As a Florida Boat Accident injury attorney, my legal experience is vitally important when representing those injured in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and all lakes and rivers in between. However, I also think that my experience operating a variety of vessels ranging in size from 16′ to 36′, and being responsible for the safe return of my passengers, provides a solid framework when representing those injured of killed due to negligent operation of a boat. I have handled many personal injury cases involving accidents and other injuries on the water. Below, I will list some of the most common forms of negligent boating cases I have run across, and which have lead to serious personal injury or death. However, I thought I would first mention my own boating experience, because this background allows me to think very quickly on my feet in the courtroom or at depositions. When questioning witnesses and adverse parties, I do not need to refer to notes or industry standards; I know them, as I have hundreds of hours not only on the water, but at the helm.
As a lifelong Florida and Gulf Coast resident, my maritime interests have been in virtually all types of fishing. I have experience above and below the water, from casting next to shore for trout on the vast flats of the Gulf of Mexico, to gearing up for 150 foot technical spearfishing dives over 100 miles from shore in the “Florida Middle Grounds.” I always understood and appreciated the enormous responsibility that I had to the persons either on my boat, or in the water diving. A single trip could take many hours of preparation to insure the safety of those heading out with me offshore. Too many people do not understand or appreciate the many perils of boating, and that’s why Florida leads the country in the number of boating injuries and deaths each year.
The problem with boating is that it is not regulated very heavily. In fact, almost anyone born before 1988 can operate a vessel with no experience behind the helm. Imagine if you went to an airport to rent a plane, and had no training! This leads to a variety situations that can cause serious injuries, including:
- Impaired operation of a boat due to alcohol or drugs;
- Failure to properly equip a boat with everything from lifejackets to an EPIRB (my offshore boats always had TWO EPIRBS!).
- Taking a wave at an improper speed or angle (can lead to ejections, or even swamping the boat);
- Improper lookout for snorkelers and/or divers;
- Not keeping a proper lookout when your own divers are in the water (yes, divers have been lost!);
- Improper boarding procedures at the dock, leading to falls or other injuries;
- Improper boarding procedures getting swimmers, snorkelers or divers back into the boat when on the water (engines should be shut off to avoid serious injuries from the boat’s propellors [props]!);
- Hitting or colliding with another vessel (boat, jet ski, etc.). Normally due to improper lookout, speeding, or relying exclusively on electronics. Not uncommon for alcohol to be a factor as well;
- Running aground;
- Failure to check the marine forecast, or recklessly heading into rough seas;
- Exceeding the specifications of a vessel, by overloading with people, exceeding the fuel range, and/or going too far offshore in a boat that is not truly an offshore boat (e.g., you do not take a 21′ single outboard boat 40 miles offshore!).
- Improper anchoring in rough seas;
- Poor docking skills (this one is very common, and can be witnessed at virtually any busy public boating ramp).
- Turning the helm over to an unqualified or impaired operator.
- Failure to properly maintain a boat, leading to problems or becoming stranded.
As stated, this is just a partial list of the types of boating negligence that happens in Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, and the Atlantic Ocean (as well as in Florida’s many lakes). Negligent operation of a vessel can lead to serious injury and death, and many instances happen right here in my “backyard” of New Port Richey and others parts of Tampa Bay.
If you or a loved one have been injured, or you have suffered through the death of a loved one, and you would like to consult with an experienced trial attorney whom also is highly experienced on the water, please do not hesitate to contact me. Consultations are always free. I can be reached at 727-848-8892 or via the online form on this website.