According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there were 766 boating accidents in the state of Florida in 2017, and 261 of these accidents involved boating collisions. 38% of these collisions were caused by inattention, or the operator failing to maintain a proper lookout. Boating accidents, in general, were responsible for 67 fatalities in 2017, but while fatalities remained the same from 2016 to 2017, the number of accidents increased by 52. While it is true that a boating accident is not as common as a car accident, both car accidents and boating accidents are equally dangerous, often leading to serious injuries and horrible deaths. In fact, according to the FWC, the leading cause of death among boating accident victims was drowning in 2017.
However, due to the rarity with which boating accidents occur, there are either misconceptions about the laws that govern boating accidents in the state of Florida or a complete lack of knowledge entirely. As such, there are many aspects of Florida’s boating laws that you should be aware of if you are involved in a boating accident.
4 Things You Should Know About Boating Accidents in Florida
It’s important for you to understand that many of the same obligations that you have as a driver also apply to boating accidents. For example, under Fla.Stat.§327.30, boat operators are required to report boating accidents in certain cases, and similar to car accidents, they are prohibited from leaving the scene of a boating accident until certain obligations are met. Moreover, if you are ever involved in a boating accident, you need to understand what provisions of civil law apply to boating accidents and how those provisions can be utilized to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained in the accident.
1. When Do I Report a Boating Accident?
As with most accidents, you will most likely be in shock after the accident occurs, and obviously, the first thing you need to do is ensure that everyone is safe and has received medical attention, if needed. In fact, Fla.Stat.§327.30(1), states that you as a boat operator and other boat operators have a legal obligation to assist other boaters involved in an accident to the greatest practical extent possible given the circumstances. After you are safe, you need to determine whether or not you are required to report the accident. Fla.Stat.§327.30(2) states that you are required to report boating accidents under the following circumstances:
- If a person is injured beyond immediate first aid
- If a person is killed
- If a person disappears under circumstances that would lead you to believe the person has been injured or died
- If there is damage to the boat(s) or other property that equals or exceeds $2,000
If you have determined that the accident should be reported, you are required to call one of three law enforcement agencies pursuant to the provisions of Fla.Stat.§327.30(2):
- Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- The sheriff of the county within which the accident occurred
- The police chief of the municipality within which the accident occurred
2. What Happens if I Leave the Scene of a Boating Accident?
Fla.Stat.§327.30(5) prohibits boat operators from leaving the scene of an accident without rendering all possible aid to those involved, making a reasonable effort to locate the owner of the property involved and/or all of the people involved, and reporting the accident as required by Fla.Stat.§327.30(2). If you leave the scene of an accident without fulfilling these legal obligations and a person was injured in the accident, you could be charged with a third degree felony. If you leave the scene of an accident involving only property damage without fulfilling these legal obligations, you could be charged with a second degree misdemeanor.
3. Can I Seek Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Boating Accident?
Boat operators, like operators of motor vehicles, owe a duty of care to those around them to operate their vesel with reasonable care. When a boat operator fails to exercise reasonable which in turn causes an accident, they can be sued for negligence, but the big difference between a boating accident and a car accident is that Florida law does not require boat owners or operators to carry insurance. However, there are certain times when a boat operator is required to carry insurance such as being required to carry insurance as a stipulation of a loan or as a requirement of an arena that houses the boat when it is not in use.
If the boat operator doesn’t carry insurance on the vesel, you can sue the operator personally, which certainly complicates an already terrible situation. To increase the likelihood of success in both instances, you should always employ the services of an experience boating accident attorney in Miami, FL. Your lawyer will be tasked with proving four essential elements, among other things:
- The other boat operator owed you a duty of care: As stated all boat operators owe the people around them a duty of care to avoid operating their boat in a manner that injures others. By doing so, they are exercising reasonable care while operating their vesel. The Florida Supreme Court has defined reasonable care as the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances.
- The other boat operator breached their duty of care: Demonstrating that the other boat operator breached their duty of care is accomplished by presenting evidence that shows that the vessel operator failed to exercise reasonable care during the operation of their boat, which by definition is a negligent act under Florida law.
- The breach of the operator’s duty of care caused the boating accident: Your attorney must then tie the at-fault boat operator’s actions to the cause of the accident by showing that the cause of the accident was either completely or partially due to the other operator’s failure to exercise reasonable care.
- You suffered damages as a result of the accident: Damages are always necessary to bring a claim for negligence, and boating accident cases are no exception. This is due to the fact that a person can commit a negligent act that doesn’t lead to anyone incurring damages to their body, mind, or property. As such, you, as the plaintiff, must demonstrate that the accident caused you to sustain damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.
Do I Need a Boating Accident Attorney in Miami, FL?
Boating accident claims can be complex, involve multiple aspects of very unique state or federal laws, and require an extensive amount of legal expertise, which is why you should always employ the services of an experienced boating accident attorney if you have been involved in a boating accident. 1800-Injured is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects boating accident victims with boating accident attorneys in the Miami area, and we are dedicated to helping you find the right attorney for your unique situation. Don’t wait to file your claim. Call 1800-Injured today