Fort Lauderdale Boat Accident Attorney
Boating is one of the most common recreational activities in Florida, among both residents and visitors alike. Given the year-round warmer temperatures of Fort Lauderdale and the alluring beaches, individuals of all ages and families regularly enjoy time on the water. To be sure, Florida is the state with the highest number of registered boating vessels in the country, with more than 950,000 registered vessels. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), Broward County alone had more than 48,000 vessels registered in 2020. Yet boats can also be involved in serious and deadly accidents. When boat operators are not paying attention or abiding by safety recommendations, or a vessel has a defect, a severe accident can happen.
If you or somebody you love recently suffered injuries in a Florida boat accident, one of the experienced Fort Lauderdale boat accident attorney at our firm can help you to seek the financial compensation you deserve. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to find out more about filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Facts and Figures
Boating accidents can occur on any type of waterway, and they can have many different causes. Although many people safely enjoy boating, thousands of injuries occur every year in boating accidents, as do hundreds of deaths. The following statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2020 recreational boating statistics report helps to clarify the seriousness of boat accidents in Florida and across the country:
- Total of 5,265 boating accidents occurred throughout the country in 2020, with a high number of those accidents happening in Florida given the very high rate of registered vessels;
- 3,191 people sustained injuries in boating accidents in 2020, and 767 people were killed in boating accidents;
- Boating accident fatality rate is 6.5 deaths for every 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which is a 25 percent increase from the 2019 death rate of 5.2 fatalities for every 100,000 recreational vessels registered;
- Recreational boat accidents resulted in more than $62 million in damage to property in 2020;
- Boating activity and accidents rose notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, and boat sale and boating insurance policies have been at an all-time high since mid-2020;
- Accidents on recreational vessels increased by more than 26 percent between 2019 and 2020, the number of deaths rose by more than 25 percent, and the rate of injuries rose by nearly 25 percent;
- Insurance claims for boating accident injuries and damage rose considerably in 2020 in comparison with previous years;
- About 75 percent of boating accident deaths result from drowning, and in 86 percent of these cases the fatality victim was not wearing a life jacket;
- About 80 percent of boaters who drowned were boating on a recreational vessel of less than 21 feet in length;
- Leading cause of deadly boating accidents is alcohol consumption and is responsible for about 18 percent of all boating accident deaths;
- In about 77 percent of all fatal boating accidents, the boat operator had not received any boating safety instruction (and only 12 percent of fatalities happened on boats where the operator had gone through a nationally approved boating safety instruction course);
- Propeller accidents account for a portion of boating accident injuries and deaths, and in 2020 a total of 247 propeller accidents occurred and resulted in 241 injuries and 39 deaths;
- Leading causes of boating accidents include distracted boating, inexperience, improper lookout, speeding, and boat failure;
- Motorboats are involved in about 46 percent of all reported accidents, with personal watercraft accounting for about 22 percent of all accidents and cabin motor boats accounting for 13 percent; and
- Open motorboats are the type of vessel with the highest number of boat accident fatalities at 50 percent, while kayaks account for 15 percent and pontoons for 9 percent.
If you were harmed in a boat accident, a boat accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can help you to understand your options for moving forward with a claim.
How Do Boating Accidents Happen in Fort Lauderdale?
There are many different causes of boating accidents, including but not limited to the following:
- Distracted boating, or inattention while operating a recreational vessel;
- Speeding, including operating a boat at a speed that is too fast for the conditions or operating a boat at a speed beyond the posted limit;
- Improper lookout, which means failing to ensure that you have an unobstructed view of the area around you and continually keeping an eye out for other boats, objects in the water, and swimmers (Florida boating regulations define a proper lookout to mean that “every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sought and hearing conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and the risk of collision”);
- Inexperienced boaters who do not respond appropriately to a dangerous or risky situation, such as rapidly oncoming inclement weather or encountering a condition on the water;
- Machinery failure, which can involve any mechanical problem with the boat or any defect in the boat or one of its components that leads to an accident; and
- Alcohol or drug consumption by the boat operator.
When you are operating a boat, it is essential to take precautions and to maintain a safe operation of the vessel at all times. This means avoiding any kind of distractions while you are on the water, learning how to operate a boat safely in advance of taking a vessel out, never boating when weather conditions look hazardous, maintaining a proper speed, and avoiding any alcohol or intoxicating drugs before you operate the vessel. When a boating operator fails to operate a boat in a reasonably safe manner, that boating operator can be liable for injuries in an accident.
Tips for Safe Boating in Florida
What can you do to stay safe while you are out on the water in South Florida? The following are tips from the National Safety Council (NSC):
- Always wear a life jacket, and require anybody on your boat to wear a life jacket as well, recognizing that even good swimmers need a life jacket;
- Ensure that all life jackets are the appropriate size for the person’s size and weight, and that they are properly fastened;
- Take a nationally recognizing boating education course in order to learn the rules of boating and how to safely maintain a vessel;
- Have a vessel safety check done on your boat routinely to ensure that it is safe for operation;
- Make a pre-departure checklist to be certain that you have all necessary safety equipment on your vessel, such as a first-aid kit and a tool kit;
- File a float plan with a person you trust so that you can be located if an accident does happen;
- Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen for boating, and know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness;
- Never consume alcohol before you operate a boat, recognizing that even a single beer or glass of wine can affect your judgment and vision and coordination, especially on the water;
- Rely on common sense when you are on the water, and never put your vessel in a risky situation;
- If you see any signs of a storm coming or inclement weather approaches, such as increased wind speed or a drop in temperature, get off the water as soon as possible; and
- Know how to minimize injury risks if your vessel will be involved in water skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding.
Who is Liable for Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Injuries?
Many different parties may be liable for boat accident injuries in Fort Lauderdale, including but not limited to the following:
- Boat operator;
- Boat owner;
- Passenger on the boat;
- Rental company that leased the boat;
- Mechanic who serviced the vessel or recently made repair;
- Designer of the boat or one of its components; or
- Manufacturer of the boat or one of its components.
Damages in Your Boat Accident Claim in Fort Lauderdale
If you are injured in a boating accident in Florida, you may be able to obtain two types of compensatory damages, both of which are intended to compensate you for your losses:
- Economic damages, which can compensate you for objective monetary losses; and
- Non-economic damages, which can compensate you for more subjective losses that are tied to your particular experience and facts of the case, like pain and suffering.
When you file a lawsuit, you may be able to settle your case if the defendant is willing to make a reasonable settlement offer. If you accept a settlement, you will not have to go to trial and can obtain compensation faster, saving you time and money.
In some cases, it may be possible to obtain punitive damages. A defendant can be responsible for punitive damages, which are designed to punish especially harmful behavior and to discourage such behavior in the future, if the plaintiff can show that the defendant “Was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” Florida law defines intentional misconduct to mean that “the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.”
Most boat accident cases in which punitive damages will be awarded, however, will involve gross negligence. Florida law defines gross negligence to mean that “the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”
Comparative Fault and Fort Lauderdale Boat Accidents
In some boat accident cases, the defendant may raise the affirmative defense of comparative fault by arguing that you are also partially to blame for the accident or for the severity of your injuries. While states vary widely in comparative fault and contributory negligence laws, Florida follows a “pure comparative fault” rule. What this means is that, even if the court does decide that you are partially at fault, you will still recover damages. However, your damages award will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Statute of Limitations for a Boat Accident Lawsuit in Florida
Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for most boat accident lawsuits is four years. What this means is that you will have four years from the date of the boat accident to file a lawsuit. After that date, your case will become time-barred and you will not be able to obtain compensation by filing a civil lawsuit.
Although you might think four years is a long time and that you do not need to rush to get your lawsuit filed, it is important to remember that evidence can be lost in your case if you do not move quickly, and witness statements might not be as powerful if they cannot be considered soon after the accident. Further, time tends to pass quicker than you expect, and if you begin the boat accident claims process by filing an insurance claim, you can be waiting months or longer before that claim is resolved and you know whether or not you will need to file a lawsuit. It is best to seek advice from a boat accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale as soon as possible to ensure that your lawsuit is filed in a timely manner.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Attorney
Were you injured in a boating accident in Florida, or was a loved one recently harmed in a boat accident? It is critical to begin learning about your options for seeking financial compensation. While boating can be an enjoyable recreational pastime in Fort Lauderdale throughout the year, it can also be an extremely dangerous activity. Regardless of whether you are a Florida resident and sustained injuries in a boat accident or got hurt while you were on vacation here, it is essential to seek advice from a Fort Lauderdale boat accident lawyer about filing a claim.
Our firm can evaluate your case for you today and help you to determine who may be responsible for compensating you for your losses. Contact Boone & Davis for more information about the services we provide.