Lakeland Boat Accident Lawyers

Florida boasts the longest coastline in the contiguous Unites States (approximately1,350 miles), so it comes as no surprise that Florida also leads the nation for total number of registered vessels – 931,450 in 2016, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Commensurate with that statistic is the unfortunate reality that Florida also claims the highest number of boating accidents and fatalities in the country.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics show fatalities nationwide in 2016 totaled 701, the highest in five years. Total accidents increased 7.3 percent to 4,463, 684 of which were in Florida, where 70 people died. Fish and Wildlife statistics show the primary cause in Florida in 2016 was inattention or improper lookouts (204), followed by operator inexperience (109) and excessive speed (63), with 24 involving alcohol. These statistics focus on “reportable accidents” that result in injuries going beyond just first aid, cause a death or leave someone missing and presumed dead. Reportable accidents must also cause damage in excess of $2,000.

Just because you are on the water does not mean you assume all risks associated with activity on the water.

Florida does not require boating instruction and limits mandatory instruction for operators under a certain age, putting many people at the helm of watercraft without knowledge of the vessel and little or no understanding of the nautical “rules of the road.” This frightening reality, especially when combined with the inherent perils of the sea, often leads to accidents. There are many factors that can contribute to a boat operator’s negligence, including:

  • Collisions (with other watercraft or fixed objects such as bridges and piers)
  • Groundings
  • Unsafe or careless operation (inattention, inexperience, not knowing navigational rules)
  • Speeding
  • Negligent supervision  and entrustment
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Insufficient boat maintenance
  • Failure to have sufficient safety equipment aboard
  • Contact with propellers
  • Failing to keep a lookout while a guest is skiing, tubing or snorkeling
  • Overcrowding or overloading

Importantly, an operator involved in a boating accident must:

  • Stop his or her vessel immediately at the scene of the accident unless the action would endanger his or her own vessel, crew, or passengers and
  • Give assistance to anyone injured in the accident and
  • Give his or her name, address, and identifying number of his or her vessel to the other vessel's operator and/or owner of damaged property.

Vessel operators involved in an accident must report the accident by the quickest means possible if the accident has resulted in:

  • A death or disappearance of a person or
  • An injury causing a person to require medical attention beyond first aid or
  • Damage to the vessel and other property of $2,000 or more.

The report of the accident must be made to:

  • The Division of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (call  863-709-8500, or *FWC from a mobile phone) or
  • The sheriff of the county where the accident occurred or
  • The police department of the municipality in which the accident occurred.

Failure to report an accident and failure to render aid are both criminal offenses.

From paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis to sailboats, airboats, speedboats and yachts, the Lakeland boat accident lawyers at Lopez and Humphries handle personal injuries and deaths involving all types of watercraft.  Our team of attorneys and professional staff will assist you in obtaining evidence, gathering the necessary proof of liability, investigating the accident and determining how injuries occurred. Our team will interview witnesses, find experts, review information from all law enforcement agencies involved, and work aggressively to build the strongest, most compelling case possible.

To receive just compensation for injuries or to pursue a wrongful death claim due to a boating accident, contact the Lakeland boat accident attorneys at Lopez & Humphries, P.A. by calling  863-709-8500