Florida’s Boating Fun Can Lead to Serious Injuries and Accidents
Florida’s oceans, waterways, lakes, and rivers attract people to their beautiful waters by the millions. And a really popular way to enjoy that water is by boat. Everyone from Florida natives to tourists love to get out on the water in a boat. This means there is lots of people behind the wheel of lots of different boats in Florida. However, unlike other motor vehicles, licensing is not required to operate a boat in Florida. This doesn’t mean that Florida law has no bearing on boat operators, since anyone driving a boat is still required to follow all Florida boating regulations. This lack of licensing, and thus training, often means that those operating boats don’t always know what they are doing, leading to to serious accidents, injuries, and even death.
If you sustained injuries caused by the negligence of a boat operator—while in your boat or that of another—experienced Florida boating accident attorneys can use their detailed knowledge of state and federal boating laws to help you pursue justice for your claim.
How Boat Accidents Occur and How Florida is Trying to Stop Them
Reports show the sad truth is that boaters frequently flout the laws designed to protect them, failing to observe safety equipment and regulations representing the top violation. In fact, boaters received over 4,000 citations in 2011, according to statistics provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). During that same year, almost 900 people received citations for negligent operation of a vessel, and over 300 received citations for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or while impaired.
The state of Florida, through a 2018 FWC study, reported the following statistics when it comes to boating accidents and injuries:
- There are nearly 1 million (~950,000) registered boating vessels in Florida.
- In 2018, there were 628 boating accidents.
- This number of boat accidents is actually down 18% from 2017.
- Nearly 30% of the above boating accidents involved a collisions between two vessels.
- From those 600+ boating accidents, 59 boating-related deaths occurred.
Keeping Safe while Boating in Florida
According to a ABC7 article, FWC spokesperson Bekah Nelson says that lots of the accidents that do occur could be prevented if people followed safety tips and laws, which after all, were designed to keep people safe.
“Florida is the boating capital of the world. So, it’s definitely a very popular boating area. We want people to have fun, but we also want them to be safe,” said Nelson.
So how can we keep ourselves and our families safe while boating?
1. Don’t drink alcohol while you are responsible for operating a boat. Alcohol is responsible for as many as 33% of boating-related deaths. It is very easy to lose control over a boat while impaired on alcohol, and with so many families and children out on the water, it is not worth the risk. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Florida, and follows very similar laws to driving a car under the influence. That means that a .08 percent blood alcohol level is threshold for a BUI in Florida.
2. Follow boating laws and regulations. The U.S. Coast Guard and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission have put a ton of time and effort into creating guidelines and laws that are designed to keep people safe. But they can only be effective if people follow them. One of the best things you can do to stay safe of a boat is to review these safety initiatives, specifically the ones outlined on the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Safety site. One of the most common safety tips revolves around keeping plenty of life jackets around when you are boating, and making sure children are always wearing one. Life jackets can, and do, save lives.
3. Keep a close eye out for bad weather. In a world of smart phones, it is easier than ever to check the weather in the area you plan to go boating. Bad weather makes boating much more difficult and dangerous, as anyone who has tried to outrun a thunderstorm on a boat in Florida would know. The weather can change quickly in Florida, so keep an eye on that weather app every half hour or so while enjoying a day on the boat. Once you see lightning or hear thunder, it is best to get you and your family to safety as quickly as possible.
4. Be courteous to other boaters and swimmers. One of the most dangerous things about boating in general is the lack of designated lanes, traffic lights, etc. Boats have a lot more free rein when moving about, which creates a lot more safety concerns. In order to keep everyone safe, be mindful of other boaters and swimmers around you. Keep a safe distance from all swimmers and boaters. And of course, even though there are less signs and laws, be sure to follow the ones that do exist. Follow all posted signs, boating rules, and wake limits.
5. Know what to do if something happens. When a boating accident does occur, it can very easily lead to a serious injury or death. If a boat capsizes (starts to sink) or someone on your boat falls overboard, you will definitely want to know what to do. Before you get behind the wheel of any boat, read up on as many safety tips as you can. You will want to know everything you can in the event of a boat accident to keep your family safe.
What if I was partially at fault for my boating injury?
Boating accident victims should understand that the failure to observe local, state, and federal regulations typically amounts to negligence under the law. This is why you can pursue damages from someone who contributed to your boat accident. But even if your own negligence contributed to the accident, an experienced Florida boat accident lawyer can help you pursue partial compensation from other individuals who were also negligent.
[To learn more about Florida Boating Accident Issues, read our articles: “FAQ FOR BOAT ACCIDENTS IN FORT MYERS“]
Hiring a Florida Boat Accident Lawyer
In an ideal world, every individual who stepped into any form of watercraft would have a clear understanding of all regulations designed for water safety. But that’s just not the way it is. Plenty of places rent boats to all types of people as long as they can sign a form. Additionally, lots of people associated boating with partying, leading to lots of impaired drivers behind the wheel.
If you sustain injuries in a boating accident, you need experienced legal support to identify liability issues that pertain to your situation. The attorneys at Viles & Beckman, LLC have more than four decades of combined experience, using our vast knowledge of intricate state and federal boating regulations to represent victims of boating accidents. It costs nothing to schedule a free case review and consultation, and you pay no attorney fees until we reach a settlement, or win a verdict in your favor. You can contact us online or by calling (239) 334-3933 today.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.