A boating accident can have the same devastating consequences as an automobile accident, even resulting in death. The Sunshine State has more than its fair share of boating accidents due to its proximity to various bodies of water and its mild year-round climate.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident in the Miami area, you may be unsure how to proceed. If you have significant injuries and the boating accident was caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries.
Miami personal injury attorney Mike Redondo has extensive experience with boating accident lawsuits and will fight to get you maximum compensation after a boating injury in Florida.
Why choose our Miami injury law firm?
Choosing Redondo Law means you’ll be working with a compassionate and reliable team that puts your needs first:
Benefit from years of experience handling truck accident cases in Miami, Florida, knowing you’re in capable hands.
Enjoy peace of mind, knowing we have a track record of winning cases and securing the maximum compensation for you.
Experience open communication and a caring approach, with a team that’s always available to listen, answer questions, and address your concerns.
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With our contingency fee structure, you only pay if we win, removing financial risk in an already stressful situation.
Florida boating accident statistics
In 2018, Florida had 607 boating accidents, which resulted in 57 deaths, 297 injuries, and more than $7 million in property damage. Of course, Florida also led the nation in the number of registered recreational boats, with 950,000.
The Coast Guard also found that nationwide, alcohol was a factor in 101 boating deaths and that 74% of boating accidents involved boat operators who had not taken a certified safety training course.
Finally, life jackets have been proven to save lives; 3 out of every 4 fatalities involved drowning, and 84% of those were not wearing a life jacket.
Types of boat accidents
The following are some common types of boating accidents that Miami boaters should be aware of:
- Jet ski accidents. Reckless operation of jet skis can be horribly dangerous; accidents frequently happen when jet skiers weave in and out of other vessels or otherwise behave recklessly.
- Towing accidents. When towing a boat on the highway, the hitch can break or come unattached, causing an accident.
- Boat collisions. Boaters can collide with each other for a variety of reasons, including poor weather conditions and visibility, inattentiveness and inexperience.
- Commercial fishing accidents. Commercial fishing is an exceptionally dangerous industry. Commercial fishing vessels often navigate during the wintertime in hazardous conditions with strong winds, huge waves and choppy waters. This can result in falls overboard, capsized vessels and other serious boating accidents.
- Fishing tournament accidents. When operating a boat at high speeds, it’s possible to lose control of the boat or experience mechanical failures that result in accidents.
- Capsizing accidents. These accidents often happen in smaller boats, canoes and kayaks due to unevenly distributed weight, too much weight or bad weather that causes the boat to suddenly tip.
Which types of boats are most commonly involved in accidents and deaths?
According to the Coast Guard report, motorboats were the most common type of boats involved in boating accidents, accounting for 47% of all boating accidents. Following motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats were the next most common type of boats involved in boating accidents.
The highest percentage of deaths in boating accidents occurred with open motorboats, followed by kayaks and canoes. Many of these deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received no boating safety instructions.
Common causes of boating accidents
Aside from alcohol, being struck by a propeller is another significant cause of many boating deaths. Other primary factors in boating accidents include the following:
- Operator inattention. There are many distractions out on the water, and it is easy for a boater operator to make mistakes if they aren’t giving the boat’s navigation their full attention. They might be distracted by eating, talking to other passengers aboard the boat or texting on their phones.
- Excessive speed. Excessive speed reduces the boat operator’s ability to react to hazards in time, increases the risk of losing control, and extends the stopping distance required. The force of the impact at high speeds can cause severe injuries and damage to both the occupants of the boat and other vessels or objects.
- Machinery failure. Boat accidents resulting from machinery failure can occur due to various factors, such as mechanical defects, lack of maintenance or malfunctioning components. When critical systems like the engine, steering or electrical systems fail during operation, it can lead to loss of control, collisions and other hazardous situations on the water.
- Improper lookout. Failing to maintain a proper lookout to scan the water and watch for other boats and swimmers can contribute to accidents. Lack of vigilance can result in collisions with other boats, objects, or people, causing injuries or property damage.
- Operator inexperience or lack of training. Boat operators who haven’t been properly educated about how to pilot a boat often make mistakes that lead to accidents.
Common injuries from boating accidents
Victims of boating accidents often suffer serious harm including brain and spinal cord injuries, which can affect them for their entire life. Other common injuries often seen following a boating accident include the following:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Damage to internal organs
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Following a boating accident, it’s particularly important to seek immediate medical attention, even if you don’t immediately appear to be hurt, as some injuries may not be readily apparent, such as internal bleeding. It’s also critical that you keep careful records of all your medical expenses to help your attorney prove your claim for damages.
Anton Walkes’s fatal Miami area boating accident
Officials are conducting an investigation in an attempt to determine more details about the boating accident near Miami Marine Stadium in which Anton Walkes, a professional soccer player, lost his life.
According to a January 2023 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report, Luise Taubert was piloting an 11-foot Yamaha personal watercraft with Walkes aboard. Eric Olsson of Pompano Beach was piloting a 46-foot cabin boat. The accident took place in Biscayne Bay; the two boats collided in the waters north of Rickenbacker Causeway.
Walkes lost consciousness and was taken to a nearby hospital. He did not survive.
Who may be liable for a boating accident?
There are many potential parties that may be liable in a boating accident, including:
- The person who was driving the boat at the time of the accident may be held liable if the accident was the result of substance abuse, inattentiveness, inexperience, inappropriately fast speed, or a violation of the local laws in the area where the accident happened.
- The boat’s owner may be held liable if the accident was a result of mechanical failure when routine maintenance would have prevented that failure. The boat’s owner may also be held liable in situations where they let someone else pilot the boat who was not qualified to do so.
- The boat’s manufacturer may be held liable in situations where a mechanical failure caused by a manufacturing defect created a hazard that resulted in the accident.
- A rental company that made the boat available to the public for recreation may be held liable in situations where their boat was not maintained properly, resulting in mechanical failure that created an accident.
How do you prove negligence in a boating accident?
If another boater caused you injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, it will be up to your attorney to establish that their negligence resulted in liability for the accident. To accomplish this, they need to prove the following 4 elements:
- Duty of care. The first step to proving another boater’s negligence caused your injuries is establishing that the boater had a duty of care to you. In a boating accident, it’s typically straightforward to demonstrate this because everyone who pilots a boat owes a duty of care to the other people present in the same waters.
- Breach of duty. Your attorney must show that the person piloting the boat failed to uphold their obligation to provide a duty of care to you. For example, if the boat operator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the boating accident occurred, that is a clear and demonstrable breach of their duty of care.
- Causation. Your attorney must be able to show that the breach of duty is clearly and without a doubt what caused the harm resulting from your boating accident.
- Damages. Your attorney must establish that your accident directly resulted in damages, such as medical bills or lost wages.
What am I required to do after a boating accident in Florida before leaving the scene?
If you’re involved in a Florida boating accident, you should take the following steps to protect yourself and your legal rights, as well as others who may be potentially injured.
1. Ensure everyone is safe
Your immediate course of action will be determined based on whether the boat is still afloat and you’re still aboard. If both of those are true, the first thing you need to do is to determine whether you or others on either boat require medical attention.
If someone has fallen overboard, you should assist the victim back onto the boat. If the boat is sinking, then anyone who is not already wearing a life jacket should be provided one immediately. If the boat is drivable, it should be moved out of the path of any other oncoming boats.
2. Contact the Coast Guard
The Coast Guard should then be contacted to report the accident. Under federal law, a boating accident report must be filed in the following scenarios:
- When a death occurs
- When there is an injury that requires medical care
- When there is damage to either boat that exceeds $2,000
- When the vessel is destroyed
- When someone disappears from the boat (which indicates an injury or death may have occurred)
You will need to give them the location of the accident and let them know if medical assistance is needed. As with a car accident, you should generally remain at the scene of the accident until you’ve been cleared to leave. If you must leave the scene to seek emergency medical attention for yourself or a passenger, for example, be sure to contact law enforcement or the Coast Guard as soon as possible.
3. Get contact information from the driver and any eyewitnesses
After addressing any need for immediate medical attention for yourself or anyone else involved in the boating accident, you will need to obtain information from the driver of the other boat, just as you would following a car accident.
If there were witnesses to the boat accident, be sure to obtain their contact information too. Make sure you also get insurance information from the driver of the other boat, and, if possible, make sure to photograph the damage to the boat as well as the location of the accident.
This information can be extremely helpful to your attorney in building your case, particularly if the other driver was responsible for the accident.
4. Contact your insurer
Next, you’ll want to contact your insurance agency and provide them with information about the accident, including the contact information of the other boat driver.
5. Contact a boat accident attorney
Lastly, you’ll want to contact an experienced boat accident attorney after an accident in Florida to ensure your rights to compensation are protected. An attorney can help you prove negligence and negotiate with the other party and their insurance company to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Florida boating laws and statute of limitations
In the state of Florida, a boating license is not required to operate a boat or watercraft. However, those under the age of 22 must have a Boating Safety Education ID Card, and no one under the age of 14 may operate a boat or watercraft.
The statute of limitations under Florida law for a boating accident not resulting in a death is 2 years from the date the incident occurred—in other words, you must file a claim for damages within 2 years from the date of the accident.
There are instances, however, when maritime law is in effect, which changes the statutes of limitations to 3 years rather than 4. Maritime law applies in any situation where a boating accident occurs in navigable waters. Whether a body of water is considered “navigable” or not depends on whether it’s used in interstate or international commerce.
To ensure you pursue any compensation you may be entitled to before the statute of limitations expires, contact an experienced Miami boating accident attorney as soon as possible.
When is it possible to get an extension on the statute of limitations in a Florida boating accident?
In Florida, the deadline resulting from the statute of limitations is a strict one. You absolutely must file on time if you hope to recover damages for your boating accident. However, it may be possible to delay your filing deadline in a few specific circumstances:
- The boating accident’s defendant leaves Florida or otherwise attempts to avoid service of process.
- The victim is physically incapable of filing a lawsuit due to incapacitation.
- The boating accident’s victim is a child.
If any of the above scenarios apply, it’s advisable to consult an attorney to learn more about your rights.
How can boat accidents be prevented?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent a boating accident while enjoying Florida’s many bodies of water:
- When you’re the operator of the boat, pay attention and keep a watchful eye on your surroundings.
- Expect that other boaters navigating in the waters around you may be drunk, distracted or inexperienced; be prepared to proactively compensate for these situations to protect your own vessel from harm.
- When you’re a passenger aboard a boat, do not distract the driver. Do not allow others to distract the driver.
- Ensure the boat’s operator is properly educated on how to safely navigate a boat; boating safety courses are recommended.
- Have the Coast Guard Auxiliary conduct a free safety check for the vessel you’ll be using.
- Don’t drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs before operating a boat, and do not allow your friends to drive a boat while they’re drunk or high.
- Ensure a sufficient number of life jackets are available for all passengers on the boat, and make sure they wear them while aboard.
- Ensure the vessel is stocked with plentiful water and functional safety gear before embarking. In addition to life jackets, you should have a fire extinguisher and flares on board.
- Familiarize yourself with local tide charts; if you’re sailing a boat with a keel, know your keel measurement and avoid navigating into waters that are too shallow for your boat.
- Familiarize yourself with charts of the local waters and understand where all the important landmarks are. Ask other local boaters about the location of hazards like submerged rocks and shallow spots.
How a Miami boat accident attorney can help
Attorney Mike Redondo has dealt with the aftermath of boating accidents and can help ensure you receive equitable compensation for your injuries related to a boating accident. Mike has a proven track record of successfully representing those injured through the negligence of others and always places client satisfaction above all else.
If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, Redondo Law can help you gather evidence to prove liability so you can recover maximum compensation. To better help his clients and increase access for anyone who has been injured in an accident, Mike speaks both Spanish and English and is happy to offer a free, comprehensive evaluation to potential clients. Contact Redondo Law today to start your boat accident claim.