Florida has the second-longest coastline in the United States, offering an abundance of recreational boating opportunities. The port of Miami is considered to be the cruise ship capital of the world and the cargo gateway of the Americas.
Boating accidents often do not fall under Florida law but instead are governed by federal Maritime law. There may be numerous causes of boat accidents, including negligence, poor boat or dock maintenance, and more. Accidents may happen on the water or at the marina before a boat even leaves the dock. Plaintiffs might include boat passengers and crew members. We’ve handled cases involving smaller vessels like fishing boats up to large yachts and cruise ships. Our attorneys can help you identify the law that rules your case and file your lawsuit.
The Florida boating accident and injury attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. are equipped to handle many different types of boating accident cases statewide. Call us at (305) 204-5369 for a free case review.
Maritime Laws and Regulations for Boating Accidents in Florida
Many people – and lawyers alike– do not know that when a boating accident occurs on a public waterway in Florida, it falls under federal admiralty jurisdiction. This means that sometimes your case must be brought under the Florida Federal courts.
A separate set of laws applies to the injuries sustained from boating or cruise ship accidents. An experienced Florida boat accident attorney will know which standards to use when bringing your claim to court.
Maritime law is also a specialized area of law that, in some states, requires attorneys to hold additional certification to be permitted to practice maritime law in Federal court. The experienced Florida boat accident attorneys at Rivkind Law are certified and experienced to represent your boating injury accident claim.
Causes of Boating Accidents in Florida
With many people from all over the world traveling to Florida to participate in their water-based tourism and recreational activities, there are a number of common causes of boating accidents we have seen. These causes include:
Boating Under the Influence
In Florida, the same rules apply to boating and driving, meaning that it is illegal to consume drugs or alcohol and then drive a boat. If the other party involved in your boating accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are going to face criminal liability in the State of Florida.
If, for example, an intoxicated boat operator crashes his vessel into yours, they will be charged with boating under the influence resulting in property damage or boating under the influence resulting in bodily injury, depending on the result. The first is a misdemeanor, while the second is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail.
For your purposes, you should contact our skilled Florida boating accident attorneys as soon after the accident as possible. We can try to get you reimbursed by negotiating with the insurance company, and if their offer is not enough, we can file a civil negligence suit, as described in the section above. If the operator is convicted of a criminal offense related to the accident, this can be used against them in civil court to prove our case. We can request damages for medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Captain or Pilot Error
The captain of a ship or the skipper or pilot of a smaller vessel is in charge of everything that goes on aboard the vessel. This means that most issues of safety, navigation, and operation of the boat are ultimately on their shoulders, and if mistakes or errors in judgment lead to serious injuries, the captain can sometimes be held responsible.
If you were injured because of an error the captain made that caused the vessel to crash or caused you to be injured while aboard the ship, you might be entitled to sue a few different parties. First and foremost, the individual crewmember who allowed you to be injured is often directly responsible for the injuries. This could mean suing the captain for crashing the boat or suing a janitorial or maintenance worker for failing to clean up or repair dangerous conditions.
The captain is also responsible for the staff and crew aboard the ship. That means the captain is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the decks are clean and safe for passengers, that the kitchen produces food that is safe to eat, and that the passengers are safe from violence or sexual assault committed by crewmembers or other passengers. If you were injured in a slip and fall, if you suffered injuries from other unsafe conditions on the ship, if you came down with food poisoning, or if you were the victim of assault or sexual assault, you might have a case against the captain of the ship and the rest of the crew.
If an employee causes injuries while working within the scope of their duties, the law usually allows the victim to sue that worker’s employer for their injuries. This means that if the captain was the one who employed the negligent crewmember who injured you, the captain can be held liable for their crewmember’s mistakes.
If the captain and the rest of the crew all work for some other company, such as a tour boat company or a cruise line, you can usually sue that company as well. This can often give you access to full coverage, as many of these large transportation and cruise companies are able to fully cover any damages you might have faced with a combination of out of pocket payments and insurance payouts.
Accidents at Docks and Marinas
People often think of boat accidents as events that happen while a boat is on the water or at sea. While boat accidents on the water are certainly common, they are not the only possible accidents. In Florida, many boat accidents occur while boats are docked in marinas or boat slips. They can also happen while a person is launching their boat from a boat ramp.
An accident on a dock or at a marina may be the property owner’s fault. Many docks and marinas are privately owned, and boat owners can rent a slip for their boats. If the docks at these marinas are not properly maintained, accidents can happen, and people can be seriously injured. Slip and falls around docks are especially dangerous because people might hit their heads when they fall, roll off the dock into the water, and drown. If nobody is around to render immediate aid, the situation can become gravely severe.
If your accident happened while your boat was docked in a marina or while you were using a boat ramp, you should think about who the owner is. If the accident happened due to the owner’s failure to maintain the property, our Florida boat accident lawyers can help you get compensation.
Injuries to Crew and Workers on a Boat
If you were working on a boat and experienced an injury due to your co-workers or employer’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. While seamen and other employees who work on boats generally cannot file for worker’s compensation, you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, if you are a seaman, or the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
The Jones Act, a federal law, sets up a system where seamen can receive compensation if their injuries result from negligence by the owner or any employee of the vessel, even if that negligence was their own. However, it is only applicable to those who meet the federal definition of seaman, which means that you must spend at least 30% of your time working aboard a vessel. The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, meanwhile, applies to those who split their time between land and sea, such as the following:
- Crane operators
- Ship repairmen
- Forklift operators
- Marine construction workers
- Vessel repair workers
- Gas and oil rig employees
Typically, both the Jones Act and The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act are exclusive remedies, meaning you must go through these procedures to get reimbursed rather than filing a civil suit. A skilled Florida boat accident lawyer like those at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A can help you determine where and how to file a claim to give yourself the best chance at receiving the maximum possible payout. We can work to make sure that the insurance company and your employer are not low-balling you and that you are fully compensated for the injuries you suffered because of their negligence.
Additionally, some boating accidents are caused by defective parts. For instance, a boater may suffer a devastating collision because their vessel experienced battery failures. Furthermore, a harmful crash may occur because of a boat’s fuel system defects. In any case, manufacturers can be held responsible for the boating accidents caused by their defective products.
However, lawsuits based on defective products can be tiresome processes. First, products can be considered to have one of the following 3 types of defects:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Marketing defects
After identifying the type of defect that applies to their case, plaintiffs must collect extensive amounts of complex evidence to support their claims. Expert witness testimony is often required. For example, an engineering expert may be summoned to establish why a driveshaft attached to an inboard motor was defective.
Fortunately, our experienced Florida boating accident attorneys can investigate whether your accident was caused by a defective part. Afterwards, our team can help call on the right expert witnesses to support your claims. The assistance of our attorneys can be highly beneficial when seeking to hold a negligent manufacturer responsible for a boating accident caused by their defective part.
Failure to Provide Proper Safety Gear
Many boating accident injuries also occur because of a lack of proper safety gear. A great number of boaters fail to provide proper safety gear on their vessel. Further, many of those that have the appropriate safety gear do not use it. A life jacket is a common example of safety gear that is not always used appropriately. If a passenger is thrown from a boat without a life jacket, fatal drowning accidents can occur. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, around half of fatal drowning accidents occur because boaters were not wearing their life vests. If you or a loved one was injured because of a boater or boating company’s failure to provide safety gear, you should contact our experienced Florida boating accident attorneys for help evaluating the legal options available to you.
Distracted boating is another common cause of boating accidents in Florida. When boaters are distracted, they are prone to making careless mistakes that lead to harmful collisions. The following are examples of activities that distract boaters:
- Talking on the phone
- Choosing music for the stereo
- Looking at a GPS
- Talking with other passengers
- Eating or drinking
If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted boater, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Our Florida boating accident attorneys can provide guidance and support when building your case.
Other Forms of Negligence
In certain situations, the boat operator can be held liable for a crash if they acted in a way that is through to be negligent. To prove a negligence case, your Florida boating accident attorney will need to show four things: that the boat operator had a duty, that they breached that duty, that this breach was the cause of your injuries or property damage, and that identifiable damages resulted. For example, all boat operators in Florida have a duty to follow all laws of boating and the waterways, whether state or local.
In Florida, it is against the law to drive the boat over a particular speed limit, especially in certain areas and certain scenarios. Therefore, if the boat operator were driving 25 miles over the posted speed limit when they crashed into your boat, they would be in breach of their duty to abide by the boating laws of the state of Florida.
Next, your boating accident lawyer will work to show that the breach, here the operator’s speeding, was the cause of the accident and the injuries or property damage that resulted. This can be the toughest part of a negligence case to prove, and where our skilled Florida boat accident lawyers will be most helpful.
We know how to collect the evidence and make the arguments necessary to show that speeding was the cause of the crash. Then, we will explain the damages that resulted from the case, including boat repair or replacement costs, medical bills, physical therapy, and lost wages if the injury caused you to miss work. We will work to get you wholly compensated for the pain and suffering this accident caused.
Other examples of negligence action by boating operators include the following:
- Hitting a wake at high speeds
- Crashing into another boat or object in the water
- Operating a boat that is too crowded or weighed down
Who is Liable for Florida Boating Accidents?
Boat accidents are somewhat complex because they can happen in so many different ways. As such, there may be numerous possible defendants in a boat accident lawsuit. Our Florida boat accident attorneys can review your case with you to determine who you should sue and what damages you can claim.
If your accident happened while your boat was docked, the dock or marina owner might be liable for the accident. If the accident can be attributed to the property owner’s failure to maintain the dock or marina, they are liable for injuries to customers and guests.
If you rented or chartered a boat for a private event, the owner of the boat might be liable for any accidents and injuries. Similar to dock and marina owners, boat owners are responsible for maintaining the boat for customers and keeping it in a safe and working condition. The boat owner can be sued if their negligence caused your accident.
The company that owns the boat can be held liable for your injuries in many cases. For example, if you chartered a boat and an accident happens because of a crew member’s negligence, the crew member and their employer may be held liable. The boat company can be held vicariously liable for their employee’s negligence as long as the employee was within the scope of their job when the accident occurred.
Common Types of Florida Boating Accidents
Our Florida boating accident and injury attorneys have experience representing clients that have been injured in the following type of boating accidents:
- Defective boat repair
- Fuel fire & explosion
- Collisions with other water vessels
- Collisions with fixed objects
- Falling overboard
- Striking underwater objects
If you or a loved one have been in a boating accident and have suffered harm, death or injury, call an experienced boating injury attorney today.
Motorboat Collisions in Florida
Motorboats refer to vessels that are exclusively powered by an engine. Motorboats are capable of travelling at high speeds and can accelerate rapidly. Accordingly, collisions involving motorboats are prone to causing serious injuries and even death. The following are examples of devastating injuries caused by motorboat collisions in Florida:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Puncture wounds
- Severe soft tissue injuries
A great number of motorboat collisions occur on holiday weekends when inexperienced boaters take to the water, often under the influence of alcohol. There are several different types of crashes that can occur. Boaters can suffer injuries because of collisions with a sandbar, rock, errant wave, wake, or another boat. Fortunately, in any case, injured passengers can contact our Florida boating accident attorneys for held holding careless boat drivers accountable for the harm they caused.
“Prop Strike” Injuries in Florida
Propeller strike injuries are injuries that occur when someone in the water comes into contact with a boat’s propellers. The position of a boat’s propeller can play a role in a vessel’s propensity to cause propeller strike injuries. There are two main types of engines that boats can be equipped with. Boats with inboard motors have propellers permanently positioned underneath the hull. Inboard motors are attached to a driveshaft that controls the direction of the boat. Outboard motors, on the other hand, are mounted outside the hull of a boat. Outboard motors can be operated by a hand tiller in smaller vessels or be controlled by a steering system in larger ones. However, because the propeller is more exposed, boats with outboard motors are less safe than boats with inboard motors when used for water sports.
Boats with outboard motors are more likely to cause propeller strike injuries, but many propeller strike injuries involving vessels with inboard motors still occur. Such injuries often happen because a careless boater struck a smaller vessel or someone swimming in the water. Furthermore, such injuries can happen when passengers are thrown off a boat while in transit. When passengers fall off the side of a boat, they can be sucked underneath the vessel where they are struck by the propeller.
Victims of propeller strike injuries can suffer severe lacerations. In some cases, the effects of propeller strike injuries can be fatal. To prevent propeller strike injuries, all passengers on boats should wear life jackets and drivers should always wear a “kill switch” or cut-off device. If you or a loved one suffered a propeller strike injury, our Florida boating accident attorneys can help bring a claim against the person who caused your accident.
Pontoon Boat Accidents
A pontoon boat is a flat-bottomed boat that sits on top of large floats to remain buoyant. These boats are typically powered by outboard motors and are suitable for leisure activities, fishing, and moderate-level watersports. They come in many sizes and are great for handling large amounts of passengers. Accordingly, they have become a very popular vessel for recreational boaters.
However, there are downsides to operating a pontoon boat. Pontoon boats do not handle as well as boats with traditional, V-shaped hulls in rough water. In Florida, afternoon storms can arrive quickly and unexpectedly. If an inexperienced driver is caught in unfavorable conditions on a pontoon boat, they can suffer a harmful accident.
Also, because pontoon boats are extremely buoyant, they are easy to flip. Inexperienced boaters can cause their passengers to suffer serious injuries by unexpectedly flipping a pontoon boat. If you were injured because of a pontoon boat accident, our Florida boating accident attorneys can help recover financial compensation for any damages related to your injuries.
Evidence for Your Florida Boat Accident Lawsuit
The evidence necessary for your Florida boat accident lawsuit will differ based on how the accident happened, who is liable, and the extent of your injuries. Evidence may be real or physical evidence taken from the accident scene, witness testimony or statements, photos, videos, other recordings, and more.
Boating accidents that occur in marinas might be recorded on security cameras. Security cameras are often present in marinas to prevent theft or vandalism of boats. Our Florida boat accident lawyers can contact the marina owners and ask for security camera footage of your boat accident. If the marina owner is the defendant, we can demand this video footage as part of the discovery process.
Immediately after your boat accident, you should try to collect evidence using the camera on your cell phone if you have one. Snapping some quick photos or recording some videos of the accident’s immediate aftermath can help recreate the scene for a judge and jury. These photos and videos can be very helpful when the defendant offers a version of events that differs from yours.
Depending on where your accident happened and the time of day, various other people might have seen the accident and can testify about what they saw. Witnesses might include other people on the boat, people on other boats, people along the shore, and others at the marina or on the dock. The more people whose statements support your version of events, the better.
Our Florida boat accident lawyers can help you determine what evidence you need and how you can get it. Evidence must be handled carefully to keep in line with the numerous evidentiary rules and procedures involved in a lawsuit.
Damages Available in Florida Boat Accident Lawsuits
Damages are a crucial part of any lawsuit as they represent your injuries and demands for compensation. If your injuries were severe, you might be entitled to substantial compensation for your injuries. These damages can usually be separated into “economic” damages, which include medical expenses and lost wages, and “noneconomic” damages, which include pain and suffering.
When people begin calculating damages, they often begin with their economic damages. These are your financial losses or losses connected to a predetermined monetary value. Economic damages can be claimed to cover the full cost of any expenses you faced because of an injury. For example, medical bills for treatments for physical injuries are economic damages. This can cover the cost of emergency medical transportation to get you off the boat and to a hospital, plus the cost of medical treatment once you get to the hospital. If you needed additional follow-up care from your doctor or you received ongoing physical therapy or rehabilitation care, this should also be covered. Other economic damages might include the value of lost property (e.g., your boat and personal belongings on the boat) and lost income from missing work.
Non-economic damages are injuries that deserve financial compensation but did not come at a monetary cost to the plaintiff. Pain and suffering, both physical and emotional, are commonly included as non-economic damages. We can help you calculate the value of these damages by evaluating their impact on your everyday life. If your emotional suffering prevents you from leaving your house or performing ordinary daily tasks, we can help you claim greater damages and get more compensation.
It is vital to work with a lawyer who can help explain to you what your case should be worth. You should never rely on the ship or the cruise company’s legal team to evaluate the cost of your case. Instead, work with a lawyer who is on your side and legally required to represent your best interests.
Common Types of Vessels Involved in Accidents in Florida
Boating accidents are not just limited to cruise ships. Our Florida boat accident attorneys have experience representing client’s injuries from the following type of water vessels:
- Cruise ships
- Ferry boats
- Jet ski & wave runners
- Tour and dinner cruise boats
If you have been injured while traveling or working on any of the aforementioned vessels, you may have a case. Contact an experienced boating accident and maritime law attorney.
How an Attorney Can Help Your Boat Accident Lawsuit in Florida
A lawyer can help you get your lawsuit started by drafting and filing your complaint. The complaint is a legal document that must contain specific information about you, the defendant, the accident, and why you believe the defendant is liable for the accident. The complaint should also state what kind of relief or compensation you are demanding and why. A complaint is a synthesis of a lot of different pieces of information, and our Florida boat accident lawyers can help you write and file your complaint correctly.
Your attorney can also help you gather evidence. In many cases, evidence is not always obvious or self-explanatory, and people might overlook important pieces of evidence. Our team can help you quickly identify important evidence before moving to collect it and use it.
Of course, any lawsuit must be argued in court. These arguments require legal knowledge and litigation skills that attorneys are trained for. Effective legal arguments can make or break a case. Our team has the skills and experience to advocate on your behalf.
If You Were Hurt in a Boating Accident in Florida, Our Attorneys Can Help
Our Florida boating accident attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. are dedicated to serving boat accident victims in South Florida and advocating for better boating safety laws and regulations. Call us at (305) 374-0565 for a free case review.