Boating accidents are a serious problem faced by many residents of Southwest Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are more boating accidents in Florida each year than any other state. And alcohol plays a large part, coming in as a top-10 cause of boating accidents in Florida.
A pair of proposed bills in the Florida House and Senate could affect how the state handles convictions for boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI). The two proposed bills, House Bill 289 and Senate Bill 598, would toughen the penalties for a person convicted of boating under the influence of alcohol. If passed, the law would go into effect in July of this year. There are three primary provisions of the proposed legislation:
- BUI convictions would be recorded on a person’s driving record, just like convictions for driving under the influence (DUI);
- Prior BUI convictions would be considered prior DUI convictions for purposes of enforcing Florida’s DUI laws, and vice versa; and
- BUI convictions would be reported to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
While these bills aim to reduce the number of boating accidents on Florida waterways, they do nothing for the victims of BUI. Fortunately, a person injured in Florida by a drunk boater can seek redress through the civil court system by filing a negligence lawsuit. To prevail in such a claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed her a duty, that he breached that duty, that the plaintiff sustained damages, and that the breach was an actual and proximate cause of the damages.
All boaters in Florida owe the people around them, including their own passengers, a duty of reasonable care. A person who chooses to drink alcohol and operate a boat has breached this duty, since his or her actions unreasonably endanger others. If those actions cause an accident that injures someone else, the injured person will have a viable claim.
Upon successfully proving her negligence case, the plaintiff will be entitled to collect compensatory damages from the defendant. These damages are intended to reimburse her for the expenses associated with the accident, such as medical bills and lost wages. They also compensate the plaintiff for any physical and emotional injuries sustained as a result of the defendant's behavior. The plaintiff may even be entitled to punitive damages if the defendant was grossly negligent.
If these laws pass, Floridians might think twice before drinking and boating. But if you were injured in a boating accident, the proposed laws will not help you get the compensation you need to pay bills and recover from your injuries. The Southwest Florida boating accident attorneys at Lusk, Drasites, & Tolisano can help you seek the compensation you deserve. Call (800) 283-7442 to schedule a consultation.