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Florida’s Boating Accident Laws: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe on the Water

05/31/2023
Boating Accidents
BY

Boating is a popular pastime in Florida. While being on the water can lead to a great deal of enjoyment, it can also lead to injuries. Understanding our state’s boating laws can help you to ensure that you stay safe. It can also assist with knowing how to proceed if you have been injured in an accident.

Florida’s Boating Laws and Staying Safe on the Water

There are rules of the water which must be obeyed just as the rules of the road when you are driving a car. Some requirements explicitly spelled out under Florida law, which boat operators must follow, include:

No boating under the influence (BUI) – It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol, just as it is illegal to operate a car while intoxicated. Under Florida law, anyone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is presumed to be intoxicated. In addition to being liable for any accidents caused, a drunk boat operator can be arrested for a crime. The hazards of operating a boat while intoxicated are obvious. The best way to stay out of such a situation is a) to refrain from drinking if you will be operating the boat, and b) to not get on a boat when you know the operator has been, or will be, drinking. 

Required accident reporting – If the operator of a boat is involved in an accident then they are required to report it immediately under certain conditions. These conditions include instances where anyone was injured to a point that they require more than simple first-aid, damage of property equaling more than $2,000, etc. An individual who fails to report an accident faces possible criminal penalties. Furthermore, if a victim’s injuries are worsened due to not receiving immediate treatment, due to an operator’s failure to report, then the operator may be liable for the worsened condition. For obvious reasons, it is important to report any accident which you are involved in. Moreover, if you observe an accident then it is wise to report it even if you were not involved. 

Required boat registration – Boats on the water are required to be registered, similar to a car registration. The registration number is required to be displayed on the boat. Having this registration number appear allows for people to identify a boat which has been in an accident. Just as someone may take the license plate of a car after an accident, it is possible to get a boat’s registration. If you are involved in an accident then, if possible, attempt to get the registration number of the other boat.

Following posted speed limits – Florida’s boating lanes have posted speed limits as do the roads. Operating a boat in excess of these limits can lead to injury, liability, and a criminal charge. If you are operating a boat then ensure that you obey any posted speed limits. If you are a passenger then urge the operator to do the same.

Florida Boat Operators Must Also Exercise a Reasonable Duty of Care

Anyone operating a boat has a duty to exercise reasonable care and to follow reasonable safety precautions. An operator who breaches this duty can be held liable if their breach is the proximate cause of a person’s injuries. While proving that the driver of a car breached their duty of care is often straightforward, matters can be more complicated when it comes to boats. This is due to the fact that the waters are not as readily policed and there typically will not be as many (if any) witnesses. The steps which an attorney will take in any boat accident case, to establish liability, will always depend on the specifics of the situation.

What to do if You Have Been in a Boating Accident

If you have been involved in a boating accident then the first step you should take is to seek immediate medical care. It is important that you go to the hospital, even if you do not believe your injuries to be serious. Some injuries can have symptoms which take time to show and you risk making your condition worse if you do not seek immediate care. Also, you potentially give the defense room to argue that you were not as seriously injured as you now claim. Once you have received care, it is strongly suggested that you discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.

The first step your attorney will take will be to inform the defendant’s insurance company of the representation. This will allow the insurance company to deal directly with counsel while you focus on treating your injuries. Once your long-term prognosis is reasonably known, your lawyer will send a demand for payment to the insurer. The two sides will go back and forth in negotiations and, if a settlement cannot be reached, then counsel will file a lawsuit on your behalf.

Calculating Your Damages in a Boating Accident Case

An injury victim’s compensation in a boating accident case will consist of past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. In a matter involving serious injuries, the compensation for pain and suffering can be substantial. Such injuries can include a traumatic brain injury, neck and spine damage, the loss of a limb, or even a wrongful death. In extreme cases, such as those involving a defendant who was operating a boat while drunk, punitive damages may be appropriate. The determination of damages will always be an issue for the jury and no two cases are the same.

Call a Florida Boating Accident Attorney Today

If you have been injured by another person’s negligence then it is important that you immediately retain representation. Our firm understands that you are dealing with a serious situation and we will make your case a priority. Call us today at 800-780-8607 or contact us online to speak with a Florida boating accident lawyer.

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