Our South Florida injury lawyers recently handled a boat accident case in Pompano Beach, where a catamaran flipped, resulting in a drowning. We recently settled a Delray Beach, Florida wave runner/personal watercraft accident between two wave runners that crashed in Lake Ida, resulting in serious life-threatening injuries. Our last jury trial involving a boat accident was a negligence case in Miami Federal Court where a marine mechanic stepped into a hatch cover left open on a yacht. The jury returned a large verdict for in Miami-Dade County Federal Court, where the judge felt the verdict was so high, she reduced it almost in half. The total verdict was close to two million dollars, but was reduced by a percentage of negligence attributed to our client, then further reduced by the trial judge who felt it was too high for our client who did not even have any surgeries. Our injury lawyers handle boating accidents of any kind, not only in the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, but also throughout Florida. As accident lawyers, we handle boating accident cases resulting from drunk boating incidents, recreational boating crashes, boating fires caused by negligent maintenance and other types of boating accidents.
One of the advantages of living in South Florida is having magnificent beaches which allow residents and tourists to choose from a variety of water activities. Among the most popular choices is boating or yachting. The majority of people living in South Florida owns a boat or has a friend, family member, or acquaintance that owns one. In the latest report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida has the highest number of recreational registered vessels than any other state in the nation. In addition, there are approximately 1 million unregistered vessels in Florida. As the number of vessels continues to increase in Florida, there are more possibilities for accidents to occur. Moreover, Florida is the leading state in the nation for boating fatalities and has been for years.
People are not always aware of how boating accidents occur. The FWC indicates several types of accidents that have happened in Florida in 2011. Below are the types of boating accidents that have resulted in fatalities:
- Vessel wake damage
- Struck under water object
- Skier mishap/fall
- Skier hit object
- Fall in boat
- Collision with vessel
- Fire/explosion (fuel)
- Fall on personal watercraft
- Flooding (swamping)
- Collision with fixed object
- Falls overboard (by far the most common type of accident resulting in death)
Boat fires are usually due to negligence from the boat owner or the manufacturer of the boat, and are caused by improper or faulty wiring, A/C heaters, electrical appliances brought onboard, the engine overheating, and fuel leaks. Operators of boats are required to have a fire extinguisher on board to protect individuals. There are 4 different kinds of fire extinguishers that are used to cease a fire and are labeled with a color to differentiate. Red label extinguishers contain water, yellow label extinguishers contain foam, black label extinguishers contain carbon dioxide, and blue label extinguishers contain dry powder. The extinguisher you use depends on what material or liquid started the fire. There are 4 types of fires that may happen on a boat. Type A fires are caused by any material that creates ash such as wood, and should be extinguished with water. Type B fires result from liquids that burn such as gasoline, and require foam to cease the fire. Type C fires are created by electrical components and require carbon dioxide. Type D fires are caused by combustible metals and must be extinguished with dry powder.
Many boat accidents result from drunk driving. In the latest report by the FWC, alcohol use was found as the second cause of boating accidents in Florida. It is important for individuals to know that driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a violation of Florida law and is punishable with fines and imprisonment. If a person driving a boat impaired causes an accident, property damage, injury, or death, the individual has committed a felony.
Injuries sustained in a boat accident can be devastating. The most common injuries reported are lacerations and broken bones. The FWC lists other common boating injuries such as contusions, head, neck, and back injuries, sprains, dislocations, amputations, burns, teeth and jaw injuries, and internal injuries. In 2011, the FWC reported 431 people injured from boating accidents. Other, more serious accidents resulted in death. The same report states 67 fatalities happened as a result of boating accidents. The majority of fatal boat accidents take place at a lake or pond, and happen while the individual or groups of people are cruising. The main cause of boat fatalities is drowning. However, other deaths reported were caused by trauma and hypothermia (the latter, not as likely to occur in Florida, of course).
Individuals that own a boat, are passengers in a boat, or have an interest in boating, need to become familiar with the safety precautions relating to boating. Fortunately, Florida has taken action pertaining to the safety of people operating a boat. It is now Florida law for individuals born on or after January 1, 1988 to complete a boating course and pass it. Upon completion of the course, the individual will receive a Boating Safety Education Identification Card.
Additionally, Florida requires recreational vessels to carry specific safety equipment according to its size (FWC). Another very important but often ignored safety measure is to wear a life jacket. As I’ve already mentioned, most boating fatalities are from drowning, but could be avoided by wearing a life jacket. If you are concerned about the bulkiness or discomfort of a life jacket, consider wearing an inflatable life jacket. They are smaller in size, and just as effective as the traditional life jacket.
If you, a family member, or a friend has been involved in a boating accident, call our South Florida lawyers to see if you are able to file a claim. Even if you are unsure whether or not you have a case, contact our offices today at 1-877-853-7466 for your free consultation and our friendly staff will be more than happy to assist you.