The waters of the Florida Keys have been trade routes, popular wrecking sites, and the perfect waters for fishing and leisure for hundreds of years. The climate in the Keys attracts tourists year-round, whether for the beaches, for fishing, or even for stargazing. The tens of thousands of people who live in the Keys and the tourists who come here never expect that they will have their life interrupted by a serious boat accident, but that is exactly what happens to many boat accident victims every year.
Boating accidents can often be attributed to some individual or entity’s negligence or recklessness. Injury victims can file lawsuits for the harms they suffered as a result of the negligence, whether they were aboard the boat with the negligent actor, on a different vessel, or anywhere else in the vicinity of the accident.
If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident in the Florida Keys, call Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. Our Florida Keys boat accident lawyers and maritime injury attorneys represent victims of serious boat crashes, overboard accidents, drownings, drunk boating accidents, and more. For a free legal consultation on your injury case, call our lawyers today at (866) 386-1762.
Types of Boat Accident Cases in the Florida Keys
Boating accidents on the water are often handled under maritime law. This is a separate type of law that applies on the water throughout the country, particularly in navigable waters like those around the Florida Keys. If you have been injured in a boating accident, it is important to work with a maritime injury lawyer who can handle different types of maritime injury cases. Our lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind handle all kinds of boating accident cases, including the following:
Drunk Boating Accidents
It is illegal under Florida law to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and maritime law has similar requirements that make drunk boating illegal. If a boat operator breaches their duty and is found to have operated a boat while drunk or high, they could be held responsible for any injuries or accidents they caused.
Crashes into Rocks, Docks, and Piers
Many boat accidents in the Florida Keys involve just a single boat crashing into a dock, a rock, a pier, or some other structure or natural obstacle. When a boat operator lacks the experience to navigate around obstacles or takes a boat out into dangerous waters without the proper training, charts, or radar to avoid dangers, they could be responsible for any injuries their passengers suffer in a crash.
Similarly, many boat crashes in the Florida Keys involve a vessel that runs aground on an island. This can cause serious injuries to passengers who could fall overboard or suffer serious injuries from the force of the crash.
Bad Weather Accidents
When a boat sinks or suffers serious damage in bad weather, many people might treat this as an act of God and assume that they have no recourse. In reality, many victims of crashes in bad weather and the families of those killed in such crashes could be entitled to sue the captain or the boating company for taking a vessel out in weather that they should have known would be too dangerous.
Many people are killed and injured each year in fires that break out on boats. One would think that being on the water would protect you from fire, but many accidents involve engine malfunctions or failures that spark flames or accidents in kitchens on larger yachts and vessels that could spread to the rest of the ship.
People who go missing from ships or are injured after falling overboard could easily be killed. If a victim of an overboard accident can be rescued quickly, they might be able to get medical attention and survive the ordeal, but many victims of overboard accidents are not rescued. Survivors can often sue for their injuries, and the family of those killed in overboard accidents can sue for the damages related to a loved one’s death.
Accidents on Ship Decks
If you were injured on board a ship, you might have a case against the ship owner or operator. Hard turns and jolts could knock passengers to the deck or into a bulkhead even if the boat does not crash. Alternatively, unsafe conditions or unseaworthy vessels could have dangers that cause serious injuries from slip and fall accidents, injuries from broken equipment, and more.
Seamen and Crewmember Injuries
Workers on ships throughout the Florida Keys could be at risk of injury at work. Seamen, longshoremen, skippers, and crewmembers working on various types of ships – and even cooks, bartenders, and servers on yachts or cruise ships – could be seriously injured in many types of accidents. These workers could potentially sue their employers or the owner of the ship under the Jones Act.
Sexual Assault and Violence on Ships
Many passengers and crewmembers on yachts, cruise ships, houseboats, party boats, and other vessels are physically assaulted or sexually assaulted every year. This is a surprisingly common cause of injury, and victims of these intentional acts can often sue the individual responsible as well as the ship that provided inadequate security or the owner who hired dangerous crewmembers responsible for the assault.
Is it Difficult to Get Help Following a Boat Accident in the Florida Keys?
For any accident, emergency services exist for you to secure the help that you need as soon as possible. While an accident that occurs out on the water certainly presents more issues than one on land, you can still get help when you need it. If you are involved in a boating accident, your first step should be to call 911 or use a radio to alert the authorities.
When calling, the emergency dispatcher will alert the Florida Coast Guard the same way that they might alert emergency medical services or the police upon an emergency call. It may take a little time for first responders to arrive on scene, so it is important that this call is placed as early as possible.
If you do not have phone service at the location where your accident took place, you can also radio in for help. Use Channel 16 on your on-board VHF radio system to reach the Florida Coast Guard directly. It is important to alert the authorities about any boat accident so that they may file an official report. The report is important for your recovery efforts, both for insurance claims and for serving as the foundation of a lawsuit.
Suing for Boat Accidents in the Florida Keys
Victims of any of these types of injuries might be entitled to substantial compensation for their pain and suffering, any medical bills they suffered, and any wages they missed because of injuries sustained in a boating accident. Talk to a maritime injury lawyer before accepting any money from insurance companies or at-fault operators to prevent your case from settling too low.
Determining Liability After a Boat Accident in the Florida Keys
In the case of any boat accident, there is likely one or more parties to blame for causing it. Below are some of the different types of entities that you should consider suing if you were harmed in a boating accident.
The person who owns the boat is responsible for its maintenance and operation. This responsibility constitutes a legal duty to both guests aboard the vessel and others on the waterway. Failure in these duties could create liability for the owner. For instance, the owner could be deemed negligent if they do not provide an adequate amount of flotation devices (like life vests) on the boat. The owner is also liable if they lend the boat out to someone who is not qualified or licensed to operate the vessel, even if that party is the one that ultimately causes the accident.
The person in charge of piloting the boat must not behave recklessly behind the wheel. This includes refraining from boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While many people often associate DUIs with cars, intoxicated boating is a serious problem in the Florida Keys. According to the Coast Guard, alcohol is the largest contributor to boating accident fatalities nationwide.
Some boating accidents are outside of the control of the owner of the boat or those on board at the time of the accident. Boat manufacturing companies who distribute defective products will be liable if the defect renders the vessel unseaworthy. It may be difficult for even the most experienced seamen to identify production issues and connect them with the injurious incident. Therefore, if you suspect that a defect played a role in causing a boating accident, you would be best served by discussing your story with a seasoned Florida Keys boat accident lawyer.
Renting a boat is a popular pastime in the Florida Keys for both locals and residents. However, there is not much that a renter can do to identify maintenance issues with a rented boat before they are out on the open water, leaving them vulnerable to rental company negligence. To prevent against this, rental companies have a duty to implement and use regular inspection practices for all of their vessels.
Boat operators are responsible for taking appropriate measures for handling passengers who are acting recklessly on board and compromising the safety of others. Failing to do so could create liability for the operator. However, there is only so much that is expected of the operator, and if a passenger causes a boating accident that the operator could not have reasonably prevented, the reckless passenger may be liable for the consequences.
Statute of Limitations for a Florida Keys Boat Accident Lawsuit
Every jurisdiction has their own statute of limitations, which is a law that dictates how long a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit before it becomes too late. This deadline is strictly enforced, so missing it could mean the end of your ability to seek compensation.
Therefore, it is important that you identify early on which statute of limitations applies to your case. Under Florida state law, boat accident injury victims generally have four years from the date of the accident to file their lawsuit. However, U.S. maritime law only provides a three-year window for these claims.
To determine whether Florida law or maritime law will apply in a given case, a Florida Keys boat accident attorney must assess whether the accident occurred in navigable waters. A body of water is “navigable” if it is presently capable of being used as an interstate highway for commercial trade or travel.
It is likely that a court has already made a determination on whether the area where your accident happened was navigable for the purposes of deciding who has jurisdiction. Our Florida Keys boat accident lawyers are familiar with the surrounding waters and how they are viewed by the judicial system.
In any case, it is always beneficial to file your lawsuit early on, well in advance of any statutory deadline that may apply, regardless of jurisdiction. Early action on your case will make the gathering of evidence easier and get you the compensation that your case deserves sooner than if you were to wait. Therefore, we urge you to reach out to your Florida Keys boat accident attorney as soon as you can.
Call Our Florida Keys Boating Accident and Injury Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one was involved in a boating accident and suffered serious injuries, call Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind today for a free consultation on your potential case. Our Florida boat accident lawyers can discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation and help you understand whom you may be able to sue, how to file a case against them, and what compensation you could be entitled to. Call us today at (866) 386-1762 to set up a free case consultation.