Dealing with a boating accident often requires quick action and focus. Such an accident can produce severely painful and debilitating injuries. The actions you take in the aftermath of your accident can impact your ability to recover compensation for the harm you incurred.
The Florida boat accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. have handled thousands of maritime and boating injury cases, and we can affirm firsthand that it is never too early to report a boating accident and begin working to get compensation for injuries and damages. Our Miami maritime injury lawyers and Miami yacht accident lawyer explain how long you have to report a boating accident and what to do after an injury.
In the aftermath of your collision in Florida, seek help from our experienced boat accident attorneys by calling Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. at (305) 204-5369.
How Long Do You Have to Report Boating Accidents in Florida?
Under U.S. law, boating accidents usually need to be reported to the Coast Guard or other appropriate authorities within 48 hours of the accident – or 24 hours if there was a death. In almost every case, there is no reason for a boat accident victim to even go this long; boat accidents should be reported immediately to help protect you, get you the medical attention you need, and protect your legal rights after the accident.
Victims of boating accident injuries may need immediate help. In rare circumstances, they may be stranded without communication devices or emergency flares, and it could take longer to report a boating accident and get the help you need. Barring these rare circumstances, you can often call or radio the Coast Guard or the police for help after a boating accident – or, if you need to, go to shore and report the accident there. In no case should you wait longer than necessary because immediate investigation and emergency response may be necessary to save lives and begin important investigations.
Boating accidents can usually be reported by calling 9-1-1 or radioing local authorities.
How Long Should I Wait to Report a Boat Accident in Florida?
As mentioned, you should always report a Florida boating accident as soon as possible instead of waiting for 24 or 48 hours. When you report the accident immediately to the authorities and emergency services, you also accomplish three things that are extremely important: you get injured people medical attention, you protect yourself, and you protect your right to sue.
Getting Medical Attention
Especially if people were injured in the accident, it is vital to report the accident right away. Delaying getting someone medical aid could be considered negligent and may actually put you at fault for some of their injuries. If you or a loved one was the one who as injured, you need to get medical attention as soon as possible to prevent injuries from getting worse or healing into scars or permanent injuries. Getting proper medical attention right away is more important than nearly any other concerns after a boating accident.
After a boating or drowning accident in the Intracoastal Waterway, you may be unable to operate your boat safely or get back to shore without assistance. Do not risk your health and safety by trying to operate a disabled vessel. Instead, get help from local authorities to prevent further injury and damage.
Many boating accidents are caused by drunk boaters or reckless individuals who may not be happy with the fact that they were involved in an accident – especially if they perceive the accident to be your fault. Getting the authorities involved is often important to protect yourself and ensure that everyone keeps the peace, especially if your boating accident injuries leave you in a vulnerable state.
Protecting Your Right to Sue
As mentioned, any delays in getting help could make you look guilty. If you are injured and do not get medical attention right away, the court might also rule that you contributed to your own injuries by delaying your care. They may even refuse to believe that the injuries were related to the boating accident if there are no emergency responders who can testify that you got injured in the crash. Ultimately, this could result in you being unable to claim damages for your injuries.
If you wait too long, it could also look to the court like the injuries and damage from the crash were “not that bad.” Speaking up quickly and aggressively pursuing a report and an injury claim shows you mean business and that the damages you are claiming are necessary.
How Long Do I Have to File a Boating Accident in Court?
If you are considering filing a boating accident injury case for your Florida boat accident, you will need to follow the statute of limitations. Most injury cases in Florida are held to a 4-year statute of limitations that gives you quite a long time to file your injury case. Boating accidents are often handled under maritime law instead of Florida law, which means that you are instead held to a 3-year statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is the outside legal limit on how long you have to file a case, and boating accident cases should often be filed well before this deadline comes up. Talk to a Miami boat accident lawyer as soon as you can after a boating accident to make sure that all necessary accident reports are filed and to make sure that your case is filed with the courts before your time limit runs out.
What Happens if You Wait Too Long to Report Your Boating Accident in Florida?
There are several consequences that you may face if you wait too long to report your boating accident in Florida. For example, a delay in the filing of your report may result in any of the following:
If you wait too long to report a boating accident that meets the criteria for mandatory reporting, you could face legal penalties and fines. Florida law requires boating accidents to be reported if they involve death, disappearance, injuries requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or property damage exceeding $2,000. Failing to adhere to these reporting requirements may lead to legal actions against you, potentially resulting in fines or other penalties.
Fortunately, our experienced boat accident attorneys can help file your report. Accordingly, you may avoid the aforementioned penalties and focus on pursuing the compensation you deserve.
Delayed reporting can lead to the loss or degradation of crucial evidence related to the accident. Timely reporting allows authorities to conduct investigations while evidence is still fresh, increasing the chances of accurately determining the cause and contributing factors of the accident. Waiting too long may hinder the investigation process and potentially impact your ability to establish liability or seek compensation.
Reporting a boating accident promptly is essential for insurance purposes. Waiting to report an accident may raise questions about the validity of your claim and could result in delays or denials of coverage. Insurance companies often require timely reporting to properly assess damages, injuries, and liability, and failure to do so might affect your ability to receive compensation for medical expenses, property damage, or other losses.
Statute of Limitations
In addition to reporting requirements, there is a statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims in Florida. Waiting too long to report an accident could potentially exceed the time frame within which you’re allowed to file a claim. Missing this window of opportunity might prevent you from seeking legal recourse to recover damages for your injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Delayed reporting could impact your credibility in potential legal proceedings or negotiations. Opposing parties may argue that your failure to report the accident promptly suggests that your injuries or damages may not have been as severe as claimed. This could weaken your position when seeking compensation or pursuing legal action.
Types of Boating Accidents that Must Be Reported in Florida
In Florida, boating accidents must be reported to the authorities if they result in death, disappearance, injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or property damage exceeding $2,000. There are many different types of accidents that can lead to such damages. For example, the following are all types of boating accidents that are regularly reported in Florida:
Boating collisions are common accidents that can lead to severe injuries. These accidents occur when two boats collide with each other or with a fixed object. The impact from a collision can result in injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries, fractures, and lacerations. For instance, if two vessels collide due to operator negligence, passengers may sustain head injuries from the force of impact.
Capsizing and Swamping
Capsizing happens when a boat overturns in the water, while swamping occurs when water floods into the boat. Both situations can lead to drowning, hypothermia, or near-drowning injuries. Victims may also suffer from muscle strains or sprains as they attempt to stay afloat or swim to safety. For example, if a small pleasure boat capsizes because of rough waters, passengers might struggle to reach the surface and could inhale water, causing respiratory distress.
Falling overboard is a significant risk, especially on moving vessels. Victims who fall into the water may face drowning, hypothermia, or injuries from hitting the boat’s structure during the fall. They could also experience cuts, bruises, or internal injuries if they hit the water at a high velocity. If a passenger slips and falls overboard while the boat is making a sharp turn, they might collide with the boat’s railing before hitting the water.
Fire and Explosions
Boat fires and explosions can occur because of fuel leaks, electrical malfunctions, or improper storage of flammable materials. Injuries from these accidents include burns, smoke inhalation, and blast injuries. Victims may suffer from respiratory problems due to inhaling toxic fumes or experience severe burns from direct contact with flames. For instance, if a boat’s engine compartment catches fire because of a fuel leak, passengers could sustain burns while trying to escape the vessel.
Propeller accidents happen when individuals come into contact with a boat’s propeller. These accidents can lead to amputations, deep lacerations, and severe tissue damage. Victims may require immediate medical attention and surgeries to address their injuries. An example could be a water skier falling into the water and getting too close to the boat’s propeller, resulting in a traumatic amputation of a limb.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a silent threat on boats, especially those with enclosed cabins or inadequate ventilation. Inhaling CO can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death. Prolonged exposure can cause neurological damage. If a family is boating with a malfunctioning generator in an enclosed cabin, they might experience CO poisoning and suffer from headaches and confusion.
Grounding and Submersion
Grounding occurs when a boat runs aground or hits a submerged object, leading to sudden stops. This can result in passengers being thrown about the vessel, causing injuries like broken bones, concussions, and contusions. In cases where boats partially submerge, victims may experience hypothermia if exposed to cold water for an extended period. For instance, if a boat hits a sandbar because of navigational errors, passengers might collide with the boat’s interior, leading to various injuries.
Boat sinking can happen because of various factors, such as leaks, storms, or structural failures. Injuries from sinking include drowning, hypothermia, and injuries sustained during evacuation attempts. Victims may also experience emotional distress from the traumatic event. For example, if a fishing boat starts taking on water because of a breach in the hull, passengers might need to abandon ship and could sustain injuries while jumping into the water.
Weather-related accidents encompass a range of scenarios, including storms, lightning strikes, and strong winds. Injuries can result from being struck by lightning, getting caught in turbulent waters, or being hit by flying debris. Victims might suffer from electrical burns, fractures, or injuries from being thrown around the boat. If a sailing boat is caught in a sudden storm, passengers could be tossed about the deck and sustain injuries from impacts.
Call Our Florida Boating Accident Attorney for a Free Consult
If you received injuries in a boating accident, don’t hesitate to report your accident to the authorities. After that, call our Tampa boat accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind for help getting compensation and damages for your maritime injuries. Call us at (305) 204-5369 right away to get started.