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Home » Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer » Boat Accidents

Boat Accident Attorney
In Tampa

Hurt due to another's negligence? We can help you hold them accountable.

The onset of the pandemic led many Floridians to take up boating as a new hobby. As of March 2022, Florida surpassed the milestone of more than one million boats registered in the state. Not only does Florida lead the country in the number of registered boats, but the Sunshine State also tops the list of states reporting the most boat accidents. In 2020, there were 836 boating accidents in Florida, a 16 percent increase over the previous year. Several factors contribute to boat accidents in Florida:

  • new/Inexperienced boaters
  • intoxicated Boating
  • failure to keep a proper lookout
  • speeding
  • failure to follow navigational rules
  • distracted boating
  • hazardous weather conditions

Florida boating education requirements

With social distancing recommendations in place, more people ventured into the great outdoors in their free time. Many became novice boat operators and took to Florida’s waterways for the first time to enjoy fun in the sun. Florida does not have a formal boating license. Instead, the state requires individuals who meet the minimum age requirement to complete a boating education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Before operating a boat of 10 horsepower or more, the individual is required to have obtained a boating education ID. Out-of-state visitors must show proof of completion of an equivalent course that meets or exceeds Florida’s requirements or show proof of having completed an equivalent boating education exam. Visitors who want to rent a boat may obtain a temporary permit. To rent a boat, individuals must also present a photo ID to verify their identity.

Inexperience as a factor in Tampa boat accidents

Meeting the state’s boating requirements is substantially easier than obtaining a driver’s license or a motorcycle license. Boat operators are not required to have any actual experience on the water before obtaining a boating education ID. Learning safety rules is valuable, but nothing takes the place of handling a boat on the water in real-life water conditions.

People who rent boats are often the most dangerous boat operators on the water. Renters are less likely to fully appreciate the role of safety measures. They may knowingly or unknowingly engage in unsafe maneuvers. New boat operators and boat renters may also be more inclined to speed and inaccurately judge the boat’s stopping distance.

The role of improper lookout In boating accidents

Of the 836 boat accidents that took place in Florida in 2020, 44 percent of the accidents were reportedly caused by the boat operator’s failure to keep a proper lookout. Keeping a proper lookout encompasses more than just observing with the eyes. It means using all of the senses and any other available tools that will help the boat operator continually assess conditions on all sides of the boat and in the water ahead. Boat operators may designate a separate person to be the lookout. However, even in these cases, the boat operator is still responsible for monitoring the water conditions and maintaining safety. When keeping a lookout, the operator must always have an unobstructed view of the waters over the bow, starboards, and sides. Boat operators must watch out for swimmers, personal watercraft, other boats, skiers, debris, tree stumps, bars, buoys, docks, and anything else with which the boat may collide. The operator should also watch behind the boat for other boats that may be approaching.

Keeping a proper lookout goes a long way toward preventing Tampa boat accidents. If a boat operator fails to maintain a proper lookout and causes an accident, an injured party may file a claim against the boat operator to receive compensation for his or her injuries.

Boating while under the influence

Boating while intoxicated can be as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When people travel onto the waterways for leisure, being away from the land creates a sense of freedom and leisure. Boaters sometimes drink and abuse drugs as part of the leisurely environment that often exists on boats. However, being under the influence increases the risk of an accident happening. An intoxicated boat operator cannot keep a proper lookout. He or she will also likely have an altered response time to changing water conditions or hazards that may emerge. Drinking and doing drugs also makes it more difficult to follow the navigational rules.

People are sometimes more inclined to boat under the influence based on the belief that the absence of lanes, speed limits, and potholes makes boating safer. However, boating while under the influence can be even more disorienting than driving while under the influence. In addition to the impact drugs and alcohol have on the brain, the wind, water, sounds, and vibration of a boat can increase the feeling of being intoxicated and further distort perception and balance.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drugs or alcohol play a role in approximately half of all boating accidents. In addition to being liable in civil court for injuries caused by boating while under the influence, intoxicated boat operators who cause an accident may also face criminal charges under Florida’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law.

The role of speeding in Tampa boat accidents

Similar to driving, speeding is also a common factor in boating accidents. Speeding can feel especially thrilling on the water. The perceived absence of traffic can make speeding on the water seem safer than speeding in a car. Nevertheless, conditions on the water can change quickly, and there may be hazards that are not readily visible at first glance. Some underwater obstacles do not become more visible until you approach the object. Maneuvering a boat to avoid an obstacle is more difficult than turning a car. Boats that are traveling too fast can catch onto underwater rocks and stop abruptly. The force of the sudden stop can injure the people onboard and also damage the boat itself. Speeding on a boat at night is especially dangerous. Decreased nighttime visibility means a boat operator may not be able to see objects as easily that would be more readily visible in the daytime. There may also be inoperable boats that are not brightly lit and are more difficult to see at night.

If speeding is a factor in a boating accident that causes injury, the injured party may file a claim against the boat operator who behaved negligently by traveling too fast. A Tampa personal injury lawyer can help the accident victim gather the necessary evidence to build a personal injury case.

Accidents caused by distracted boating

Boating operator distraction is one the most common causes of Florida boating accidents. Because boating is a social activity for most people, it is very easy for boating hobbyists to become distracted. Cell phones often play a role in distracted boating accidents. Boating industry trends of marketing vessels as smart device-friendly is expected to increase the trend of mobile device distraction on boats. However, technology is not the only distraction on the water. Boat operators may be busy entertaining guests, engaging in conversation, or reacting to the behavior of others on the boat. Eating and drinking while operating a boat can also be distracting. Distraction is especially dangerous among newer boaters who do not have extensive experience on the water. These boat operators often have not fully learned that operating a boat differs immensely from operating a vehicle on the road.

An attorney for accident victims who are injured in a distracted boating accident may call upon witnesses to recount their observations of the negligent boat operator using a mobile device or interacting with passengers at the time of the accident. If the boat operator is found to have been distracted at the time of the accident, the operator will be civilly liable for the accident victim’s injury.

Hazardous conditions in boat accidents

Boat operators are responsible for identifying potential hazards and avoiding them. Weather conditions can change suddenly. Therefore, boat operators should remain vigilant of any changes that may suggest hazardous weather conditions are approaching. Operators must also remain mindful of potentially dangerous mechanical equipment like the propeller. Allowing passengers onto the swimming deck while the engine is running may put passengers at risk of injury from the propeller. Boaters should also be mindful if someone is overboard and turn the engine off when people are in the water.

Overall, operating a boat entails a great deal of responsibility. Not only are boat operators responsible for keeping the people who are onboard safe, but operators must also make reasonable efforts to keep people who are on and in the water safe as well.

Third-party liability in Tampa boating accidents

In some cases, a third party may be liable for accident victims’ injuries in boat accidents. Rental companies, manufacturers, and even passengers may be legally responsible if they behave negligently and if their negligence causes injury.

Passenger liability

A boat passenger may be liable if he or she behaves in a manner that prevents the boat operator from fulfilling his or her duty. For example, a passenger on a party cruise boat may enter a restricted area without authorization and distract the boat operator. If the boat collides with a private vessel and causes injury, the accident victims may file a claim against the boat operator, the company that operates the party cruise service, and the passenger who caused the distraction.

These claims are not limited to collisions caused by commercially-owned and operated vessels. An accident victim may also file a claim against a passenger who behaves negligently on a private boat if his or her conduct causes an accident.

Boat rental liability

Like many states, Florida has relatively minimal requirements for people who would like to operate a boat legally. Nevertheless, boat rental companies are required to verify that boat renters meet the state’s boating education requirement. Therefore, if a rental company does not check for the required IDs or rents a boat to an operator who is underage, the company may be liable if the boat is involved in an accident. Boat rental companies are also required to maintain their rental fleet in safe working condition. If improper maintenance is a factor in an accident, the rental company will likely be liable for the accident victim’s injuries. Rental companies often require renters to sign legal waivers; therefore, determining liability in rental boat accidents can be complicated. A Tampa personal injury lawyer can help accident victims determine who is liable and file a claim for compensation accordingly.

Manufacturing defects

A boat manufacturer may also be liable for certain boating accidents. If a mechanical device on the boat fails and causes an accident, the accident victim may file a claim against the manufacturer. The accident victim must establish the mechanical failure occurred as a result of a defect that occurred when the part was made. Manufacturing defects do not include mechanical failure that occurs as a result of improper maintenance.

Compensation for Tampa boat accident injuries

Individuals who are injured in a Tampa boat accident may receive different types of compensation depending on the nature of their injuries. Whether an accident victim sustains a minor injury or if he or she is injured more severely, the individual may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses. If the accident victim is required to miss work for medical visits or to rest and recover, the injured party may receive compensation for lost wages. In cases that involve very severe injuries including paralysis, partial or full disability, or pain that impacts the individual’s quality of life, the accident victim may also receive compensation for future lost wages and pain and suffering. A Tampa personal injury lawyer can help accident victims determine the types of compensation they may receive in a civil claim. The attorney can also represent the injured party in discussions with insurance companies.

Our personal injury lawyer represents boat accident victims in the Tampa area. Contact us today to receive a free case evaluation. Our staff handles each case with compassion and professionalism.

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