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Boating/Watercraft Accidents


No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing

Florida Injury Law Firm with Boat Accident Know-How


Floridians are surrounded by bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast, the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast, and numerous lakes, rivers and canals in between. So it’s no wonder that on weekends, sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats, jet skis, kayaks and other watercraft crowd these waters.

Along with the thrill of sun, water, and wind at your back, however, lurk the dangers posed by negligent or reckless watercraft operators. A poorly maintained or malfunctioning boat or an inexperienced or inattentive operator can cause catastrophic injuries and elevate the risk of drowning for boaters and swimmers.

Spinal cord and back injuries, brain damage and other catastrophic consequences of boating accidents can change victims’ lives forever and impose a substantial emotional and financial burden on families. Watercraft accident victims face significant medical expenses and rehabilitation costs and many are never able to work again.

West Palm Beach Accident Lawyers Not Afraid to Go to Trial

Our West Palm Beach personal injury law firm has more than 40 years of experience holding negligent parties responsible for their actions in boating and watercraft accidents.

In just one example, personal injury attorney Greg Barnhart represented a teenager who was partially paralyzed when a group of high school friends celebrating homecoming took a 34-foot fishing boat out to party off of Peanut Island in Palm Beach County.  When they decided to head the boat into the Atlantic Ocean, the drivers – the boat owners’ teenage son and his friend – pushed the throttles down and, after riding up a huge wave, the boat dropped precipitously.  Another young man, who was sitting on the bow, was thrust into the air and crash landed hard on the deck.


Tragically, when the boat returned to shore, neither the boat occupants nor the boat owners acted quickly to seek medical attention for the injured young man. Ultimately, he underwent surgery to remove fragmented bones from his spinal cord and four more painful surgeries. Now he will have to live with permanent spine damage the rest of his life.

After two failed mediations, personal injury attorney Barnhart took this case to trial and a jury awarded a $6.4 million verdict against the boat’s operators and owners for their negligence.

Boating in Florida:  Accidents Up, Fatalities Down

Florida leads the country in registered vessels, and had more fatalities and injuries in 2015 than any other state.

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports 915,713 registered boating vessels in 2015.
  • There were 737 boating accidents in 2015 – 103 more than in 2014 – but fatalities decreased about 25%.
  • In 2015, 62 boat operators and passengers were killed and another 438 were injured.
  • Drowning was the number one cause of death; about 87% of boaters killed were not wearing life jackets.

Common Causes of Boating/Watercraft Accidents

Unlike on public streets and highways, bodies of water do not have clearly marked traffic lanes or signals and signs that can help boaters avoid collisions and potential safety hazards. So it is the responsibility of watercraft owners, operators and passengers to be well-informed and to exercise good judgment to keep themselves safe on the water. 

Some of the most common causes of watercraft accidents include:

  • Operator inexperience
  • Operator inattention
  • Reckless operation
  • Speeding
  • Weather and water conditions
  • Unsafe behavior of passengers
  • Equipment failure
  • Congested waterways
  • Drug or alcohol use

Florida has strictly enforced laws in place to help prevent operator behaviors that can result in deaths and injuries. Boating operators who ignore the posted speed and waste limits, do not pay attention to other traffic on the water, or disobey other navigation rules can be punished by fine or even imprisonment. “Boating under the influence” is a serious offense: Operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher risks fines from $500 to $2,000 and, for multiple offenses, could mean up to five years in prison.

Life jacket. Old rescue object for safe on wooden background.Florida Personal Injury Attorneys Will Fight for You

We are fortunate to live and practice along the Atlantic coast where, like many Floridians, our attorneys and staff enjoy boating and water sports. So we feel we have a vested interest in helping victims and their families who have been involved in serious boating accidents. Our West Palm Beach law firm is skilled at investigating and litigating personal injury cases.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a watercraft accident, we are available to talk with you, give you a realistic assessment of your claim, and help you pursue justice. Please fill out our Contact Form, or do not hesitate to call our intake staff at 1-800-780-8607 to schedule an appointment for a free, confidential consultation.

Vehicle Accidents


Our Fee Promise: No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing.

A Florida personal injury firm committed to giving it our all.

Call us: 800-780-8607free initial consultation

West Palm Beach

Searcy Denney 2139 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33409-6601
Toll-free: (800) 780-8607
Phone: (561) 686-6300
En Espanol: (800) 220-7006


Searcy Denney The Towle House, 517 N. Calhoun St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301-1231
Toll-free: (888) 549-7011
Phone: (850) 224-7600
En Espanol: (800) 220-7006

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Personal injury attorneys with a passion for justice.

Searcly Law

Our Fee Promise: No Recovery
You Owe Us Nothing.

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