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A Boating Accident Lawyer in Miami Dedicated to Helping Victims Recover Compensation

Nothing has the potential to ruin a much-needed vacation or day off like an unforeseen accident. When one happens, a day at the beach or on the water can turn into a trip to the emergency room, or worse. In Florida, many of these devastating accidents happen on or near water. While both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Gulf are often busy, they aren’t regulated rigidly. With all of the boats, jet skis, and personal watercrafts traveling in different directions and at various speeds, it should come as no surprise that collisions occasionally occur. Boating accidents can also happen when people rent or buy defective motorized water vehicles or don’t receive adequate safety training and education prior to using them.

When an injury accident occurs and someone is at fault, there are legal options to consider. Don’t let an already derailed vacation be made even worse with steep medical bills, lost income from missed work, and pain and suffering. Reach out to a skilled Palm Beach County boating accident lawyer to explain the legal options available following your jet ski, boating, or personal watercraft accident.

Florida Boating Accident Statistics

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report reveals that Florida’s boaters must do a much better job keeping safe. Consider the following 2020 boating accident statistics:

  • 79 fatalities—an increase of 16 percent from the previous year and the highest total since 2011
  • 836 reportable boating accidents, up 26 percent from 2019
  • 387 collisions—224 another vessel and 163 with a fixed object 
  • Drowning was a leading cause of death in boating accidents accounting for 47 percent of all fatalities
  • Account for 39 percent of the deaths, trauma was the second leading cause 
  • 69 percent of the operators in fatal boating accidents had no formal boater education

Boating Safety Tips

You can never be too careful while out for a day of recreation in the Florida sunshine. While you can’t completely eliminate all risks of boating,  there are some steps that you can take to make your time on the water as safe as possible for you and those you are with. Some of the most crucial steps include:

  • Leave the alcohol at home or at least designate a driver
  • Always wear a lifejacket and that everyone on board does too
  • Pass a boating safety course and review what you learned at least once at the start of each season
  • Understand Florida’s boating laws and follow them
  • Check the weather forecast and keep in mind that weather can change quickly
  • Keep boating safety equipment, such as a fire extinguisher, flares, and boat lights on board at all times
  • Practice propeller safety—ensure that everyone who will be on your boat is accounted for before starting your boat’s engine and never let anyone get on or off the boat while the engine is on or idling
  • Know what to do if something unexpected happens

Causes of Boating Accidents in Florida

Floridians and visitors alike enjoy boating throughout all four seasons, and safety should remain a dominant concern for this popular pastime. Along with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the state of Florida provides safety training and other programs to help keep boating safe for everyone who wants to participate. Even still, many accidents continue to happen, making it crucial to understand the common causes.

Improper Forward Watch

Boat operators must always visually scan forward for anything that might potentially cross the boat’s path. They should be glancing to each side occasionally to check for other approaching vessels and other potential dangers and checking in all directions—a full 360 degrees before turning, changing directions, or slowing down. Boat operators must be attentive to the water surrounding the vessel even with power off and the boat adrift. Even when trolling or drifting, striking an object at low speeds can result in catastrophic damages and send passengers overboard. Collisions often result due to the boat operator’s lack of watch.

Capsizing

This is the number one cause of boating accident fatalities. These and many other accidents frequently happen in twilight when light conditions and alcohol are most likely to lead to poor judgment. Anchoring from the stern or rear of the vessel also increases the chance of capsizing for smaller boats as they are designed to cut through waves front or bow first. An abrupt gushing swell or rogue wave hitting the boat’s stern can cause instant swamping that could capsize the boat. If individuals are going to consume alcohol on a boat, they always designate a driver who won’t drink, just like with a car. Extra care should also be used maneuvering and docking in twilight and in the dark. If using an anchor, always secure it from the front of the vessel— never from the rear or either side.

Man Overboard

Rough weather, choppy waters, and/or sudden maneuvering can send anyone on a boat overboard. Additionally, powerboats can turn with enough momentum shift to eject an occupant if they are caught unprepared or are insecurely seated. As a sailboat turns, the sail’s boom moves across the deck as it changes position with the wind, creating a risk of easily knock a passenger into the water and causing significant trauma at the same time. To help prevent these types of accidents, everyone needs to remain seated while a boat is in motion. An effective and safe powerboat operator should observe passenger positions when preparing to turn to ensure everyone is secure and aware.

Lack of Kill Switch Use

Some boating fatalities have occurred when boaters have been thrown overboard with the boat in gear, and it turns and runs over the person once they are in the water. Runaway boats are also dangerous to those who weren’t on them. 

As of April 1, 2021, a new federal law mandates an engine cut-off switch or an engine cut-off switch link, commonly known as a kill switch. For watercraft 26 feet or shorter with three horsepower or more, operators are required to connect the switch. Suppose the operator falls overboard or is knocked away from the controls. In that case, the switch turns the engine off to prevent a runaway boat. 

No matter the cause of your boating accident injuries, an experienced Palm Beach County boating accident attorney can conduct a thorough investigation into what happened and who might be responsible.

Inexperienced Boat Operators

It might come as a surprise to you that Florida law isn’t strict when it comes to requirements for operating a personal watercraft. Operators must be over the age of 14, and if they were born after 1987, they must pass a boating safety education course. This means that many boat operators don’t have the necessary experience and confidence to navigate Florida’s waterways. This lack of expertise can be hazardous during spring and summer when many other boaters set sail. 

Those who want to buy or rent a boat and have limited operating experience can still attend a boaters education class even if it isn’t legally required. It’s also a good idea for boaters to ensure their passengers are also familiar with boat safety guidelines and rules.

Inclement Weather

Florida’s weather is known for changing quickly. Even if the skies are clear when boaters head out on the waters, they may find themselves unexpectedly in the middle of torrential rain or high winds. Inclement weather may be too much for a boat operator or certain watercraft to handle, resulting in accidents such as a boat capsizing or even sinking. Boat owners, operators, and renters should always check the weather forecast before proceeding onto the open water.  If there’s a chance of rain, high winds, or rough seas, they should postpone their trip. Even if the forecast looks promising, checking your safety equipment ahead of time and preparing for sudden weather changes is imperative.

Mechanical Failures

Boat operators and owners have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers, and others on the open waters to perform routine maintenance checks to ensure everything is working correctly before taking their boat out on the water. When boat owners or rental companies don’t adequately inspect vessels, their negligence can result in severe accidents and injuries. To ensure safe boating, owners and operators should regularly check their vessel’s:

  • Engine
  • Steering
  • Rescue capacity
  • Communication system
  • Navigational lights 

If you’re renting a boat, ask the company if your particular boat has recently been inspected by a professional. Suppose the boating company tells you that the ship will function safely and adequately. Still, you end up experiencing a mechanical failure, endangering you and your passengers. In that case, it’s time to speak with a seasoned Palm Beach County boating accident lawyer as soon as possible. You have legal rights and options. Even if you aren’t renting a boat, it’s possible another boat’s owner failed to perform the necessary maintenance and inspections to keep you or your loved ones safe.

Alcohol Consumption

It’s tempting for many people to crack open a cold one and relax while on their boat. However, all boat operators need to stay sober for their own safety, their passengers’ safety, and everyone else’s safety on the water. Drinking and boating is illegal, just as drinking and driving is. Many boaters mistakenly believe that the risk is much smaller on the water as there isn’t as much to run into. However, boaters must watch out for swimmers, docks, jet skis, boats, and other obstacles present in, on, or near the water. Additionally, boat passengers and operators increase their risk of falling overboard and calling for help if they are intoxicated. Those on the water also need to keep in mind that illicit and prescription drugs increase the risks of accidents and injuries, just like alcohol.

Jet Ski Accidents

Jet skis, also known as personal watercraft (PWC), are quite popular in all of Florida’s bodies of water. While operating PWCs is certainly enjoyable, they can be dangerous. 2020, nearly 150,000 registered PWC vehicles were registered in the state, and there were 227 PWC accidents involving 304 PWC vehicles in Florida alone. 

Accident Types

Nearly half of the accidents occurred due to a collision with a vessel or fixed object. Others occurred due to:

  • Capsizing
  • Falls on PWC
  • Grounding 
  • Falls overboard
  • Fire/explosion
  • Flooding
  • Being struck by a boat

Causes of Jet Ski Accidents

Much like boating accidents, jet ski accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Some are attributable to the negligence of owners/operators or other boaters or people using the water. The most common causes of PWC accidents in Florida include:

  • Inattention or improper lookout
  • Operator inexperience
  • Careless/reckless driving
  • High speeds
  • Off throttle steering-jet
  • Sharp turns
  • Alcohol use
  • Congested water
  • Hazardous water
  • Weather
  • Skier or occupant behavior
  • Ignition of fuel vapor
  • Vision obstructed
  • Machinery failure
  • Overloading

Jet Ski Injuries

Jet ski operators and passengers are highly vulnerable to injuries when accidents occur. Compared to those in boats, they don’t have much protection. As such, common jet ski injuries include:

  • Dislocations
  • Neck injury
  • Teeth and jaw injuries
  • Spinal injury
  • Sprains/strains
  • Back injury
  • Internal injury
  • Head injury, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Contusions
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones

If you or someone you love suffered any of these injuries or others in a jet ski accident, you could have legal recourse. It’s best to schedule an appointment with an experienced Palm Beach County boating accident attorney to determine what your rights are. Time is of the essence, so reach out as soon as possible after your accident. 

Who is Liable for Your Injuries?

Liability refers to legal responsibility. If someone intentionally, negligently, or carelessly did something to result in your injuries, they are liable to you. They need to make you “whole” again or, in other words, put you in the same position you were in before the accident. Most of the time, this means providing you with monetary compensation for your injuries and damages. 

Sometimes liability is always clear in boating accidents. Depending on your situation, there could even be multiple parties who share liability, and all of them owe you compensation. Frequently, it’s the boat operator who is at fault. They are the ones who are responsible for navigating the vessel and ensuring everyone’s safety. When your Palm Beach County boating accident lawyer conducts a comprehensive investigation into your accident, they might find one or more of the following parties at fault:

  • The boat operator
  • The boat owner
  • The rental company for the boat or jet ski
  • Other boaters on the water
  • The boat’s manufacturer
  • The manufacturer or a jet ski or boat part
  • A reckless passenger in the boat

In most boating or jet ski accident cases, a Palm Beach County boating accident lawyer has to prove four main points to show that their client should be eligible to receive compensation from the other party. These points are known as the elements of negligence and include:

  • Duty: The alleged at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care—for example, a boat rental company has a duty to inspect their fleet.
  • Breach of duty: For whatever reasons, the at-fault party fails to adhere to their duty—for example, an intoxicated boat operator
  • Injuries: Their breach of duty caused your injuries.
  • Damages: Your injuries led to your damages such as lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.

Your Palm Beach County boating accident attorney must be able to use convincing evidence to establish each of these points in your claim. When you turn to our firm, you can trust our experience and knowledge of the law and the Florida courts to produce the best outcome possible in your case. We can begin collecting evidence on your behalf as soon as you contact us to discuss your accident. 

Speak to a Palm Beach County Boating Accident Lawyer Today at the Iscoe Law Firm

After a boat or jet ski accident, the steps you take can impact your injury and your claim both now and many years into the future. First, anyone injured in an accident should seek medical care. If the injuries are life-threatening, an ambulance should be called. Accept any treatment the doctor prescribes immediately after your injuries and throughout the course of your treatment. This will help protect your injury claim. 

You will also want to contact a Palm Beach County boating accident attorney as soon as possible. They can help you collect and preserve evidence in your case, protect you from insurance companies who don’t want to pay on your claim, and ensure that your injury claim is paid within the four-year personal injury claim statute of limitations window. 

At the Iscoe Law Firm, we can help you whether you were involved in a boating or personal watercraft/jet ski accident. Our Palm Beach County boating accident attorneys work hard to determine how your accident occurred and who should be liable for your injuries. We aren’t afraid to stand up for your rights, fighting for justice on behalf of you or your loved ones.

Contact the Iscoe Law Firm at 800 800-6500 or online today to receive a no-obligation case consultation with a Palm Beach County boating accident attorney. We know that many boating accidents take place outside of regular business hours, and as such, we are available to speak to you 24/7, 365 days a year.