If you are injured in a Florida boating accident due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party. This lawsuit can seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Understanding the laws associated with boating accidents in Florida is crucial for victims of these accidents. We explore what you need to know about liability for a boat accident in the Sunshine State.
Contact Klotzman Law Firm for help after a boating accident.
Causes of Florida Boating Accidents
Some of the most common causes of boating accidents in Florida include operator inattention or inexperience, excessive speed, machinery failure, and alcohol use. Notably, Florida boating laws stipulate that operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal, much like driving a motor vehicle under similar circumstances.
Liability for Boating Accidents
Proving fault in a boating accident case is similar to how liability is determined for car accidents. The operator of a boat is responsible for operating it in a safe manner.
Your lawyer needs to prove three crucial elements:
- The boat operator was negligent (such as by violating a regulation or not showing caution).
- This oversight resulted in the accident.
- The plaintiff suffered injury and economic losses due to the accident.
Florida follows a comparative negligence system. Even if a boat accident victim is partially at fault, they can still recover damages, but the amount they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Following tort reform in Florida, you may not recover damages if you are more than 50% at fault.
Who May Be Legally Responsible?
Generally, the following parties might be held liable for a boat accident in Florida.
The person operating the boat is typically responsible for the safe operation of the vessel. If the operator was negligent, reckless, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they could be held liable for the accident.
Owner of the Boat
The owner of the boat may be held liable, especially if they allowed someone to operate their boat who was not competent or properly trained.
If the boat was rented, the rental company could be held liable if they rented the boat to someone without verifying their boating skills or if the boat was not properly maintained.
Manufacturer or Seller
If the accident was caused by a defect in the boat or one of its components, the manufacturer or seller of the boat or part could be held liable under product liability laws.
Parents or Guardians
If the boat operator is a minor, the parents or legal guardians could be held responsible for entrusting their child with a potentially dangerous vehicle without proper supervision.
Florida Boat Accident Laws
Florida has a complex set of boating laws to ensure the safety of both residents and visitors. These laws cover a wide range of areas, including boating safety, insurance requirements, and penalties for violations.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
It is illegal to operate a vessel in Florida with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. Penalties for BUI can include fines, imprisonment, and the suspension of boating privileges.
Boating Safety Act of 2022
The Boating Safety Act of 2022 requires rental companies to secure a permit at no cost from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and it also introduces new regulations.
These are requirements for safety instruction, the establishment and retention of written agreements for a minimum of one year, and the authority of law enforcement to inspect rental facilities and their records.
The legislation also addresses the issue of operating a vessel carelessly, which has been identified as a significant cause of boating accidents. Rental companies are now required to provide enhanced instructions on the safe operation of the vessel.
Reporting Boating Accidents
In Florida, a boating accident must be reported if it results in a death, disappearance, injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or property damage exceeding $2,000.
Boat Insurance Requirements
While the state of Florida does not mandate boat insurance, it is often required by lenders if a boat is used as collateral for a loan. Additionally, many marinas in Florida require boat liability insurance.
Law enforcement agencies, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), patrol Florida’s waterways to enforce boating safety laws and regulations. They can issue citations and fines for violations.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Navigating the aftermath of a Florida boating accident can be a challenging and stressful process, particularly when you’re trying to recover from injuries sustained. An experienced attorney can handle negotiations with insurance companies and represent you in court if needed.