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Boat Accidents Caused by Reckless Boating

Recover Your Losses with the Help of a Florida Reckless Boating Accident Lawyer

Every boat and vessel operator in Florida has a legal obligation to avoid operating in a careless or reckless manner. Under Florida law, reckless boating is illegal. If an accident is caused by reckless boating it is often up to the victim to prove that the operator was reckless and their negligence caused the accident. Our Florida boat accident lawyers have decades of experience helping accident victims hold reckless operators accountable. If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has been killed due to an accident caused by careless or negligent boating, our Florida reckless boating accident lawyer can make sure you receive the financial compensation you deserve.

Passengers in a Speedboat

What is Reckless Boating According to Florida Law?

Reckless or careless boating in the state of Florida is governed by Florida statute § 327.33. Reckless boating is defined as “operating a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.”  

Reckless operation is punishable by a first-degree misdemeanor. While there are minimal requirements for boater licenses in Florida, operators are still responsible for knowing safe boating practices, the “rules of the road” and Federal Navigation Rules. 

Accidents Caused by Reckless Boating

Whether the operator is boating under the influence or violating personal safety equipment regulations, reckless and careless operation of vessels is not only illegal, but also incredibly dangerous. Some of the most common accidents caused by reckless boating include: 

  • Colliding with another boat
  • Speeding
  • Boating in a restricted or prohibited area
  • Violating federal navigation rules
  • Overcrowding the boat or allowing passengers into restricted areas of the boat
  • Boating under the influence
  • Jumping wakes
  • Colliding with another object
  • Hitting large waves
  • Failure to provide required safety equipment
  • Operator error

The consequences of reckless boating often go beyond a citation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). An accident caused by a reckless operator can have life-changing consequences. 

Searcy Denney Florida boat accident lawyer, Greg Barnhart, represented a teenager who was partially paralyzed during a high school homecoming party on a 34-foot fishing boat off of Peanut Island in Palm Beach County. Barnhart took this case to trial after two failed mediations, and a jury awarded a $6.4 million verdict against the boat’s operators and owners for their negligence.

Off-Throttle Personal Watercraft (PWC) Accidents

A common cause of on-the-water accidents involving personal watercraft (PWCs) is a lack of experience with the way these vessels steer. To steer a jet ski, the throttle must be engaged. When a jet ski operator turns the handlebars, this turns the jet nozzle under the watercraft—and aiming the nozzle in one direction or the other causes the PWC to change course. Without the throttle, there is no water flowing through the nozzle, which means the PWC operator cannot turn in either direction.

Many inexperienced PWC operators – including nearly all renters – are unaware that this is how jet skis work. In addition, many experienced PWC operators lack practice operating their jet skis in emergency scenarios. This, combined with the fact that many people operate jet skis much faster than they should, often leads to dangerous accidents when jet ski operators encounter other vessels on the water.

In many cases, jet ski operators will crash into other vessels head-on. When this happens, it is often because the operator went off-throttle before attempting to steer. Operating a PWC without a clear understanding of how it steers is reckless; and when operators don’t know how to avoid accidents, they can – and should – be held accountable.

Capsizing Accidents

From speeding to hitting large waves, and from overcrowding boats to jumping wakes, various types of reckless boating can lead to capsizing accidents. For obvious reasons, these accidents can be incredibly dangerous, and they will often present life-threatening scenarios.

This is true both onshore and offshore. Onshore, capsizing accidents present risks for being knocked unconscious in the water, getting caught in underwater hazards such as discarded fishing nets, propeller strikes, and being struck by other vessels. These same risks exist offshore, but they can be magnified if there are no other vessels in the vicinity or if the boat’s captain cannot radio for help. Failure to equip vessels with personal floatation devices (PFDs), throwables, and inflatable life rafts is another common form of recklessness that can lead to avoidable emergencies in capsizing accidents.

When pursuing a claim for a capsizing accident, it is necessary to identify the specific form of recklessness that caused the vessel to go under. It is important to consider other factors, such as defective boat design, as well. Depending on the circumstances involved, multiple parties could be liable, and victims and their families need to know the specific factor (or factors) that are responsible for their accident-related losses. At Searcy Denney, we have experience handling all types of serious and fatal boat accident cases, and we can use this experience to investigate and prove liability for your (or your loved one’s) capsizing accident in Florida.

Canoeing and Kayaking Accidents

Reckless boating is a common factor in canoeing and kayaking accidents in Florida’s inland waterways. Paddlers have the same rights (and most of the same obligations) as other vessel operators, and motorboat operators have a legal obligation to avoid putting canoers and kayakers in harm’s way.

Unfortunately, many boaters ignore the risks that they present to canoers and kayakers. They navigate dangerously close to paddlers, and they put out wakes that can easily cause canoes and kayaks to tip over.

Given the risks that reckless boaters present, canoers and kayakers should do everything they can to keep themselves safe on the water. Unfortunately, even the following steps won’t always be enough to keep paddlers out of harm’s way:

  • Wear a PFD – While Florida law only requires canoers and kayakers to have a suitable PFD on board, it is always a good idea to actually wear a PFD. If a reckless boater causes you to capsize, you might not be able to collect your PFD from your boat’s bulkhead or from the water.
  • Make Yourself Visible – This is especially important when paddling at daybreak or during sunset. The more visible you can make yourself to other boaters, the less likely these boaters will be to collide with your vessel or send a big wake in your direction.
  • Paddle Within Your Limits – If you aren’t comfortable paddling around motorized vessels or in two to three-foot swells, then avoid highly trafficked areas near the ocean. Never intentionally put yourself in a situation that you cannot escape on your own.
  • Inspect Your Canoe or Kayak – Before hitting the water, inspect your canoe or kayak to make sure it is seaworthy. You do not want to be taking on water when trying to paddle in the vicinity of motorized vessels.
  • Check the Weather and Water Conditions Before You Go – Like all boaters, canoers and kayakers should always check the forecast before hitting the water. If you decide to go out, make sure you know what to expect and plan accordingly.

Working with Searcy Denney

If you were injured as a result of a vessel operator’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. To increase the likelihood that you will recover all available damages, take the following steps as soon as possible after an accident:

  1. Safety: Ensure you and all parties involved are safe and seek medical attention if needed. 
  2. Report the Accident: Boating accidents resulting in serious injury, death, or damage to the vessel(s) and/or personal property of at least $2,000, must be reported. 
  3. Gather Information: Record all details of the accident and take photos, get personal as well as insurance information from the boat operator. 
  4. Keep Records: Keep detailed records of all medical bills and other financial costs associated with your injuries. 

Compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages all depend on a variety of factors. Our lawyers can determine the options available to you and the possible ways that you can receive compensation for your injuries. 

Speak with a Florida Reckless Boating Accident Lawyer at Searcy Denney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a watercraft accident caused by reckless boating, we are available to talk with you, give you a realistic assessment of your claim, and help you pursue justice. Contact us online or call us to schedule an appointment for a free, confidential consultation with our Florida boat accident lawyers.


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