Florida has the largest number of personal and recreational watercraft of any state. It also has some of the most complicated regulations regarding the operation of a boat or other water vessel, regulations designed to protect people, property, and the environment from damage by all the other vessels. However, despite these protections, many injuries still occur.
Dangers of Boating
The state of Florida leads the nation in the number of boating accidents, including boat-boat collisions, boat-buoy or other fixed or floating structure collisions, boat-land collisions, and internal technical problems such as engine failures, fires, or autonomous sinking due to hull failure or capsizing. All of these boating accidentshave the potential to cause serious injury or even death to passengers. That’s why Florida statutes declare watergoing vessels “dangerous instrumentalities,” and warn that vessel operators should “exercise the highest degree of care in order to prevent injuries to others.”
The Florida statutes specifically warn that operators should:
- Not operate their vessels in a reckless manner
- Operate the vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner regarding other waterborne traffic
- Comply with the international navigation rules, including:
- Observation of safe speed
- Taking all steps to avoid collision
- Observation of proper procedures when overtaking or crossing course with other vessels
- Installation and maintenance of proper sound and light signals
- Not operate their vessels while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance
- Render aid to others to the fullest extent possible without endangering their own boat and passengers
If a boat operator fails to perform any of these duties and causes an accident, he or she could be guilty of a criminal act. In addition to the criminal penalties, the operator, as well as the owner, can be liable for civil damages for the injuries to your person or property caused by the negligent operation of the vessel.
Unfortunately, the statutes governing boating accidents limit liability for the accident to the operator of the vessel; liability does not extend to the owner of the vessel unless the owner is the operator or is present. These rules serve more to protect corporate owners of vessels, so that, unlike truck accidents, a corporation that puts a dangerous boat on the water may be shielded from liability. If you attempt to sue following a boat accident either on your own or with an inexperienced lawyer, you may find yourself blocked from receiving adequate compensation by this provision.
However, the boating accident attorneys at Hardesty, Tyde, Green, & Ashton, P.A., know how to hold the owner liable, even if not onboard, through various other legal theories such as negligent entrustment. If you have been injured in a boating accident, including drunk driving of a boat, you deserve full compensation for your injuries. Schedule a free, no obligation boating accident consultation with the personal injury lawyers at Hardesty, Tyde, Green, & Ashton, P.A.