Boating accidents are common here in the Tampa Bay area, especially during the summer. Unfortunately, not everyone is careful while operating a boat. Negligence on the water can lead to serious injuries or even death.
If you or someone close to you has been injured due to another person’s careless or reckless behavior while operating a boat, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The incident likely caused you to accrue a substantial medical bill, and you may be unable to return to work due to your injuries.
Reach out today for a free consultation with one of our Tampa boating accident lawyers.
Common Injuries in a Florida Boating Accident
More than 750 boating accidents occurred in Florida in 2021, and almost 60 of those were fatal, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Most fatalities were due to drownings.
In addition to drowning deaths, many boaters sustain serious injuries that require hospitalization and treatment. Injuries can be caused by falling overboard, waterskiing, or being involved in a collision or fire. Common boating accident injuries include the following:
- Brain damage from oxygen deprivation
- Respiratory problems from water in the lungs
- Broken bones
- Head trauma
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries
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Common Types of Boating Accidents
The FWC reports that most boating accidents occur when boats travel too fast, fail to maintain control, or collide with another vessel.
The following boating incidents are common on Florida waterways:
- Collisions between vessels: This type of accident occurs when a boat or watercraft comes into contact with another boat or watercraft.
- Propeller strikes: These occur when a propeller strikes a stationary object such as a dock, pier, or bridge.
- Collision with a fixed object: This accident involves a collision between a boat and an obstacle, such as a dock, piling, or protruding rock.
- Capsizing occurs when a boat flips over, whether due to a large and forceful wave or a crash with another boat.
- Drowning incidents: Drowning incidents often involve people who fall out of a boat. The FWC reports that falling overboard is the leading cause of boating fatalities.
- Fires: Fires are one of the most dangerous hazards associated with boating. A fire aboard a boat may spread quickly, causing significant property damage and personal injury.
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Common Causes of Boating Accidents
Boat accidents often happen for many of the same reasons car accidents happen. People get careless and fail to pay attention to what’s happening around them. Florida boating accident causes include the following:
- Failure to yield to other vessels or swimmers: This common accident cause is also referred to as inattention or failure to keep a proper lookout. Inattentive boaters are more likely to be involved in boating accidents than attentive ones.
- Reckless driving: This dangerous behavior could include following another boat or watercraft too closely or jumping the wake of another vessel.
- Speeding at night: Not adjusting speed to circumstances or surroundings is a major contributor to boating accidents. You can’t always rely on your senses to find a clear path at night.
- Boating under the influence: Alcohol use by boaters increases their risk of being involved in an accident, and drunk driving is common on the water. Alcohol plays a role in more than 20% of Florida’s boating fatalities.
- Improperly operating a boat: Many boating crashes result from the improper operation of the vessel. People tend to take turns driving the boat, but many people are inexperienced.
- Failure to wear life jackets: Life jackets reduce the risk of drowning and should always be worn by passengers and crew members.
- Improper boat maintenance: Inadequate maintenance of a boat increases its risk of failure. For example, a motorboat owner neglects routine maintenance, which leads to engine failure at an inopportune time.
- Hazardous conditions on the water: Conditions like fog, rain, high winds, and rough seas increase the likelihood of boating accidents.
- Mechanical failure: Equipment failure also contributes to boating accidents. For example, a malfunctioning steering system or faulty electrical wiring can lead to losing control of the boat.
- Firearms discharge: Firearms discharge incidents are common in Florida and cause a small percentage of boating accidents.
- Failure to comply with safety regulations: Boating regulations help prevent accidents. Violations of these laws can lead to fines and even criminal charges.
A personal injury lawyer from our firm will work hard to ensure you get full payment for any losses you’ve suffered because of someone else’s carelessness.
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How Our Tampa Boat Accident Lawyer Can Help After an Accident
When someone else’s carelessness or negligence leads to a boating accident in the Tampa Bay area, they should be held accountable for any injuries they cause.
If you sustained injuries and are looking to collect compensation for the pain and suffering another boater has caused you, a personal injury attorney at our Tampa office can help you in several ways:
Help Pinpoint the Cause of the Incident
Perhaps another boat operator left their vessel’s wheel unattended and collided with your boat. Or one of the boats had a defective part that contributed to your accident.
Knowing what factors caused your incident will help us identify the parties we can go after for compensation. Whether we determine this through our investigation or hire accident or medical experts to assist, our legal team will go to great lengths to help you establish liability.
Value Your Case
If another party’s negligence caused your injuries, there is a good chance they or their insurance company should be providing you with monetary relief. But how much?
Placing a value on a boat incident case can be tricky, especially if you don’t know how to value non-economic losses such as pain and suffering or are unaware of all the losses you can recover compensation for.
When a boating injury impacts a person’s quality of life, they are often entitled to compensation for what they miss out on. You might also need monetary relief if the boating incident caused you to suffer an impairment that prevents you from pursuing your dream career.
Identify All Responsible Parties
The FWC reports that over 50% of personal watercraft collisions involved another vessel. This situation often means parties will share responsibility for the crash.
Although your percentage of fault will reduce your compensation, it may still be possible to receive a settlement if you were partly to blame. Our Tampa boat accident attorneys can help you identify each party’s role in the incident so that you can hold them liable for their part in the collision.
We can also help you determine whether another party’s negligent behavior was intentional or reckless. In extreme cases, it may be possible to seek punitive damages against a particularly negligent party. We understand that navigating the waters of personal injury law can be challenging. That’s why we’re here to help.
Pursue the Liable Parties for Compensation
Once we have identified all liable parties and valued your case, one of our lawyers can help you pursue those parties for compensation. For example, in the case of a collision, we could help you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
While Florida law does not require boaters to purchase insurance, it can help to have it in situations like this. If the boat operator were uninsured during the accident, our lawyers would determine the best action to pursue the money you need.
Parties who may be liable for a boating accident include the following:
- The other boat operator
- The driver of a boat you were riding in
- The owner of a boat (if different than the boat operator)
- The captain of a tour boat
- A boat touring company
- A manufacturer of parts used in the boat
- A repair shop that did work on the boat
- A dock owner
- A marina
- A tow service provider
- A passenger whose reckless behavior caused the incident
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Florida Laws Pertaining to Boat Accidents
Florida law requires boat operators to follow several regulations that apply when there is a collision. Our legal team can investigate to help determine whether the other party broke any of these laws:
Render Aid to Anyone in Need of Medical Attention
Florida Statutes § 327.30 compels the other party to offer aid if someone is injured in a boat accident. These requirements apply to any boater who collides with another party or vessel.
The boat operator responsible for the collision must stop the vessel and assist the other party.
This aid may entail pulling a victim from the water, stopping the bleeding, or stabilizing other injuries. This law also requires those involved in the accident to stay at the scene and help anyone who is injured.
Remain at the Accident Scene
Under Florida Statute § 327.30, any boater involved in a collision must stop and remain at the site. The sole exception is if staying put would threaten their well-being or that of their passengers or vessel. If you’re in danger after an accident, stay as close as possible while maintaining your safety.
Report Major Incidents to Local Law Enforcement
All boat operators in Florida must report serious accidents as soon as possible. Depending on your location and the scenario, you must determine whether to report the occurrence. A reportable boating accident involves:
- An injury requiring medical attention beyond basic first aid.
- Someone’s disappearance or death.
- $2,000 or more in boat, vessel, or property damage.
If one of the above situations applies, report a Florida watercraft accident as soon as possible. When you’re on the water, it’s sometimes hard to tell the county or municipality. Dial *FWC or #FWB from your cell phone in Florida to reach the FWC’s Law Enforcement Division. Accident responders may include:
- The Hillsborough County Sheriff.
- The City of Tampa Police.
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Even if just property is damaged, it’s illegal to leave the scene of a watercraft accident without reporting it.
Driver Sober at All Times
It is also illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The blood alcohol limit for a boater over 21 is 0.08%, the same as for a person driving a car.
To avoid boating collisions, the driver needs to have a fast reaction time for turning and the presence of mind to plan since boats don’t have brakes.
Exchange Information Even After Minor Collisions
Minor incidents with property damages under $2,000 do not require a call to law enforcement, but you still need to exchange information with the other vessel or property owner. Each boat operator should provide the following:
- Phone number
- All vessel identifiers
- Insurance information (if applicable)
If you or a family member was injured after another boat operator violated one of the above laws, call us to find out how we can help.
Taking Your Boat Accident Case to Court
While insurance companies may pay for accident-related expenses incurred due to a boating accident, there is not always enough coverage to pay for a victim’s medical care, lost wages, and other losses.
If you cannot recover compensation from an insurance claim or the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits are too low to cover your damages, you may need to file a lawsuit to pursue the operator for damages.
Time Limit for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Florida
In Florida, you can file a lawsuit against a party when their negligence causes injuries. Florida generally allows you four years to take legal action, according to Florida Statutes § 95.11(3)(a). However, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer as soon as possible as this time tends to run out quickly.
If a loved one passes away due to a boating incident, there is less time to take action, as the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years. Insurance companies also have deadlines, and the sooner you call a lawyer, the sooner they can start gathering and preserving evidence to build your case.
A good lawyer from our firm will work quickly to establish your case and ensure you meet all filing deadlines.
What Can I Recover After a Boat Accident in Hillsborough County?
The amount you can recover through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit depends on the circumstances of your accident. Every case is unique, and compensation largely depends on the severity of your injuries.
However, you may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Ongoing care costs
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Loss of function
- Loss of enjoyment
- Property damage
- Miscellaneous injury-related expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses (if a loved one passed away)
We are deeply sorry if you lost a loved one in a boating accident. We know losing someone close to you is devastating, and we want to ensure you receive the support you need to move forward.
While nothing can ever undo what happened, we can help you seek financial compensation through a wrongful death action. We are here to hold the at-fault parties accountable for your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one.
Whether you or a family member was seriously injured or your loved one passed away, a member of our team can help you calculate your case’s value, so you’ll know how much to pursue in a settlement or court award.
Can a Tampa Boating Accident Case Settle Out of Court?
While some boating accident cases must go through the court system to get resolved, many claims settle out of court. If you want to settle quickly, our personal injury lawyers can help you negotiate with the at-fault parties and avoid trial.
However, if the other party isn’t willing to provide you with a fair settlement or refuses to pay all the damages you are entitled to, we can help you make an informed decision on how to proceed with your case. Our experienced trial attorneys are more than prepared to fight for you in court.
We understand that, one way or another, you want to get compensated for your loss. That’s why we offer free consultations so you can discuss your options with us. Call our firm today for more information about filing a boating accident claim or lawsuit in Hillsborough County, or fill out our online form.
Why Choose Our Personal Injury Law Firm for Your Boating Accident Case?
Anidjar & Levine is committed to helping boat accident victims. Our law firm has successfully handled many cases involving these accidents in Tampa and across Florida. Our personal injury lawyers work on a contingency-fee-basis, so you don’t have to pay upfront.
What sets us apart is our responsive legal care; you’ll receive your lawyer’s cell phone number and frequent updates on the progress of your case. Find out how our Tampa boating accident attorneys can help you or a loved one after a life-altering crash or incident. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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