Water sports are popular in Florida due to the thousands of miles of coastline and seasonable weather. However, this also means that accidents stemming from water activities like sailing and jet skiing are common. At Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A., we understand how daunting the process of bringing a water sports accident claim can seem. We will stand by you through every step of the legal process, from negotiating with insurance companies to gathering evidence to identifying witnesses for trial.
The Miami sea doo and water sport injury attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A., have over 30 years of experience helping those who have been injured or harmed in any type of water sport watercraft or sea doo. Our water sport and sea doo accident lawyers have helped passengers, captains, guests, and crew members from all over the world, and have handled virtually every type of admiralty and maritime claim involving personal injuries and wrongful deaths on all types of watercraft, including incidents in international waters.
Our law firm is located in Miami, Florida, which is not only the cruise ship capital of the world, but also sadly one of the most dangerous waterways for boaters. Florida is the sunshine state, providing many opportunities for recreation on the waterways and coastline. This also means there are more opportunities for boat injuries and fatalities. Each year, Florida has the most boat accidents in the country, with 737 reported accidents this year. Additionally, Miami-Dade had the most boating accidents compared to every other county in Florida, with 96 reported recreational boating injuries in just 2015.
Water Sport Injury Statistics in Miami
In Florida, there are limited requirements involved in getting a boating license as compared to other states. In fact, boating education is only required for those born after 1988, meaning everyone who obtained a license before 1988 has not had any formal background on boating. Almost 70 percent of the boat operators involved in a fatal boat injury in Florida were 36 or older. Clearly, many operators of boats are unaware of how to safely navigate their vessel and how to respond to emergency situations. People do not realize that the same precautions used when driving a car should also be used when driving a boat. The dangers of watercrafts should not be underestimated.
Of course, drinking while operating a sea doo or watercraft is just as dangerous as doing so when operating an automobile, as we sadly saw the repercussions in the tragic boating accident case involving Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. The waterways must be better policed to enforce safety rules and regulations. People are aware of the repercussions of a DUI, unlike a BUI.
Types of Water Sport Accident Claims Our Miami Attorneys Handle
For over 30 years, our lead attorney Brett Rivkind has practiced exclusive maritime law. He has represented many different personal injuries and deaths involving a variety of different water vessels.
Any time water is involved in physical activities, the risk of drowning is present. Swimmers and surfers could end up underwater, especially if they were not properly equipped with personal flotation vests or life preservers. Riders on speedboats and other vessels could also fall overboard and begin drowning. The effects of drowning injuries can involve brain injuries from a lack of oxygen as well as substantial pain from inhaling water or from improper chest compressions used to resuscitate the victim.
Head and Brain Injuries
When you are in the water, your head might be the only thing above water. If you fall out of a boat, you could end up hitting the side or bottom of the boat, or you could be hit by an oar or paddle from a kayak or canoe. If you suffer a head injury in the water, you could begin to drown and face additional complications. However, brain injuries could also occur, potentially leading to internal bleeding or long-term injuries.
Surfing and other physical activities near the coast often causes serious broken bone injuries. If you come off a wave badly and land on your arm, shoulder, leg, or other body part, you could suffer a broken bone that might require a cast and follow-up care. Serious broken bones might require surgery to set the bone or implants to hold the bone in place, especially for breaks that fracture the bone into more than two pieces.
Being hit by a jet ski or boat or falling onto your back while surfing or swimming could cause serious back injuries. These accidents could potentially cause permanent paralysis, but that is rare. Instead, these injuries might cause herniated discs, misalignment, and other back and spine injuries that could impinge on the nerves in your spinal cord. These kinds of back injuries can be extremely painful, and even with surgery and physical therapy, they might not heal in full. This could lead to high levels of ongoing pain and suffering.
Damages Available in a Watersports Injury Claim
Once negligence and causation have been established, the plaintiff will be allowed to submit evidence showing the amount of damages that they suffered as a result of the accident. Damages for these kinds of accident cases often involve compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Injuries in the water can cause serious harm. If you suffered a head injury and were pushed underwater, you could have suffered serious brain trauma that might lead to permanent injuries, and drowning could have caused additional harm from hypoxia. If you needed emergency medical care, those costs should be covered. Additionally, the cost of ongoing medical care needs, physical therapy, medication, and even mental health counseling to deal with the effects of the accident could be claimed as medical expenses in a lawsuit.
If your injuries keep you from working, you could be entitled to claim damages for the lost wages you faced. These lost wages could have come from your recovery period while you were unable to work. Alternatively, lost wages could include wages you will miss going forward if you are still unable to work. Injury victims who face permanent injuries might be entitled to seek damages to cover the difference between their old wages and their new wages if their injuries forced them to take a lower-paying job. Alternatively, ongoing and future lost wages can also be claimed.
Pain and Suffering
The “cost” of pain and suffering cannot be easily determined. There is no fair way to put a price tag on an injury or disability. However, you should be compensated fairly if you have ongoing pain and discomfort or if your injury left you with mental anguish, emotional distress, reduced enjoyment of life, and other serious effects. These damages are known as “noneconomic” damages because they cannot be proved through medical bills and financial records, but your testimony can still help show what these damages should be worth in court.
How to File a Watersport Accident Lawsuit in Miami, FL
A boating accident case falls within maritime law of the United States. Boat operators, boat owners, sale companies, boat leasing firms, chartered boats and manufactures of boats can all be held liable for injuries and death from a boating accident. Jurisdictional questions are often quite complex in cases involving admiralty and maritime claims. In order to file a maritime claim, the incident must occur on navigable waters and be related to traditional maritime activity. How that is interpreted by the courts can differ, and each situation should be analyzed based on the facts and circumstances of the particular case Therefore it is important to consult with a maritime injury lawyer who is well versed in maritime laws and jurisdictional issues.
If you suffered an accident or was injured at sea, whether you are a worker onboard a ship, engaging in some type of water sport, simply operating a recreational watercraft, or a passenger on some type of recreational boat, yacht or ship, you should consult an experienced maritime personal injury attorney to find out what your rights are under the admiralty and maritime law. Often times maritime and admiralty law is different than the law of the particular state in which you are injured, and often times the state law can supplement your claims that you may have under the admiralty and maritime law.
Determining Who is at Fault for a Watersports Accident
There are many ways in which a water sports accident can occur, but in most situations, an accident victim can bring a negligence claim against the person or business that they believe is responsible for their injuries. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care and skill and that this failure was the cause of the injuries that the plaintiff sustained.
When it comes to a boating accident, this standard requires boat operators to obtain appropriate licensing and training, to operate the watercraft safely in light of the weather conditions and other activity on the water, and to refrain from operating a boat while under the influence, among other things.
Florida acknowledges a doctrine called negligence per se, which strengthens a plaintiff’s negligence claim if they can show that the defendant violated a statute or regulation at the time of the accident. If the accident involved being hit by a ferry or another commercial vessel, it is especially important to review whether the defendant violated any applicable regulations and requirements. A water sports accident attorney in the Miami area will be familiar with the various rules that may apply.
If the accident involved jet skis or wave runners, kayaks, or other smaller vessels, the plaintiff may also have a claim against any rental facility that rented the equipment to the plaintiff. These facilities have a duty to ensure that they are leasing their equipment to individuals who have the appropriate skill and experience to operate them. They also must provide any required safety equipment, such as life jackets. Failing to do any of this could put them partly at fault for the injuries their renters cause.
Proving Fault, Liability or Negligence in an Accident Involving Personal Watercraft
After establishing that the defendant failed to use due care, you must then establish that there is a causal connection between this negligent conduct and the damages that you suffered. If the defendant can show that some other factor was the primary cause of your injuries, such as a severe storm or your own negligent conduct, you might be precluded from recovering damages. Alternatively, your damages may be reduced. One way to possibly help establish causation is to provide a copy of any police or lifeguard reports that were prepared after the accident.
In accident cases in Miami, victims can often recover damages even if they were partly at fault for the injuries they suffered. Florida’s comparative fault rules allow injury victims to recover compensation even if they were 99% at fault for their own injuries. The damages you are awarded in court will usually be reduced to account for your fault.
An example of this might be an injury case where a kayaker is hit by a speed boat. The driver of the speed boat might be primarily at fault, but the kayaker might have been in dangerous waters. If the jury says that the victim is 15% at fault, then the victim will only recover 85% of the damages the court awards them.
Call Our Miami Watersport Accident Injury Lawyers Today
Our Miami sea doo and water sport accident injury lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A., have extensive experience in handling boating accidents and deaths in Miami and throughout Florida. If you or someone you know has been injured on any type of vessel on the water, contact our firm for a free consultation as to your rights. You can reach us at 305-375-0565, or toll-free at (866) 386-1762, or through our online form.