Can You File a Lawsuit If a Family Member Drowned on a Boat?

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The State of Florida is surrounded by water and beautiful beaches. It only makes sense that the people of Florida love spending time on boats. Whether you’re out deep-sea fishing or just relaxing on the water, boating can be a fun way to spend a vacation. Unfortunately, boating accidents have been known to happen and sometimes people are seriously hurt. In some cases, people even drown. If you lost a family member to a drowning accident on a boat, you might have a wrongful death claim. Read on to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim after a family member drowns on a boat from the Miami drowning death attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Family Member Drowned on a Boat

A wrongful death lawsuit is not just filed for the decedent’s survivors. The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of the deceased person. The decedent’s estate and surviving family members all have a stake in the outcome of the case. However, not just anyone can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Since it is filed on behalf of the decedent’s estate, the lawsuit must be filed by an estate representative. The representative does not necessarily have to be a family member but could be someone like a Florida boat accident attorney who was set up by the deceased’s will to handle their affairs.

Survivors of a decedent include spouses, children, and parents. It may also include other blood relatives, like siblings, who may have been dependent on the decedent for support. Unfortunately, people who might be very close friends with the decedent, but do not share familial relations, may not be considered survivors and will not be part of the lawsuit. Of course, children are recognized as survivors, including children born out of wedlock to the mother. However, children born out of wedlock to the father will not be recognized as survivors unless they acknowledge responsibility for the child.

What Kind of Law Applies When a Family Member Drowns on a Boat?

There is a separate body of law that takes over when issues involving boats and water-travel are involved. Maritime law is a federal body of law that historically governed behavior at sea. However, over time, maritime law has been expanded to include many different types of actions and incidents on many different water bodies. While some courts have differed as to their views on what kinds of bodies of water are included, generally navigable waters fall under maritime law.

Navigable waters are typically ones in which interstate or foreign commerce is conducted. Even if trade or business is not being conducted, it is enough that the waters could potentially be used for such activities. This would obviously include boating incidents or accidents in the ocean but could also include large lakes and rivers. Whether your case falls under maritime law will depend on where the boat accident occurred. If your loved one drowned in the ocean, maritime law will probably take over. However, if the accident happened in an inlet or on a bay, ordinary state law might have authority.

What Damages Do I Claim When a Family Member Drowns on a Boat?

Placing a price on the life of a family member feels unthinkable. Unfortunately, this is a necessary step in a wrongful death lawsuit after a family member drowned on a boat. The types of damages you can claim will depend on your relationship with the decedent. The types of damages recoverable for a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida can be found under § 768.21 of the Florida Statutes.

First, if you were supported financially by the decedent, you may claim damages for lost support. This includes people like children and spouses who the decedent supported. It may also include any other blood relatives, like siblings, who received support from the decedent. The damages will be calculated from the date of death to the present and can include future lost support estimates.

Surviving spouses can claim damages for a loss of companionship and pain and suffering. Similarly, minor children may claim damages for a loss of parental companionship or guidance and pain and suffering. Florida law states that minor children include children of the decedent who are under 25.

Parents may also claim damages for pain and suffering for the loss of a minor child. However, if the surviving parents lost an adult child, they may only claim damages for pain and suffering if there are no other survivors. For example, a decedent over the age of 25 who is unmarried with no children would constitute such a case.

Funeral expenses may also be claimed as damages, but only by the person who paid for the funeral. If the decedent’s estate paid for the funeral, these damages would be claimed by the estate itself. A decedent’s estate can also claim damages for lost earnings. Since the decedent is no longer alive and able to earn income, the estate may calculate damages based on the number of working years the decedent reasonably had left.

What Evidence Do I Need to Prove a Case Where a Family Member Drowned on a Boat?

The evidence you will need to demonstrate that your family member’s death was due to another’s negligence will vary depending upon the circumstances of their death. The duty owed by the defendant will depend on their relationship with the decedent.

If your loved one drowned due to faulty or malfunctioning boat equipment, we must show the safety standards for such equipment and that the equipment on board did not meet these standards. Similarly, if the negligence was due to the defendant’s actions rather than the equipment, we will need a different tactic. For example, perhaps the boat operator steered the boat into the dock, causing your family member to fall overboard and drown. We must show that the boat operator’s driving skills were not up to par and they were negligent.

We’ll also need to prove your loved one died due to the defendant’s actions or behavior. This might require things like medical records and autopsy reports demonstrating that your family member was in good health at the time of their death and the boating accident or incident is likely what caused their death.

If possible, we should also use any records of the event, such as photos or videos someone recorded on their phone or even surveillance footage if it is available. Speak with our Maritime wrongful death attorney about what kind of evidence you will need for your lawsuit.

Contact Our Florida Drowning Death Attorney for Help

If a family member tragically died in a drowning accident while aboard a boat in Florida, you may have a wrongful death claim on your hands. Call the Florida Keys drowning death lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. at (305) 204-5369 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation with our staff.


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