As a resident of Southwest Florida, you know that we live in a boater’s paradise! Unfortunately, accidents happen, even to the most experienced boaters. What’s your recourse should you be harmed on a recreational boat? Here are some of the important points you should remember if you’re injured while boating anywhere in the southwest Florida area.
Negligence is Key
The key to recovering damages from the person you believe is responsible for your boating injury is to prove that the injury is the result of negligence, or the failure to act with reasonable care. Injury doesn’t always occur because someone acted with negligence; sometimes, an accident is just that—an accident. Nobody is at fault. Therefore, it’s up to you and your lawyer to decide if the other party was careless and caused your injury with that carelessness.
How Negligence Cases Typically Occur
There are four types of accidents that typically occur among boaters. They are:
- Another boat’s wake hits your boat
- A wave hits your boat
- Your boat runs into a submerged rock, object, or land
- Two boats collide
- Failure to stock appropriate safety equipment on board
With that in mind, let’s explore each category on its own.
Wake or Wave Damage
Should your boat run into a large wake or wave, there can be serious injury to those aboard. Passengers can be knocked to the deck, thrown from their seats, or, in the most extreme cases, thrown completely overboard. Boaters in places like Sanibel or Fort Myers Beach have experienced this. While it might seem simple to determine who’s responsible, you must keep in mind the federal and state boating laws and regulations. These, as well as standard safe boating practices, state that boaters should keep a lookout for any hazards to their boat as well as their passengers; however the liability is dependent upon certain circumstances, such as:
- What was the other boat’s speed?
- How visible was the other boat?
- What was the size of the wake?
- How was the visibility?
- How much traffic was present in the accident area?
- Did the operator warn passengers that a big wake was approaching?
- Was the injured party on a sailboat or a motorboat?
It’s also possible that the operator of the boat that was the wake’s creator could be considered negligent; if the boats were both in a no-wake zone, any wake would render the operator negligent. Additionally, should the boat be moving too quickly through a very overcrowded area, a serious wake could endanger the people around it, making the operator negligent. However, if the incident occurred in a relatively isolated spot, and there are no restrictions on the spot, it’s unlikely that the other boat operator would be found guilty of negligence.
As for wave damage, the possibility of finding negligence depends upon circumstance; there isn’t another boat to hold responsible, so the only way to charge an operator with negligence would be to prove that they were irresponsible within the circumstances present.
Unfortunately, even on the sunniest day, a boat can collide with a submerged object; in nasty weather, when visibility is low, boats are more likely to run aground. A boat operator’s potential for negligence is dependent, once again, on circumstance. If the operator is going way too fast in inclement weather, without the aid of nautical charts related to Southwest Florida or GPS, it’s more likely that they’ll be found to be negligent; however, if they’re proceeding with caution, using the appropriate charts and maps, but they do happen to run into a submerged object, it’s doubtful that this will be considered an act of negligence.
Hitting Another Boat
When two boats collide, a case could be made for negligence on both operators’ parts—at least in part. So, the passengers who were injured could, ostensibly, bring charges of negligence against both operators. Should one of the operators be injured in the collision, that person would only be able to bring a claim of negligence against the other operator if the injured party was considered to be under 50% responsible for the crash.
Lack of Proper Safety Equipment
No matter the size of your boat, the law requires that you have safety equipment aboard. This equipment includes life rings, a life jacket for every passenger, flares, navigational lights, fire extinguishers, and whistles. If the boat doesn’t have these items aboard, it won’t cause an accident, but it can certainly inhibit the ability to rescue should the need arise. Failure to provide this equipment could lead to negligence claims against the owner of the boat.
What Compensation is Available?
Should it be determined that a boat operator was negligent, resulting in your injury, you will be entitled to recover the monetary value of the damages you suffered. The damages would include pain and suffering as well as medical bills and lost earnings or earning capacity. The damages could also include the expenses of future medical treatment, future pain and suffering and future lost wages.
If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, and you feel that you might be due restitution, contact us today. We’d be happy to discuss your case with you.