Boating claims for personal injuries in Florida

The United States Coast Guard has stated that there are 4,000 boating accidents which kill or injure people each year, resulting in thousands of boating insurance claims being filed. Covering the costs of a personal injury can be high – medical bills, prescription medicines, lost wages and not forgetting the pain and emotional stress.

Personal injuries caused by boating have resulted in fatalities so it is important to be aware of how they are caused and the most likely injuries to be sustained.

Personal injury claims from boating accidents

  • Collisions with boats and other watercraft, piers, buoys and sandbars
    • The number of boats on the water is increasing every year,  so is the probability of collisions
  • Improper anchoring
    • Inexperienced people can drop anchors from the wrong side which could potentially capsize a vessel if weight distribution of passengers and cargo is not managed correctly
  • Fires
    • Fires can occur from faulty, old or non-insulated wiring, spilled gasoline, fuel leaks and an overheating engine as well as appliances that aren’t correctly grounded
  • Damaged hulls
    • Damages to the hull can be hard to spot if they are underwater. This can result in the boat taking on water, capsizing, sinking or flooding. Damage to the hull is caused by colliding with other boats, piers of any solid object
  • Falls on-board or overboard
    • Excessive speed, careless manoeuvring or bad weather conditions makes the boat unsteady which could result in them falling over or tossing them over board
  • Suction into driveshaft or propellers
    • Outboard engines have exposed propellers or props which means if a person in the water gets too close to the rear, they could get sucked in by the engine.

There are many reasons why these accidents may occur. Unsurprisingly, the most common cause of boating accidents is driver intoxication. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, “an intoxicated boat operator is 5 times more likely to cause a collision with another watercraft.”

Just like on the roads, speeding is another crucial factor in boating safety. Unlike cars, boats don’t have brakes! Gauging the amount of time a boat takes to stop is almost impossible for most drivers due to many contributing factors. Manoeuvring too sharply or even stopping too quickly can easily injure passengers or damage the boat.

Distracted drivers will not be able to identify dangers quick enough to avoid them. Being distracted by things such as cell phones, loud music, taking photos can inhibit them from hearing or spotting approaching boats and other objects.

If a boat brakes down for any reason anyone aboard could be exposed to numerous dangers. If there are extreme weather conditions (hot or cold) they could suffer heat or cold injuries such as dehydration, sun stroke, hypothermia or frost bite which are all extremely serious.

Bad weather and overloading of passengers is a major cause of boating accidents. It is important to be well aware of how all of these factors could potentially cause accidents if you are to have any chance in avoiding them. Inexperienced drivers of boats are likely to take risks due to their sheer lack of experience and knowledge.

In Florida anyone born on or after 1st January 1988 must have a boating safety education ID card to legally operate a boat in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have details on how to get this as well as everything you will need to know about boating safely. The United States Coast Guard even has a monthly boating safety quiz on its website (http://www.boatingmag.com/boatingsafety/boating-safety-quiz)

XXXXXXX a personal injury firm Ocala, Florida says…

“The driver of the boat automatically assumes responsibility for the health and welfare of his passengers with the law placing a legal duty of care upon him to operate his boat safely at all times. Failure to do this means he is negligent when operating his boat. If you have been involved in a boating accident you may be able to claim for financial loss and suffering.”

To do so, gather the evidence you need to support any such claim by taking photos. As most of us have cell phones with cameras on this is now more possible than ever.

If the incident was serious enough for the police or coast guard to be involved, make sure you get the service number of the report. Witness statements will also prove useful so gather as many as possible including their contact details. Perhaps the most important piece of evidence are your medical records so always ask for copies and a written prognosis from your health practitioner.

To determine whether or not you will need a lawyer or attorney first you need to determine the seriousness of your injuries. With personal injuries such as cuts, bruises, scrapes, minor burns or whiplash you can probably handle your own boat insurance claim. However, more serious injuries such as broken bones, second/ third degree burns, scarring, amputations, etc. you will need an attorney.

If in doubt we recommend seeking legal advice. To help you determine the complexity of the case, most attorneys offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your claim.

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