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April 17, 2017

Boating accidents happen all the time. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,158 recreational boating accidents in 2015. These resulted in 2,613 injuries, 626 deaths, and roughly $42 million in property damage.

Many of these accidents were caused by operator negligence.  Negligence in a boating accident can result in spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and wrongful death.

If you’ve been in a boating accident, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries.  Contact Heintz & Becker and schedule a free consultation with one of our boat accident attorneys.

Types of Boating Negligence

To determine if the boat’s driver was negligent, you need to understand what constitutes negligence in a boating accident.  According to Florida law, there are two ways a boat operator is negligent: reckless operation and careless operation.

Reckless operation is when the boat’s driver disregards the safety of others. People found guilty of reckless operation are charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and can be punished by a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Careless operation is when a boat operator doesn’t obey boating laws or operate their vessel in a reasonable manner. Under Florida law, careless operation is a “noncriminal violation” subject to fines.

A lot of the negligence in boating accidents can be attributed to lack of training. According to the Coast Guard, 71 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the driver didn’t have any safety training.

Examples of Negligence in Boating Accidents

There are plenty of ways a boat operator can be negligent. Below are some of the most common types of negligence we see as boating accident attorneys.

Boating Under the Influence

Driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Florida and one of the top causes of a boat accident. Those suspected of impaired boating must take a sobriety test or blood test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). A boat operator who refuses to take these tests can have their boating and driving privileges revoked.

Boat drivers over the age of 21 are considered under the influence if their BAC is .08 or higher. Operators under 21 are considered intoxicated if their BAC is .02 or higher. Like DUIs, people boating under the influence are subject to fines, jail time, and/or probation.

Colliding with Another Boat

If two boats collide, it is possible for both operators to be at-fault. While collisions are rare, often they can be attributed to distracted driving, poor visibility or drunk boating.

Colliding with a Submerged or Unseen Object

Even when visibility is good, boats can collide with things hiding under the water’s surface. The impact between the boat and submerged object could cause a violent jolt that can inflict injuries on their passengers.

Hitting Another Boat’s Wake

A wake is the wave a boat makes as it passes through the water. Hitting a wake the wrong way can cause a boat to rock violently, tossing passengers overboard or capsizing.

Unfortunately, a boat operator’s ability to avoid a wake depends on their environment. Factors like wake size, nearby boat traffic, and boat speed can reduce a driver’s ability to avoid a large wake.

Hitting Large Waves

Like wakes, waves can cause passengers to be tossed overboard. If the operator of the vessel you are on went out in bad weather or poor conditions, they can be charged with negligence.

Failure to Supply Required Safety Equipment

Every boat in Florida has to have certain safety equipment on board at all times. This includes a life jacket for each passenger, life rings, navigational lights, flares, whistles, and fire extinguishers.

If there is an accident, the boat owner could be held liable for not having the right safety equipment.

Operator Error

We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, a small mistake can lead to severe injuries. Boat operators must avoid situations where their actions can cause injuries. This includes things like:

  • Making sure no swimmers or divers are near the boat’s propeller
  • Not speeding in congested areas
  • Obtaining the proper training and boating certifications
  • Avoiding distractions while operating a vessel

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Negligent Boat Operator

If you were injured or a loved one was killed by a negligent boat operator, you can file a lawsuit to cover damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But you need to act fast as time is not on your side.

Statutes of Limitation differ under maritime law for making claims against a negligent boat operator. When combined with…the fact that it can be difficult to prove negligence, hiring a boat accident attorney is the best way to make sure you get the settlement you deserve. Contact the boat accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker to schedule your free consultation – 941-748-2916.


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