Boats are almost as common as cars and other vehicles in Florida. The Miami boating accident attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A. have decades of experience helping victims sue the owners and operators of boats that injured them. Injured victims may be entitled to compensation regardless of whether they were a passenger on the vessel at the time or were on another boat that was struck. Many victims of boating accidents in Miami also include those injured in the water, such as swimmers and kayakers.
If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident in the Miami area, contact our law offices today to set up a free legal consultation with our Miami boat accident attorneys. Our lawyers have over 30 years of experience in maritime law, representing victims of boating and shipping accidents in and around the Miami area. We understand the intricacies of boat accident cases and can work to help you get the compensation you need after being injured in a serious Miami boat accident. Call us today at (305) 204-5369.
How Common Are Boating Accidents in Miami?
Florida is an ideal boating location with many waterways, rivers, and lakes, and a huge coastline. As a result, Florida is known to lead the nation in registered vessels with 915,713 vessels registered in 2015 alone. In addition, it has been estimated that 1 million non-registered boats actively use Florida’s waters. All the while, Miami’s population is growing, and more and more tourists find themselves in the area each year. This means that Miami’s waterways are showing increased congestion all the time as boaters continue enjoying our beautiful weather and our abundant water resources. However, with this increase in boaters comes an increased number of accidents, injuries, and deaths.
At the end of every year, boating accident statistics are compiled in annual reports by various state agencies. According to one such report, Florida has the highest number of boating accidents of any state yearly, many involving serious injuries and even deaths. According to a recent report compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the state agency responsible for the enforcement of boating safety laws, there were 628 reported boating accidents and 59 fatal boating accidents in 2018.
This number is down from some of the previous 5 years, but it is still part of a trend of Florida having some of the most boating accident counts in the country. Generally speaking, the Miami area alone often has a higher number of accidents than the next highest state after Florida.
Clearly, many watercraft operators are unaware of how to safely maneuver their vessel and how to respond to emergency situations, which is a common cause of boating accidents and injuries. Boaters often do not realize that the same precautions used when driving a car should also be used when driving a boat, leading them to cause serious accidents.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Miami
Boat accidents are caused by a number of potential issues. In most cases, boating injuries are caused by a pilot’s inattention or failure to look out for dangers they should have avoided. They are also primarily caused by boater inexperience, with fledgling pilots on new boats or rented boats causing these accidents. A significant number of boating accidents are also caused each year by intoxicated operation.
Drunk boating is a serious issue that can cause tragic accidents. On a pleasure boat or speed boat, a drunk operator could crash into another vessel, potentially injuring everyone on the other boat as well as their own passengers. In accidents where commercial boat operators show up to work drunk, they could also cause serious injuries. This is true of ferries, yachts crewed by hired staff, tour boats, and even commercial fishing boats.
Boat pilots and operators are required by law to follow various rules, but they are always required to use reasonable care and attention when operating a vessel. If they fail to do so, they may be considered “negligent,” and the errors and mistakes they commit can be used against them as evidence that they were at fault for the crash. There are laws against boating with a BAC over .08%, and other laws might dictate speed restrictions, no-wake zones, directions to travel in shipping lanes, waters to avoid on small vessels, and other laws intended to keep boaters, swimmers, and others safe. If a law was violated, injured passengers, victims who were injured in other boats or vessels, or swimmers and others outside of the boat may sue the at-fault operator for injuries.
Even if no actual boating law was violated, the pilot’s unsafe actions might have violated the unwritten rules of boating. There are plenty of commonly used safe-boating practices that help dictate what drivers should and should not do while operating a boat. Although there might not be specific laws to enforce some of these rules, they are nonetheless reasonable standards by which we can judge a boater’s safety. If you were injured because a boat operator made unreasonable mistakes or committed safety violations that do not specifically break the law, you can still use those issues as proof of their negligence and fault in causing the boat accident.
Crashes into Stationary Objects
Boats do not have brakes, and inexperienced boaters and seasoned pilots alike may get into situations where they cannot stop the boat as quickly as they need to. Negligent boat operators could crash into stationary objects like pillars and piles under a bridge, docks at marinas, and even rocks and walls along the water’s edge. These accidents often cause serious injuries to people aboard the boat, especially if the accident occurred at high speeds.
When two boats crash into each other, many people could be injured. Especially when ferries, tour boats, party boats, or yachts are involved, there could be many passengers on each ship. The passengers and operators could face serious injuries if they fall to the ground or into bulkheads, or they could face worse injuries if they fall overboard during the crash.
Overboard Accidents and Other Accidents Aboard Ships
Accidents on deck could lead to slip and fall injuries, falls overboard, injuries from fires or electrical hazards, or other injuries aboard a boat. If you were injured in any of these ways, the owner of the vessel could be liable for the injuries you faced.
Boat Accidents Involving Swimmers and Small Boats
While the waters of the Miami River itself do not lend themselves to swimming, people can still be injured trying to swim in other waters or after having fallen off of another boat or a bridge or dock. Small boats, dinghies, and rafts could be used in some of the waters throughout Miami, and if any of the occupants on these vessels are hit by a larger boat, they could suffer serious injuries. The same is true for swimmers hit by boats in these waters.
Tour boats, ferries, and other vessels that take on passengers must be properly maintained to avoid accidents and mechanical failure. Serious engine malfunctions could result in fires, which could be deadly for the passengers.
Bad Weather Accidents
Boat operators who take their vessels out for parties, sightseeing, or other events during inclement weather could be putting everyone on board the boat at risk. While the waters of the Miami River are not as susceptible to serious bad weather events, boats on the river could be at a higher risk of capsizing or crashing during bad weather.
Accidents Caused by Faulty Repairs
Boater owners make sure that the vessel is in good working condition and that it is repaired and maintained properly before taking it out on the water. Many boating accidents are caused by defective repairs to the vessel, causing it to crash into other boats or to sink on its own. These kinds of accidents could be held against the boat operator and the company that negligently repaired the vessel.
It is often not until the boat owner is out on the water that they find out that the repairs were performed improperly. Some of the injuries that can result from defective boat repair include accidents from defective navigation systems, fires from motor defects, crashes into docks and piers from steering issues, and accidents with other vessels caused by malfunctions. These can cause broken bones, head injuries, paralysis, burns, and even death.
If you have suffered injuries as a result of a defective boat repair, a lawyer can help you bring a claim against the company that failed to perform the repairs adequately. Boat repair companies have a duty to ensure that the repairs are performed completely and accurately, and they know that their customer could be injured if they fail to make proper repairs. The boat repair company might even have a duty to look beyond the problems the owner complained about and ensure that other systems and equipment are in proper working order.
What Damages Can You Recover for a Boat Accident with Injuries in Miami?
The damages you can claim in a boat accident injury case often involve damages for medical expenses, lost wages resulting from the injury, and compensation for pain and suffering related to the injuries. If you lost a loved one in a boating accident, you may be entitled to additional damages for their death, including the cost of funeral and burial expenses, lost companionship, lost household services, and other harms.
When you claim damages, the court will need to see proof of the damages you faced. In most cases, you will have two types of damages, each of which requires different types of proof.
With “economic damages,” there are usually bills, financial statements, expert testimony, and other records that document how much the injury cost you economically and how much you should be reimbursed. “Economic damages” usually include compensation for expenses like medical bills and reimbursements for lost or future wages.
Damages for medical bills commonly involve compensation for the emergency medical treatment you needed as well as the ongoing costs you will incur. If your injuries were very serious, you might need follow-up appointments, additional surgeries, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and more. Serious injuries could also require mental health counseling to treat post-traumatic stress symptoms. These care costs could all be included in a lawsuit for defective boat repair injuries.
If your injuries keep you from going back to work, you could be entitled to sue for the cost of lost wages. The wages you cannot receive while you are recovering from an injury could lead to substantial compensation. What often leads to even higher damages is the loss of ongoing wages. “Reduced earning capacity” refers to the reduction in ongoing wages that you might suffer if you had to take a lower-paying job with less-demanding physical tasks or if you cannot work at all because of your injury. These damages can be projected by a financial expert and claimed in a lawsuit.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are separate from the economic damages in your case. These damages compensate you for the mental, emotional, and physical sensations you face. Explaining your pain and suffering to another person is often difficult, but your own testimony is one of the best pieces of evidence to explain these kinds of damages.
Future Damages or Lost Wages
In many cases, economic damages will also include projected future damages. For instance, if you suffered a serious injury and are only partway through your treatment, you will be able to have doctors and financial experts testify as to how much the injury is expected to cost you in the future, and you might be able to get additional damages to cover those expenses, too. The same is true with lost earning capacity, where you might not be able to make as much money because of the physical restrictions your injury cased. For example, if you worked a job that involved physical labor, you might be limited after a serious back injury, so you will miss out on future wages because you need to take a different position – or perhaps you cannot go back to work at all and need coverage for your disability.
Noneconomic damages are paid to cover harms that you experienced, even if there is no record of expenses or tangible things you can show someone else to prove what the harm cost you. The most common type of noneconomic damages in an injury case is compensation for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering are abstract concepts, not something you can show to someone else. However, you can describe what your pain was like, how the injuries caused you to suffer, and what tangible effects the pain and suffering had on your life. The court can listen to your testimony about your injuries, about how the injury caused you to feel depressed and hopeless, about how the injury reduced your enjoyment of activities, and about how you feared the possibility that you might not recover.
Determining the actual value of these damages is often more of an art than a science. Our Miami boat accident attorneys can use their experience in other cases to help determine what your injuries could be worth in a lawsuit and advise you on the overall damages you should be entitled to in your case.
Compensation for these damages is sometimes not available in an insurance claim, so you often need to claim these damages in court. Other non-economic damages could be paid to punish the at-fault boater. For example, if you were hit by a boater with a track record of drunk boating or a ferry service with repeat boating violations, the court might order the defendant to pay you additional damages to punish them for what they did. These “punitive damages” are not very common, but our attorneys will examine your case and fight for them when appropriate.
Motorboat Collisions in Miami
Motorboats describe boats that are solely powered by an engine, opposed to paddle crafts and sailboats. The following are examples of different types of powerboats:
- Bay boats
- Bass boats
- Center console boats
- Dual console boats
- Cabin cruisers
- Jon boats
- Pontoon boats
Motorboats are capable of travelling at high speeds with quick rates of acceleration. Accordingly, collisions involving motorboat can cause severe injuries. When boaters act carelessly, there are several different types of collisions that can occur. For instance, a motorboat may collide with a sand bar, rock, dock, swimmer, or another boat.
Motorboat collisions frequently occur on holiday weekends in Miami, when the waters are crowded with drunk and inexperienced boaters. Fortunately, if you were injured because of a motorboat collision, you can reach out to our Miami boat accident attorneys for help pursuing the financial compensation available to you. Our team can help review the strength of your claim during a free case review.
Boating Accidents that Occur on the Miami River
The Miami River originally ran from the Everglades down through the City of Miami. Today, the river has many man-made changes and attached waterways that make it a main artery through the city. While the river is used for shipping, it is also used by many people in pleasure boats and even for tours and transportation throughout the city.
Accidents on the Miami River often lead to lawsuits. Victims of serious injuries caused by another person’s negligent or intentional actions can face expensive medical bills and could be left unable to work to support themselves because of their injuries. On top of the costs of damage to their boats and other harms, they could face substantial damages they need financial compensation for. A lawsuit is one of the best ways to get that compensation.
Some boaters in Miami carry insurance that helps cover injuries in the case of a crash. However, these insurance policies might exclude damages for pain and suffering and other areas of damages. They might also pay only a portion of the damages, leaving victims with unpaid expenses. Instead of taking an insurance settlement, a lawsuit is often the best way to get your damages covered in full.
To file a lawsuit, work with a lawyer. It is likely that the defendant will have a lawyer or that their insurance company will provide them with one, so it is often in your best interests to have your own lawyer. An attorney can help you understand what your case is worth and help argue for full damages. You should never trust the defendant’s valuation of the case without having your own lawyer review the case and perform an independent calculation of the damages.
Pontoon Boat Accidents in Miami
Pontoon boats are vessels with flat bottoms that are typically buoyed by large floatation devices. These boats are affordable, can handle a large number of passengers, and can operate well in shallow water. Accordingly, they have become increasingly popular amongst recreational boaters and rental companies.
Unfortunately, many harmful accidents happen involving pontoon boats. First, pontoon boats are difficult to control in rough water. Second, because the vessels are particularly buoyant, they can be flipped easily. Therefore, if a boater finds themselves in unfavorable conditions in a pontoon boat, they are likely to flip the vessel and potentially cause serious injuries to its passengers.
Furthermore, because pontoon boats are large and are often used to transport a large number of passengers, pontoon boat accidents are prone to causing severe injuries. The following are examples of common injuries caused by pontoon boat accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Serious soft tissue injuries
If you suffered any of the aforementioned injuries because of a pontoon boat accident, our Miami boat accident attorneys can help bring a claim against the at-fault party. The financial compensation available to you can provide crucial support while you recover from the harm you suffered.
Prop Strike Injuries in Miami
Prop strike injuries refer to injuries that happen when someone in the water contacts a boat’s propellers. Some types of vessels are more likely to cause propeller strike injuries than others. Propellers are permanently positioned beneath the hull on boats with inboard motors. Meanwhile, on vessel’s with outboard motors, the propellers are more exposed. Accordingly, vessels with outboard motors have a higher propensity to cause prop strike injuries.
Those who incur prop strike injuries often suffer severe lacerations and internal injuries. These types of injuries can occur when a careless boater collides with another vessel or a swimmer in the water. Additionally, passengers can suffer prop strike injuries when they are thrown from the side of a boat during transit. In such cases, passengers thrown from fast-travelling boats can be sucked underneath the vessel where they are struck by the propeller.
There are several categories of economic and non-economic damages that may be recovered by victims of prop strike injuries. If you suffered such an injury, you should contact our Miami boat accident attorneys for help recovering the monetary damages available to you.
Filing a Lawsuit for Injuries or Death Caused by a Boat Crash in a Miami Court
Any time a boating victim leaves the vessel during a boating accident, they are also at risk for drowning and other injuries in the water. Boat owners and operators should be sure to include proper emergency flotation devices and life jackets to keep passengers safe in the event of an emergency. These usually have bright colors to help rescuers spot victims, and the flotation helps keep weak swimmers from drowning. Many injuries occur because boats are not properly equipped with such emergency equipment.
Many accidents unfortunately cause fatal injuries. Our Florida boat accident lawyers also represent the family of boat accident victims who were lost overboard or died during a fatal boating accident, and we work to get them compensation for the loss of a loved one.
As mentioned, boating accidents are often caused by a pilot’s inattention or lack of skill in controlling their boat. This is often labelled “negligence,” and it is the basis for most injury lawsuits involving accidents. Our Miami boating injury lawyers may be able to help you file a negligence lawsuit against the responsible parties and seek damages for the injuries you faced in a boating accident.
If you were hit by another boater or the pilot/operator on your vessel caused an accident, you might be entitled to compensation for any damages resulting from the accident. However, you must first prove that they were responsible for the accident by proving four elements of your case:
- The operator owed you a duty.
- The operator breached that duty.
- The breach of duty caused your injuries.
- The injuries involve damages the court can order compensation for.
Typically, the duty they owe you will be based on what a reasonable boat pilot should have done or based on the laws governing the accident. If you can prove that they violated this duty and that that violation caused your injuries, you can seek compensation for any harm you can prove in court.
Many boating injury cases go to court each year, and our Miami boat accident lawyers are prepared to work with you to fight your case at trial and get you compensation for your injuries. Despite this, most injury cases are instead settled before they ever get to a jury decision. However, you must be careful because many early offers to settle a case might involve offers that are far too low to cover your needs. Our Miami boat accident lawyers can help you understand the full value of your lawsuit and work to maximize the compensation you receive by negotiating proper settlements or fighting your case at trial.
Proving Fault for a Miami Boating Accident
In order for your Miami boating accident lawsuit to be successful, you must prove that you were injured because of the defendant’s negligent actions. The defendant may be a vessel’s operator, a rental company, or another negligent party that contributed to your collision. There are several forms of evidence that can be used to establish negligence. The following are examples of evidence utilized by our experienced Miami boat accident attorneys:
Witness testimony can be highly valuable when proving who was at fault for a boating accident in Miami. Witnesses can offer either oral or written testimony that helps explain how a crash occurred. For instance, a witness may testify that they noticed a particular operator was drinking while at the helm. Furthermore, a witness may state that a particular rental company did not provide customers with life jackets when they rented their boat. Accordingly, you should attempt to retrieve contact information for any potential witnesses to your boating accident if possible.
Photos from the Scene
Photos from the scene are another type of evidence that can be used to prove fault for a boating accident. Photos from the scene can be used to show factors that contributed to an accident. For instance, photos showing a clearly marked and obvious sandbar can be used to show that a boater acted carelessly when striking the hazard in clear daylight. After a boating accident, you should attempt to take photos at the scene. Afterwards, our experienced Miami boat accident attorneys can help evaluate the relevance of your photos during a free case review.
Physical Evidence from the Scene
Additionally, physical evidence from the scene can be used to prove fault for a crash. For example, an open liquor bottle found inside of a boat can help show that an operator was drunk at the time of a crash. Furthermore, a defective part from a vessel may be brought into court to show how the defective product contributed to a collision. Our Miami boat accident lawyers can help recover any pertinent physical evidence from the scene in your case.
Lastly, your personal recollection of your crash can be very valuable when proving who was at fault. In order to successfully present your case, it is important to accurately recall all of the details surrounding your crash. Some details that may seem minor at first can prove to be pivotal at a later date. Accordingly, you should attempt to record your personal recollection of your crash as soon as possible after the accident. This information can be very helpful to our Miami boat accident attorneys when proving that another party was at fault.
If You Were Hurt in a Boating Accident in Miami, Our Attorneys Can Help
Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A. is a maritime and admiralty law firm with an international reputation for dedication and excellence. Our Miami boat accident and injury attorneys have experience helping victims recover compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages from boating accidents and other injuries on ships and vessels in the Miami area and across the globe. To schedule a free legal consultation after suffering injuries in a boating accident in the Miami area, contact our law offices today at (305) 204-5369.