Boating is a popular activity in West Palm Beach, thanks to its location along the Intracoastal waterway, access to the Atlantic Ocean, and a climate that makes hitting the water possible year-round. With boats, unfortunately, also comes the risk of a wide range of boat accidents that range from the seemingly minor to the devastating and even fatal.
At Searcy Denney, our attorneys have been helping people injured in boat accidents in West Palm Beach and across Florida for decades. A West Palm Beach boat accident lawyer at our firm will help you understand your rights and explore your options for seeking compensation for your injury. We are seasoned litigators and accomplished negotiators with a track record of success in the courtroom and through negotiated settlements.
Why Boating Accidents Happen in Florida and Elsewhere Throughout the Country
With some 1 million boats registered across Florida and more than 11,000 miles of river and 3,500 miles of coastline to explore, it is no surprise that accidents involving boats can and do happen. An experienced West Palm Beach boat accident attorney will tell you, however, that many of these mishaps can be prevented.
The top five primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents across the country, according to the U.S Coast Guard are:
- Operator inattention
- Improper lookout
- Operator inexperience
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol use
- Machinery failure
- Navigation rules violation
- Hazardous waters
- Force of wave
Lack of operator training and drinking and boating are particularly dangerous threats, the Coast Guard data show. Some 70% of fatal boating accidents involve vessels for which the operator had not received boating safety instruction. Meanwhile, alcohol is the primary factor in nearly a quarter (23%) of boating accidents that result in death across the country.
The statistics also detail just how important it is for people to wear life jackets. More than 82% of all drowning deaths in boat accidents involve people who are not wearing a safety vest.
Speed and Reckless Boating Kills
Unlike cars and other vehicles, boats do not have brakes. That means they can be difficult to stop when moving at high speeds, especially when the person operating the vessel is inexperienced, not properly trained, or intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
Speeding also makes it harder to react to avoid hazards, whether it is another boat, swimmers, or objects that could cause serious damage to the boat. High speeds additionally make it more difficult for passengers to maintain their balance and footing, increasing the risk that a person is thrown overboard.
Although speeding is a common mistake, it is not the only example of reckless boating. Whether an operator is distracted, inexperienced, or just plain does not care about safe boating and following navigational rules, it can have devastating consequences. Ignoring “no wake” zones, overlooking weather reports, overloading the boat, failing to properly drop anchor and operating hazardously in difficult weather conditions can have tragic results.
When a reckless operator causes an accident or fatality, those injured have the right to seek compensation from the person, his or her insurer, and others who may be liable for the crash. A West Palm Beach boating accident lawyer at Searcy Denney can help with your case based on your specific situation.
Our West Palm Beach Boat Accident Lawyer Explains Why Boat Maintenance Matters
Boat maintenance issues are another form of human error that can lead to tragedy at sea. Keeping a vessel safe and seaworthy requires a lot of work, including regular inspection and maintenance. When problems go unnoticed or unattended, they can result in a wide range of accidents, from engine failure that causes a motorboat to stall to faulty railings that result in passengers falling overboard.
A West Palm Beach boating accident attorney will tell you that certain breakdowns are an almost sure sign of poor maintenance. Some common problems caused by inadequate boat upkeep include:
- Loss of engine power: Do you have fuel in the tank? If so, loss of engine power is likely due to a filter or plug problem. Make sure you have extra fuel and make sure that it is not old. Leaving a tank near empty for long periods of time can cause condensation and water in the gas.
- Engine will not shift into gear: If the boat will not move beyond idle speed, it may be a problem with a broken or lodged linkage. It is vital to keep fluid levels topped off and to periodically inspect and service cables.
- Rising water inside the boat: Unless you forgot to insert the transom drain plug, this is likely the result of a busted hose, which must be patched or replaced. Hoses should be periodically inspected and replaced.
- Shoddy steering: This is usually a result of the steering system being low on hydraulic fluid or a leak in the fluid container. Be sure to check fluid levels regularly.
- No Gas: The top reason that boats call for towing assistance is that they run out of fuel.
There are some basic maintenance steps that all boat operators should take to ensure that their vessels are in good working order.
It starts with doing a vessel checkup before departure, ensuring that all equipment is working properly and has been adequately lubricated and that rigging is sufficiently secure. Operators should also ensure that they have critical spare parts aboard the boat and the tools needed to make repairs in the event of an emergency. Top off your tank and make sure that you have more than the amount of fuel that you will need.
It is also a good idea to know some basics about navigation. Although technology has made a wide range of tools available for safely getting a boat from its origin to its destination, it never hurts to know how to do it without those tools if the need ever arises.
Getting Compensation for Boat Accident Injuries
Anyone who is injured in a boating accident in Florida has the right to seek compensation from those responsible for the accident.
Money damages are generally intended to put an injured person back in the financial position that he or she was in before the accident. They often include compensation for current and future medical bills related to the injuries, as well as money for missed wages, property damage, and any reduction in earning capacity resulting from the injuries. In some cases, additional compensation may be available for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
In the tragic situation in which a person dies in a boating accident, his or her loved ones can seek similar compensation for wrongful death. A lawsuit will never bring back your loved one, but it can help family members ease some of the financial stress that often comes with a fatal accident.
There are a number of different people and entities that may be responsible for a boating accident. A West Palm Beach boat accident lawyer will tell you that some of the most common defendants in these cases include:
- Boat operators: The person who was (or was supposed to be) at the helm at the time of the accident is often to blame, whether it is because of inattention or error.
- Boat owners: When an owner allows someone to operate a vessel despite signs that the person is not competent to do so safely, he or she is likely on the hook for any accidents that happen as a result.
- Charter boat companies, cruise operators: Companies that offer boating trips are vicariously liable for the negligence and actions of their employees.
- Boat manufacturers: The company that produces the vessel may be liable if the accident was caused at least in part by a defect in the design or manufacturing of the boat.
- Equipment manufacturers: Whether it is a faulty part or malfunctioning life jackets, manufacturers whose products cause an accident or make it worse are legally liable for the injuries that occur as a result.
- Passengers: Passengers who engage in risky behavior put everyone on a boat at risk. They also make themselves potentially liable for any accidents.
A seasoned West Palm Beach boat accident attorney at Searcy Denney will help you identify those responsible for the crash. Our lawyers will also build the strongest possible claim for compensation to maximize your money damages.
How a West Palm Beach Boat Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident in Florida, an experienced West Palm Beach boating accident lawyer at Searcy Denney can help you get back on your feet with the full compensation available under the law.
Our accident attorneys combine decades of legal experience and have a strong track record of successful results for the people that we represent. We are pleased to be able to offer contingency fee arrangements in which we do not get paid unless you win your case.
Our offices are conveniently located in West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Tallahassee. Call us at 800-780-8607 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a West Palm Beach boat accident attorney today.