Florida has the most miles of coastline in the continental United States, and as such, it is a veritable haven for swimmers and boaters, with the highest number of registered vessels in the country. However, accidents happen, especially when tourism season gets into full swing. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, it can sometimes be difficult to get the information and support you need. A knowledgeable attorney can help.

Multiple Different Possible Causes

Boating accidents can be innocuous, or they can be severe, not unlike automobile accidents. However, there are factors at play that can make it more difficult to assess causation. Causation can be complex at the best of times, but certain unique factors are seen with boats that simply do not occur on land. For example, in recent years, boating laws have been seen almost as guidelines rather than laws that must be obeyed, and as a result, people do not slow down or observe caution as they perhaps ought to. Operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol is common, and studies show that approximately one-third of all boating fatalities involve either the victim or the boat operator being intoxicated.

The fairly lax licensing requirements mean that inexperienced boaters are common. Vessels must be titled and registered unless they meet an exemption, but in Florida, only those born after January 1, 1988, must have a Boater Safety Education Card. People who are older than that do not require any kind of proof of education or training. It is, of course, possible to be inexperienced or reckless despite being older. Someone with little or no training, for example, would not know how to appropriately handle flammable or explosive materials, which can lead to tragedy.

One factor that must be taken into account when dealing with a boating accident is how far out to sea your vessel was – another issue that an inexperienced or reckless boater may be unaware of. While an accident that occurs close to shore is generally governed by the law of the city or county in which it falls, the further out to sea an accident happens, the more likely it is that maritime or admiralty law, both of which are federal in nature, may come into play. Accidents close to shore are required to be brought to the attention of both relevant law enforcement officials and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement, but accidents further out at sea are more likely to be reported to federal authorities. If you are unaware of this fact, it can hinder efforts when it comes to seeking compensation.

The Issue of Fault

There are countless actors who might play a role in any one boating accident, many more than in most land-based accidents. Fault might be found in another boater, in the company that manufactured your vessel or its safety equipment, in the operator of your boat (if it is not you), or even the state or relevant authority that controls the waterways on which your accident occurred. It is also more common to see work-related injury claims or workers’ compensation claims stemming from boating accidents than from car accidents because a higher proportion of boaters are engaged in work at any given moment than drivers are.

If you or your injured loved one decides to make a claim against any defendant after being injured, it is important to keep in mind the specific legal theory you will need to cite in order to do so. For example, if your vessel was hit by a boater operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you would likely bring an action in negligence, seeking compensation for the injuries you sustained due to their actions. You would have to prove that the defendant was negligent, which is done by showing that he or she had a duty of care toward you, which was breached by his or her conduct, causing you harm. But if you believe that your vessel was defective, you would bring suit under product liability law, which has different requirements than general negligence law. Bringing suit under the wrong theory can cost you considerable time and trouble.

Seek Experienced Legal Help

Boating is many people’s favorite hobby, but it is not always practiced with the same degree of care by everyone. If you or a loved one has been hurt by another boater’s negligence or a defective vessel, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. The dedicated Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorneys at the Law Office of Joseph J. LoRusso, P.A. are happy help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.


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