Florida State is well-known for its beautiful beaches, coastline, rivers and lakes. It is surrounded by water making it a favorite vacation spot for people from all over the country. Residents and tourists alike flock to our coasts and inland waterways for swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, and water skiing. A high number of watercraft can lead to congested waters and this often results in a great number of boating and personal watercraft accidents. Many boats and personal watercrafts can reach speeds greater than 50 miles per hour and they typically lack proper braking apparatus. Unlike road bound traffic, there are no stop signs in the water nor is there any requirement that boat or personal watercraft operators over the age of 21 have any sort of license or take boating classes
An increasing number of Floridians and tourists are injured in such accidents every year. Florida has among the nation’s highest number of boating accidents involving injury and death.
Recreational Personal Watercraft Accidents
As per Florida law, the owner and operator of a private vessel has an absolute duty to ensure the safety of all the passengers onboard. Recreational boat accident involving another vessel, a dock or a bridge abutment are a common occurrence. Personal watercraft (PWC) like wave runners and jet skis provide enjoyable recreation and transportation but in the event of a collision with another boat or an object or if someone is thrown from a personal watercraft it can turn their enjoyment into a catastrophe. Swimmers are also at risk of being hit by a PWC. Reasons for such an accident may range from watercraft design defects to the personal negligence of the driver.
Commercial Boat Accidents
Captains of commercial yachts, dive boats, fishing boats and ferries are typically held accountable for the safety of their customers. If passengers are injured in a ferry crash or being left in the middle of the ocean on a dive or sailing in bumpy seas or infections and lacerations from handling fishing equipment then they may have a valid cause of action.
Cruise Ship Accidents
Cruise ship accident claims may be governed by state, federal, international or maritime rules of law, depending on a variety of factors, including the location of the ship when the injuries occurred. The claims that a cruise line may be held responsible for are:
- A slip and fall
- A water slide, swimming pool or wave pool accident
- An accident on a cruise line-promoted expedition at a port of call
- A sexual attack or physical assault by cruise ship crew or passengers
- A food-borne illness, such as salmonella, gastrointestinal infections or virus infection
- Medical neglect or negligence by the ship doctor
Those are some categories of accidents however, most boating and personal watercraft accidents typically involve:
- Collisions with other boats, swimmers, or objects (including docks, barges, channel markers, and piers)
- Falls from personal watercraft or being thrown overboard
- The boat or personal watercraft sinking, flooding, capsizing, or catching fire
There can be a variety of causes for boating accidents including alcohol or drug abuse, poor maintenance of equipment, debris in waterways, operator inexperience, negligence, recklessness, speeding, unsafe operation, boat defects, and personal watercraft malfunctions. Personal watercraft operators are very susceptible to injury when an accident occurs, due in part to the high speeds and quick turns of such watercraft and the inexperience of the operator. Victims sometimes do not survive, and many that do will often sustain serious injuries and lasting disabilities. If someone is injured on a boat or a personal watercraft accident, they must be able to prove that their injury resulted from someone's negligence in order to be able to recover damages from the negligent person.
The injuries sustained from a boating or personal watercraft accident may include drowning, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, burns, broken bones, internal injuries, hypothermia, and amputations. Boat owners and operators, cruise lines, and boating and personal watercraft manufacturers are among the parties that may be found liable in a boating or personal watercraft accident injury case. However simply getting hurt does not mean that anyone was negligent. Negligence is defined as the failure to act with reasonable care. The injured party and their lawyer therefore must be able to prove that the other party did not exercise reasonable care and as a result of that negligence the client sustained an injury.
The majority of boating and personal watercraft accidents have the following features:
- your boat hits another boat
- your boat hits another boat’s wake
- your boat hits a wave
- your boat hits a submerged object, rock, or land
- Collision with Another Boat
In a situation where there is a collision between two motorboats, both boats’ operators will usually be partly at fault. Injured passengers on either of the boats would have a legal case against the operators of both boats similar to a car accident case. If one of the operators was injured, he or she would only have a claim against the other operator if the injured operator was less than fifty percent responsible for the collision. As safe boating practices called “The Rules of the Road,” require motorboats to keep out of the way of sailboats in a situation where there is a collision between a sailboat and a motorboat, the motorboat is more likely to be found at fault than the sailboat. Even if someone is found to be at fault that does not mean that you will be able to recover damages from that person. If the person has no boaters’ insurance and no assets, he or she will not be able to pay you damages.
Auto insurance does not cover injuries on boats. It is possible that homeowner’s insurance might provide insurance coverage for these injuries, but not everyone has homeowner’s insurance, and not all boat owners have boating insurance coverage through their homeowner’s policy. You will not be able to file a claim against your own homeowner’s insurance for this type of injury. Unlike auto insurance coverage which may include uninsured benefits homeowners’ insurance policies never provide coverage for the actions of other people who do not have insurance. Being injured in a boating or personal watercraft accident, you are entitled to compensation for your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. Boating accidents are different from other personal injury cases because they can fall under either Florida’s jurisdiction or United States Maritime law, depending upon which body of water the accident occurred in.
This jurisdictional issue can affect your case and who can be found liable. It is critical to have an attorney who is well-versed in state, federal, and maritime laws that govern boating and personal watercraft accidents so they can help you file the appropriate claim for compensation. However, prevention is better than cure and to protect yourself from injury on waters while boating or enjoying personal watercraft, abide by the following safety rules:
- Wear a life jacket
- Have an understanding of how boats and other watercraft operate
- Exercise common sense
- Take a boating safety course
- Pay attention, and obey all signs and/or signals
- Make certain that boats and watercraft are well-maintained
- Boat defensively
- Stay away from other boats, swimmers, etc.