Boating accidents are often tragic, with victims often facing serious injuries or even falling overboard and losing their lives. Depending on the conditions that led to the boating accident, different parties might be at fault. It’s important to tell who is negligent in a boating accident because that individual or company can usually be held liable and ordered to pay damages in court or through insurance claims. Our Florida boat accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. explain how to tell who is negligent and what you can do to hold them accountable after you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident in Florida.
Determining Liability in Florida Boating Accidents
“Liability” means legal responsibility for some accident or injury. When a court finds an individual or some other entity (e.g., a business) “liable,” they can make that person pay for damages that they caused in the accident. When determining who is liable for a boating accident in Florida, courts look at who was “negligent.”
“Negligence” is a specific legal formula that essentially places blame on someone by showing that they did something bad that led to the injury. In most cases, the “bad” actions are not intentional acts of violence, and most people who are found negligent for injuries did not mean to hurt anyone. Instead, the courts and insurance companies look at what the law expects of that person, and if they failed to act according to those standards, the court can find them negligent and hold them liable for the accident.
The ways that negligence can come into a boat accident are endless, but they usually involve some violation of the law or some instance where someone’s actions were unreasonable or careless, given the circumstances. Suppose someone causes an accident because they were boating under the influence, going fast in a no-wake zone, or heading the wrong way in a shipping lane. In that case, they could be found negligent, and then the court can hold them liable on that basis.
It is important to research the specific facts of the case to see what happened leading up to the accident and injury so our Tampa Bay boat accident attorneys can determine who was liable.
Who is at Fault in a Florida Boating Accident?
When looking at which particular individuals or entities are at fault, the courts often need to break down the actions leading up to the accident and determine where everyone was, what their duties were, and how they contributed to the accident. In a crash between more than one vessel, the pilots are likely suspects for fault, as are any other crewmembers assisting them. In an accident involving only one vessel, there is only one operator to hold liable, and they are often the primary suspect.
Other people could also be responsible for contributing to the accident as well. A boat owner who fails to keep the boat in working order could be responsible, whether that be an individual or a company. Similarly, negligent mechanics and repairmen could also be liable if they caused an equipment malfunction. Liability can also stretch even further, and if the operator and crew of the vessel that caused the accident are employees of a particular company, you may be able to hold that company liable for its employees’ errors.
Courts will take in all of the facts and apply blame to anyone who committed negligence that caused the accident to occur. Once each party has their share of the blame assigned, usually as a percentage, the courts can then calculate damages and distribute them as well. Each person who is found liable is made to pay their fair share of the damages. This helps in situations where passengers were innocent in causing the accident, but multiple crews, companies, or individuals were responsible.
If you are found partly liable for causing the crash, the court can assign you a percentage of the blame as well. Under Florida law and U.S. maritime law, this typically does not block you from claiming damages; you can still get compensation for 1% of your damages even if you were 99% at fault. This “pure comparative fault” rule is extremely friendly to injury victims and can help them get compensation in cases where other states’ rules might block them from suing entirely.
How to Hold Someone Liable for a Boating Accident in Florida?
Once you have identified who is at fault for a boat accident in Florida, you still need to take action to hold them liable and get the damages you need for your injuries and damage to your boat. In most cases, insurance companies will handle these issues, determining negligence and awarding damages to the right parties. Unfortunately, these damages are often too low, and you should speak with a Miami boat accident attorney about suing for damages instead of accepting an insurance company’s decision.
When you go to court, a judge and jury decide your case instead of an insurance company. Insurance companies have incentives to save money by blocking payments or paying very low settlements. In court, the judge and jury are neutral and will try to have damages paid fairly. You can also claim additional damages since most insurance policies block damages for pain and suffering or other “noneconomic” damages.
Talk to a Clearwater boat accident lawyer for more information.
Call Our Florida Boating and Maritime Injury Attorneys Today
Our Everglades boat accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind offer free legal consultations to help boat accident injury victims hold negligent parties at fault for their injuries. To set up a free legal consultation, call our Miami personal injury lawyers today at (866) 386-1762.