Famous for its beaches, great weather, and culture, it is not doesn’t come as a surprise that boating and air boating are among the most popular pastime activities in Fort Lauderdale. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, boating on the southeastern coast of Florida is something you cannot pass on.
And while this activity can be relaxing and exhilarating, it comes with certain risks that can cause fatal accidents.
While nobody goes on a boating trip expecting a mishap, boating accidents are not uncommon and what you expected to be a fun and relaxing day could easily turn into a nightmare.
Boating comes with the risk of drowning among other injuries, and so, boating operators are expected to strictly follow the safety procedures and have their vessels in optimal condition before and during the trip. If they fail to do so and cause an accident, they can be held liable for any injury and losses under maritime law.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident that wasn’t your fault, you have the right to pursue compensation for any losses and injuries sustained. However, maritime law can be complex and the claims process involves a lot of procedures that have to be done right.
This is where a boating accident lawyer comes to the rescue. With their knowledge and experience in the industry, the right boat accident attorney will help you know your rights, understand the legal process and suggest options and strategies for the best outcome.
The team at Klotzman Law Firm has been helping Fort Lauderdale residents protect their rights and seek compensation. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients, helping them lead better lives after being victims of boating accidents. We are dedicated to holding the parties at fault accountable, so do not hesitate to reach out. Call us at [PHONE] to initiate the process.
What are the Common Causes of Boating Accidents
Boating accidents happen due to varying reasons and the exact cause plays a key role in determining the party at fault. Common causes of boat accidents in Fort Lauderdale include:
1. Extreme Weather
Adverse weather conditions such as rough seas, heavy rain, and high winds can easily take a toll on a boat. As such, it is the role of boat operators to assess the weather before embarking and be aware of changing conditions. If there are forecasts of severe or uncertain weather, it’s best to cancel the trip.
2. Collisions with Objects
Your boat can collide with rocks, docks, buoys, and even other boats while in the sea, resulting in accidents and injuries. This can be due to hazards in the water body like debris, equipment failure, or a mistake on the operator’s end. Boat operators should be constantly keen about their surroundings and practice safe boating to avoid collisions.
3. Equipment Failure
Another common cause of boat accidents is malfunctioning or defective equipment. Engine failures, electrical system failures, steering system malfunction, and issues with the structural components of the vessel like the hull are good examples of equipment failure.
To avoid these issues, boat owners and operators should make sure that their vessels are always in optimal condition through routine checkups and maintenance.
4. Operator Error
This is arguably the most common cause of boat accidents. Some of the common mistakes under this umbrella include improper lookout and distractions, causing the operator not to notice changing weather conditions, obstacles, and other vessels in the sea.
Speeding and inexperience can also cause boating accidents. This makes it imperative for any operator to have adequate training and experience and also adhere to boating safety guidelines.
5. Lack of Safety Equipment
Boating in large water bodies carries the risk of capsizing and drowning. As such, boating companies, operators, and passengers cannot afford to overlook the importance of safety equipment like life jackets, fire extinguishers, and distress signals. However, some overlook this aspect and end up suffering more than they should have.
6. Insufficient Training & Experience
Running a boat properly calls for exceptional skills and training. Operators who have not undergone extensive training or lack adequate experience are more prone to making errors that lead to accidents. So, before you book or board a boat, ensure that the operator has been in the field for long enough to ascertain your safety.
7. Drug Use and Alcohol Consumption
Operating a boat while drunk or under the influence of drugs is not allowed in Fort Lauderdale. That’s because the operator’s judgment and reaction time are impaired, making them prone to causing accidents. Passengers are also encouraged to refrain from alcohol and drug use as it not only makes them seasick but also susceptible to making dangerous mistakes.
What are the Best Ways to Prevent Boating Accidents?
There are several things that all parties involved can do to ensure a safe and fun boat ride. These include:
Checking Weather Conditions Prior to the Trip
Weather conditions change on the regular, more so when on water. As such, boat operators and passengers should check the weather forecast and be ready for changing conditions. If there’s a prediction for adverse conditions, it’s best to postpone the trip or wait until the waters become friendly again.
Adhere to Safe Boating Practices
These practices are there to minimize the risk of accidents and keep everyone on board safe. Safe boating practices include steering clear of obstacles and shallow regions, keeping a safe distance from other vessels, and obeying speed limits.
Staying alert and aware of the surroundings is one of the virtues of great boat operators. It entails staying on the lookout for other vessels, obstacles, shallow areas, swimmers, and other things in the water. The operator should also be aware of changing weather conditions and react promptly.
Wear Safety Gear
All passengers on the boat should have safety gear, particularly a life jacket. The jackets should be Coast Guard approved and properly fitted to allow for floatation in case of an accident.
Avoid Alcohol and Drug Use
Boating while intoxicated can impair both your judgment and reaction time, therefore increasing the chances of an accident. Both boat operators and passengers are advised to refrain from consuming alcohol and drugs until the trip is over.
Keep the Vessel Maintained
Routine boat maintenance is crucial in preventing accidents while out there. Proper maintenance entails checking the hull, electrical systems, steering and propulsion systems, and other vital components. It is also imperative to ensure the vessel is well-equipped with safety gear including life jackets, fire extinguishers, and flares.
Take a Boating Safety Course
It is important to learn the skills and knowledge required to run a boat safely. Boating safety courses cover a wide range of subjects such as safe boat operation, emergency procedures, and boating laws and regulations.
With this knowledge, you will be able to take proactive and prompt actions to prevent accidents or reduce the extent of the damage if things go south.
By following these simple and straightforward guidelines, everyone will have a great and memorable boating experience. It’s important to note that safe boating is not a one-party responsibility and everyone should take the necessary steps to prevent accidents and keep others safe.
What Should You Do After a Boating Accident?
If the unfortunate happens and your boat has collided with another vessel, caught fire, or is capsizing, it is important to remain calm and take the following steps:
(i) Check for Injuries
Following a boat crash, those on board may have been injured. So, check for injuries and ensure that everyone on the boat is wearing a life jacket. Check on the local and state requirements for life jackets and ensure they fit properly as they can save lives and increase the chances of survival.
If anyone has sustained an injury, ask for medical assistance from onshore.
(ii) Notify the Coast Guard and Local Authorities
Just like car accidents, boating accidents should be reported to the relevant parties in order to initiate an official investigation. Make sure you are familiar with Fort Lauderdale regulations so that you know when and who to call.
(iii) Gather Information
Following a boating accident, chances are you’ll need to file a claim down the line. To protect yourself and strengthen your case, ensure you collect useful information. This includes videos and photos of any injuries and damages experienced. It is also wise to collect the names and contact details of witnesses and any other party involved.
(iv) Contact Your Insurance Company
If you’re the boat owner, you may want to secure the vessel as quickly as possible to salvage what’s left or avoid a total loss. However, it is important to contact your insurance carrier first so that they can assess the accident scene and the damage experienced.
They will guide you on the steps to take as well as the documentation needed to file a claim for the boat’s repairs, replacement, and any other damages the accident may have caused.
(v) Consult a Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Lawyer
If another party was involved, chances are there will be a lawsuit involved, no matter who was at fault. Whether it’s you or the other party seeking compensation, you’ll want to spare yourself the stress by hiring an experienced boating accident lawyer. Boating is an expensive pastime activity and any victim will be looking to secure compensation.
Who is Liable for a Boat Accident?
Boating accidents are almost always complicated as they can happen in many different ways. As a result, there may be many parties to hold responsible. A boat accident lawyer at our firm will assess your case to determine whether you have a valid case, who is to blame, and how much you deserve in compensation.
Possible parties that can be held liable for a boat accident include:
The Boat Owner
Boat owners are expected to keep their vessels in an operational state to avoid mishaps. If you rented or chartered a boat and experienced an accident that was due to the owner’s negligence, you can sue them for any injuries and damages incurred.
The Marina or Dock Owner
If the boat accident happened while the vessel was docked, the marina or dock owner can be held liable. This is usually the case when the owner fails to maintain the marina or dock.
The Boating Services Parent Company
The business that owns the vessel can also be held accountable in some situations. An example is when you chartered a boat, but an accident happened due to the negligence of the crew member. Companies running the business are held liable as they are responsible for hiring the operators and crew members.
A boat operator can also be held liable for not upholding boating laws and regulations. These include staying alert, steering off shallow areas, maintaining a safe speed, checking and adhering to the weather conditions, and ascertaining the passengers’ safety.
If the boat operator breaches their duty of care and results in an accident, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries and damages.
If the vessel has a design and construction defect and causes an accident, the manufacturer can be held liable for the resulting injuries and damages.
In some situations, a passenger may be to blame for the accident. Examples include distracting the boat operator or encouraging them to participate in risky behavior.
Other boaters can also be to blame if their negligent or reckless actions led to collisions or other forms of accidents in the water.
How is Liability Determined in a Fort Lauderdale Boat Accident?
Determining liability in a boating accident is not always easy. In Fort Lauderdale and other parts of Florida, liability in boating accidents is based on negligence.
Negligence occurs when an individual or entity does not take reasonable care and as a result, causes an accident that causes harm or injury to another party. To establish liability in a boating accident claim, you are required to prove the following aspects of negligence:
(i) Duty of Care
In the duty of care, the person being sued (the defendant) must have had a duty to practice reasonable care in order to prevent harm to the other party. In boating, the operators have a duty to keep passengers safe by maintaining a safe speed, being on the lookout, and following boating rules.
(ii) Breach of Duty
Next, you must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care they owed you. An example is when a boat operator ignores boating rules and does their work under the influence of alcohol or runs the vessel at unsafe speeds.
Third, you need to prove that the defendant’s actions or breach of duty were the direct cause of your injuries and losses. For example, if the operator runs the boat at unsafe speeds leading to a collision that broke your arm, then there’s a causal link between the breach of duty and your injury.
Finally, you need to show that the accident led to actual damages. These include property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.
If you can prove all these elements of negligence, then you are eligible for compensation. However, it is important to note that Florida is a Pure Comparative Negligence state. This means that the victim’s damages are reduced in accordance with their percentage of contribution to the accident. So, if you are found to be 30% at fault, you will only qualify for 70% of the damages.
In some situations, liability can also be determined based on strict liability. This applies in cases where the party at fault engaged in an extremely dangerous act, like using explosives and harming others. This applies whether they acted negligently or not.
However, strict liability rarely applies in boating accident lawsuits.
As you can see, determining liability in boat accidents can be complicated and the investigation may require experts in accident reconstruction and maritime law. If you are a victim of a boating accident, it is imperative that consult a boat accident attorney with experience in boating accident claims as soon as possible.
They will help you understand your situation, tell you whether you have a case worth pursuing, and suggest the best path to pursue compensation.
An experienced Fort Lauderdale boat accident Attorney will help you from start to finish. This involves investigating the case to collect evidence and determine liability. They will also handle negotiations with the insurance carriers and represent you in court if it comes to that. All this is to protect your rights and interests.
Hire the Best Boat Accident Attorney in Fort Lauderdale Today!
Boating accidents carry severe effects and usually lead to substantial injuries, property damage, and even death. It is crucial that you know the common causes of boat accidents and measures to take in order to protect yourself and others while on a boat trip.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a boat accident, consider seeking the advice of a seasoned boat accident in Fort Lauderdale. The team at Klotzman Law Firm has the expertise, skills, and resources necessary to handle even the most complex boating accidents.
We understand the intricacies of maritime law and the distinct challenges that these cases can present. We have been in the industry for decades, helping people recover damages in various property damage and accident avenues including boating accidents.
Boating can be a fun and exhilarating activity, but it carries inherent risks that can be life-altering if the right measures are not put in place. Our team is dedicated to helping our clients get the compensation they deserve.
We do not fear whether you are fighting against a big corporation. We will work tirelessly to determine the cause of the accident, determine liability and hold the responsible parties accountable. We also operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not have to worry about the legal fees as you only pay if we win.
Call us today at [phone} to schedule a free no-obligation consultation and learn more about your options.