Boating Accidents Can Lead to Liability for Florida Residents
What better way to spend a hot summer day than a relaxing boat ride in one of Florida’s numerous beautiful waterways? But, just like the driver of an automobile, a boat operator must follow specific laws and regulations to prevent accidents and promote the safety of passengers, as well as others enjoying the water. Improper boating is particularly dangerous, due to the added risk of drowning. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) compiles an annual Boating Accident Statistical Report to monitor and compare the frequency of boating accidents in the state. According to the NorthWest Florida Daily News, the Commission’s 2013 report found that the number of boating accidents in the state decreased between 2012 and 2013.
Though the number of accidents declined, the rate of boat related deaths remained constant at 62. The Commission report discussed a few of these incidents in detail.
- In December of 2013, three Niceville residents were killed, resulting from a crash into the Mid-Bay Bridge.
- A Louisiana resident was thrown from a watercraft and killed, after slipping out of his life jacket in October.
- In March, a boat hit a wake while going 85-miles-per-hour, causing it to become airborne. The vessel broke into several pieces, killing a 61-year-old Santa Rosa County resident.
Florida Boating Laws
Florida law includes numerous mandates regarding the operation of boats within the state’s waters.
- In the event of a boating accident, it is illegal for a boat operator to leave the scene without notifying the authorities, which includes the county sheriff, the police chief or the FWC. He or she is also legally bound to provide proper aid for injured parties.
- Boating operators must also follow posted speed regulations. In particularly dangerous areas, officials mandate that boats be operated at significantly lower speeds. In open waters, the regulations state that boats must not be operated at excessive speeds that cause danger to other vessels.
- Though there is no minimum age requirement for boater operations, the Commission does require a safety course for boaters under 25-years-old. When operating a boat, the driver must also keep identification, proving their successful completion of the course.
- In Florida, it is unlawful to operate a boat while influenced by alcohol or drugs. If stopped on a DUI suspicion, you must submit to a sobriety test.
Reckless operation of a boating vessel may lead to criminal charges. It is a first degree misdemeanor to operate a boat with willful disregard for the safety of others. Non-criminal citations are also issued for operation of a boat in an unreasonable manner. From a civil liability perspective, boat operators owe a duty of care to their passengers and other boaters on the waterway. Operating the vessel in a reckless manner is a breach of that duty and could lead to financial responsibility for any injuries and/or damage.
If you or a loved one were injured in a boating accident, contact Miami based Pita & Del Prado for knowledgeable guidance and aggressive representation. Call 305-670-2889 today for a free consultation.