the vessel. Items such as life vests, first aid kits, sound signaling devices, and flares can turn an emergency situation around. You should also carry 20% more fuel than you expect to use on your trip. Get in the habit of wearing a life vest. It’s difficult to put one on during an emergency.
Types of Injuries Sustained in a Florida Boating Accident
Boating accidents can become serious quickly. The people onboard aren’t as well protected as they are in a car. Even low-speed collision can send them flying into other objects or the water. Higher speeds can lead to more serious injuries in an accident.
If you are injured in a jet ski or water skiing accident, your claim will fall under the boating accident category. A jet ski is akin to a motorcycle on the water. It moves fast, and the driver is largely unprotected. An accident involving this type of vehicle can be catastrophic.
Some of the types of injuries that people in boating accidents commonly sustain include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Electric shock
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Lung infections from inhaling water
- Amputation or loss of limbs
A boating injury can be devastating. It can send you to the hospital with a long recovery time. You may not be able to work or tend to your obligations. Your lifestyle and relationships can suffer.
Medical bills can get expensive. Struggling with finances during this hard time takes an emotional toll on you.
Can You Sue If You Are In a Boating Accident in Florida?
If you or a loved one is injured in a boating accident, you might be eligible to receive compensation. The damages that you receive could cover the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Physical pain and suffering
- Property damage or loss
- Psychological and emotional suffering
One of the main priorities when determining whether you have a case is identifying the liable party. In other words, who was at fault? Can you prove it?
Some examples of the parties that could be liable for a boating accident include:
- A boat operator who was speeding and crashed into the land, causing a passenger to fall overboard
- A boat operator who was texting while operating the vessel collided with another boat, killing a passenger on that vehicle
- A boat owner who rented out the vessel without properly inspecting it for mechanical issues, leading to a drained battery; the party on the boat was left stranded through the night with no lights and were hit by another vessel
- A boat owner who allowed an inexperienced operator to drive the vessel, which ended up capsizing at sea
- A manufacturer who sold defective equipment that caused the accident
- A repair shop that completed faulty work, which led to an accident when the boat hit a wave
The problem in establishing fault is that it’s not always clear who was at fault. If your boat capsizes while you’re trying to cross a wake, is it your fault for attempting to do so? Is it the other boat operator’s fault for creating the wake?
It all comes down to negligence. If you can prove that the responsible party acted in a negligent way, you may have a case.
Should You Call a Lawyer or Your Insurance Company After A Florida Boat Accident?
While a homeowner or umbrella insurance policy may cover boat damage, it’s not likely to be comprehensive. Your car insurance won’t cover your boat. But even with the best boat insurance, you may only receive damages that match the depreciated value of your boat.
Let’s say that your boat capsized when you hit the wake from a speedboat. Fortunately, you escaped unscathed, but your vessel is beyond repair. Because you weren’t injured, you won’t be able to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. However, you could work with an insurance attorney to ensure that you receive sufficient compensation for the equipment.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to contact a Florida boat accident attorney. Regulations that pertain to boat accidents and maritime law are complex and difficult to sort out on your own. An attorney who is experienced with personal injury cases in Florida will provide you with information that can help you move forward.
It’s best to contact a boating accident lawyer as soon as possible following an incident. They may make recommendations that you would not have considered. For example, they may suggest that you get examined by a doctor. Some injuries, especially internal ones, are hard to spot right away. Being thorough now prevents you from losing time, money, and your peace of mind.
The statute of limitations for boating accidents in Florida is three to four years, depending on which type of law takes precedence. If a health issue or injury crops up during that time and is directly related to the accident, you still may be able to file a claim. However, it may be difficult to prove that the problem is associated with the accident.
What Can a Lawyer Do for You After a Florida Boating Accident?
The chances are high that you were in shock after the accident. You may not have collected the right evidence or followed the proper procedures for documenting everything. A lawyer can help you access missing information and gather evidence that supports your case.
Some ways that a boating accident lawyer can help include:
- Conducting a detailed investigation of the incident
- Identifying the exact cause of the accident
- Collecting evidence
- Locating and interviewing witnesses
- Identifying responsible parties
- Recording statements
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Collecting testimonies from medical experts
We are here to make your life easier. Our experienced professionals understand that these legal issues are not straightforward. Managing a lawsuit is not something that most personal injury victims want to do as they’re healing.
Hiring a lawyer gives you the time and space to focus on your recovery. We work for you to secure as much compensation as possible.
Understanding Maritime Law
What makes boating accident cases particularly complex is that different laws may apply to your case. If the incident occurred on a public, navigable waterway, it may fall under federal jurisdiction. If you sustained the injury on a local pond, the claim may be filed in state court.
Federal maritime laws differ from state laws. The statute of limitations is also different for each jurisdiction. You only have six months to one year to file a claim if you sustained an injury on a cruise ship. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death suit is two years.
It’s essential to understand the regulations and legislation that pertain to your situation to move forward successfully. Personal injury attorneys understand the nuances that differentiate maritime and state laws and can manage your case from start to finish.
What If the Liable Party Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Boat owners and operators in Florida are not required to hold liability insurance. If an uninsured party is responsible for your accident, you won’t be able to recover damages from their insurance company.
You may be covered for uninsured boaters under your boater’s or homeowner’s insurance policy. If not, you could file a lawsuit against the liable party. The damages that you collect will come from the party’s assets. If they have no assets, you may not get the compensation that you deserve.
An experienced boating accident attorney can help you investigate all of your options and fight aggressively for every penny that you are entitled to. Our clients are our top priority. We will uncover all of the possible sources of damage so that you don’t have to worry as you’re healing.
Contact a Florida Boat Accident Attorney Today
Many people hesitate to call a lawyer because they’re not sure whether they have a case. The fact is that the general public may not have all the details that they need to make that decision. The attorneys at Shiner Law Group, on the other hand, are armed with training and experience to dig through the details.
Leave it to us to advise you about your case. We will work with you to put together the pieces and get retribution for your boating accident. Schedule a free case evaluation as soon as possible. It’s best to initiate the claim while the details of the accident are fresh.