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How Comparative Fault Applies to Florida Boating Accidents

Boating Accidents

When you get injured in a boating accident in Florida, proving that someone else was at fault is key for recovering your losses. So, what happens if you are partially to blame for your injuries?

In this scenario, Florida’s comparative fault law applies. This law changed in 2023; and, unfortunately, the change is not favorable for accident victims. But, boating accident victims who are partially to blame for their injuries can still recover just compensation in some cases—and an experienced lawyer can help you make informed decisions about whether to pursue a claim.

What Boating Accident Victims Need to Know About Florida’s New “Modified Comparative Fault” Law

In March 2023, Florida adopted a new “modified comparative fault” law. Previously, accident victims in Florida could file a claim regardless of how much they were to blame for their own injuries (as long as they were not 100 percent at fault). But, under Florida’s new law, accident victims can only file a claim if their percentage of fault is 50 percent or less.

Under Florida’s modified comparative fault law, the amount boating accident victims can recover is reduced based on their percentage of fault (up to the 50-percent limit). Here are some examples:

  • If a boater is 10 percent at fault, the boater can recover 90 percent of his or her losses.
  • If a boater is 50 percent at fault, the boater can recover 50 percent of his or her losses.
  • If a boater is 51 percent at fault (or more), the boater is not entitled to any financial compensation.

As you can see, even one percent can now make a huge difference. This means that the insurance companies will often push to blame boating accident victims for their injuries—and it is up to victims to ensure that they receive the financial compensation they deserve.

What Constitutes Partial Fault in a Florida Boating Accident?

This raises an important question: What constitutes partial fault in a Florida boating accident?

Establishing fault for a boating accident requires proof of negligence. While being negligent generally means making a mistake, not all mistakes rise to the level of negligence under Florida law.

As a result, no matter what happened, it is important not to make any assumptions about your legal rights. Determining who was at fault in a boating accident requires a comprehensive investigation. Even if you think you were partially to blame, a comprehensive investigation may reveal that you would have been injured regardless of what you were doing when the accident occurred. Or, even if you were partially responsible, your fault may have only played a small part in the collision.

The following are all common examples of factors that may give the insurance companies grounds to argue that you were partially at fault in your boating accident:

  • Boating under the influence
  • Boating while distracted (i.e., while texting, navigating or taking photos)
  • Going too fast based on the conditions and boat traffic
  • Failing to stop or turn in time to avoid a collision
  • Failing to observe warning signs or aids to navigation (ATONs)

If an insurance company tries to reduce the value of your claim or deny coverage based on Florida’s modified comparative fault law, this is not the final word on your claim. Once you hire a lawyer to investigate, your lawyer can help you make informed decisions about how much to seek for your accident-related losses. The insurance companies make initial coverage determinations with their own best interests in mind, and they will not hesitate to blame victims even when this blame is unwarranted.

Making Sure You Receive Just Compensation When the Insurance Companies Allege Partial Fault

With all of this in mind, what can you do to make sure you receive just compensation if the insurance companies accuse you of playing a role in your boating accident? Here are five tips for protecting your legal rights:

1. Hire a Boating Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible

To make sure the insurance companies don’t take advantage of you, you will want to hire a boating accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to deal with the insurance companies for you while gathering the evidence needed to prove your legal rights. This costs nothing out-of-pocket, and with contingency-fee representation you pay nothing unless you win.

2. Rely on Your Lawyer to Apply Florida’s Modified Comparative Fault Law

Rather than trusting the insurance companies, you should rely on your lawyer to fairly apply Florida’s modified comparative fault law. Your lawyer will provide an unbiased assessment of your claim and help you make an informed decision about whether it is worth moving forward.

3. Take Care of Yourself and Document the Costs of Your Injuries

While your lawyer is investigating your claim and dealing with the insurance companies, you will need to focus your efforts on taking care of yourself and documenting the costs of your injuries. You should follow your doctor’s advice (or seek a second opinion), and keep all records you receive related to the accident, your treatment, and your time missed from work.

4. Don’t Settle Until You Are Able to Make an Informed Decision

Once you settle with the insurance companies, you can’t go back and ask for more. As a result, it is critical not to settle until you can make an informed decision. This means knowing both: (i) your percentage of fault (if any); and, (ii) the total long-term costs of your boating accident injuries.

5. Show the Insurance Companies You Are Prepared to Go to Court if Necessary

While most successful boating accident claims settle, sometimes victims need to show that they are prepared to fight for the compensation they deserve. With an experienced lawyer on your side, the insurance companies will know that you are prepared to fight, and this will help ensure that they make a good faith determination of comparative fault.

Discuss Your Boating Accident Case with a Florida Boating Accident Lawyer at Searcy Denney for Free

If you need to know more about your legal rights after a boating accident in Florida, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free, no-obligation consultation. call 800-780-8607 or get in touch online to discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. 

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