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Pinellas County Boating Accidents

Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area in particular are paradise for boating enthusiasts. Fishing is also a primary leisure activity and gulf, bay and intercoastal waterways can become very crowded with many different types of boats and just as many varied activities and skill levels.

Boating can also become an extremely dangerous proposition when safety rules are ignored, alcohol is brought into the mix, and inexperienced boaters take to the water without proper training.

Boating Accidents and Florida Law

By definition, a boating accident is any event wherein a boat (sail boat, motorboat, jet ski or powered recreational watercraft, kayak, canoe, pontoon-style boat, sail boat, row boat or fishing boat) is involved in an event which causes harm, such as injury or death of a person, vessel damage or loss, property damage, or a missing person(s). Boating accidents are actually a category of motor vehicle accident, and almost always involve some element of negligence.

According to the USCG, the most common types of boating accidents include:

  • Two vessels involved in a collision
  • A vessel colliding with a fixed or submerged object or structure
  • A vessel colliding with a floating or movable object in the water (a swimmer, driftwood, debris etc.).
  • Incidents involving a water skier or a person or persons being towed by a vessel
  • A vessel runs aground, sinks, floods, is swamped or capsizes
  • An explosion or fire on the water

There are number of factors that are considered when a boating accident occurs. According to the USGC, most incidents will be a result of the following:

  • Operator Error (the most common cause of boating accidents)
  • Lack of training by the operator in boat operation and safety protocols
  • Inexperience (lack of hours) after initial training if any
  • Violating Navigation Rules (speeding, reckless operation, etc.)
  • Improper vessel maintenance and/or equipment loading.
  • Too many or unruly passengers creating distractions and/or unsafe operation
  • Alcohol or drug use

Vessel Hull, Equipment or Mechanical Failure

Boat accidents can be caused by a failure in the structural integrity of the hull (or body) of the boat. An engine failure or other equipment malfunction can also cause a dangerous situation resulting in an accident.

Liability laws may apply if there is a flaw in the design, manufacturing of one or more of the boat’s components, or improper installation of factory or other equipment. Negligence may not need to be proven in these cases. Occasionally a systemic failure of an OEM part or parts can result in a class action suit (a group of consumers bringing a common suit against the other party).

If you ever feel that any part of your boat is defective due to a manufacturing, design or installation flaw and contributed to an accident or mishap on the water resulting in damage to your boat, property or injury, be sure to maintain control of your boat as it may be used as evidence in a trial if necessary.

Weather And Environmental Potential Causes Of Boating Accidents

There have been many cases wherein the weather and/or environmental conditions contributed to a boating accident or incident resulting in injury or property damage.

These conditions are compounded by other boater’s negligence and create a dangerous set of circumstances. Great care should be exercised at all times.

Sometimes the contributing factor could simply be a speed zone or other signage has detached from its moorings or gone missing. In crowded waters this can be very hazardous. In a case like this, a governmental agency could ultimately be liable.

Be alert and take the conditions into consideration when boating and the following conditions exist:

  • Storms or bad weather
  • The presence of large waves or wakes
  • Hazardous waters (submerged rocks and pylons, especially at low tide)
  • The presence of a lock or dam
  • Heavily congested waters at popular boating times such as weekends and holidays

Why An Attorney Is Necessary For Boating Accidents

Although some boating accidents can be managed and resolved by an insurance company when a direct claim is presented, many time victims do not receive proper compensation.

You may need the accident or incident investigated further to determine negligence or fault. Personal injury attorneys are well versed in the laws that govern these types of accidents and can handle your claim properly and preserve your rights under the law.

There may be more than just damage to your boat (or the other party’s boat). You may suffer financial loss due to extensive property damage, physical injury and psychological pain and suffering, lost income and covering any medical expenses that arise from the accident. Insurance companies take excessive amounts of time to settle claims, and there may be certain statues of limitation that pertain to your case. There are many “moving parts” to your accident and subsequent circumstances.

It is always best to have an experienced attorney on your side to navigate the complex legal system and make sure that your rights to a claim are assured and not violated.