Boating Accident Attorneys in Pensacola
One of the best things about living in Florida is the fact that the state provides access to the ocean, as well as other bodies of waters, including dozens of different lakes. But proximity to the water can be a catch-22; while the water may be beautiful, and few things are more pleasant than a day on the boat, water can also be dangerous. In fact, the state of Florida leads the country in terms of the number of boating accidents and boating deaths each year, and the number of boating accidents increased by a whopping 14 percent over a one-year period in the state.
Boating accidents aren’t inevitable; instead, they are often the result of negligence. At the law offices of Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A., our boating accident lawyers are here to help you if you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident.
Top Causes of Boating Accidents
Most boating accidents happen because of negligence, which means that the majority of boating accidents, much like motor vehicle accidents on land, are completely preventable. Some of the top causes of boating accident include:
- Operator inattention;
- Operator distraction;
- Operation intoxication or impairment;
- Boating in unsafe waters;
- Failing to adhere to boating regulations;
- Improper lookout;
- Operator inexperience;
- Excessive speed; and
- Mechanical problems because of improper maintenance or defective design or manufacture.
In some cases, rowdy boat passengers may also contribute to or cause a crash. Most boating incidents are the result of operator error or negligence, though.
Common Injuries in Boating Accidents
The injuries that are incurred in a boating accident can be devastating, and sometimes fatal. Common boating injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries – Whether from hitting the water with force or hitting another object, if the brain is impacted, the victim may suffer from a TBI.
- Spinal cord injuries – The spinal cord is very delicate, and while it is protected by the spinal column, being hit with a severe amount of force can lead to injury. If the spinal cord is impacted, the victim may suffer from a loss of mobility (paralysis or partial paralysis) from the site of the injury downwards.
- Drowning and near-drowning injuries. Sadly, one serious risk of a boating accident is the risk of victims being thrown overboard, resulting in fatal drowning or near-drowning injuries. If a near-drowning incident is not fatal, it can leave the victim with long-term complications, including permanent brain damage.
- Bone fracture and soft tissue injuries. When the body is twisted or forced into an unnatural and awkward position, or hit with a certain amount of force, a bone fracture or/and soft tissue injury (muscle and ligament sprains and strains) can occur.
- Amputation injuries. Finally, one very traumatic injury that a victim of a boating accident may suffer is an amputation injury. These injuries can happen when a limb is injured to the point that medical amputation is necessary, or when a part of the body, such as an arm or leg, becomes caught in the boat’s motor.
The above list of injuries is not inclusive; internal injuries, back and neck injuries, psychological injuries, and more are all possible as well.
Determining Liability for a Boating Accident: What Are My Options If I’m Harmed?
Being injured in a boating accident is a scary experience. As you recover, you may be facing high medical bills, lost wages, and the challenge of coping with pain, suffering, and disability. You may be left with a myriad of questions, including, “Who’s liable for my injuries?” and “What are my options for recovery?”
While most negligence-based claims are paid by the liability insurance company of the at-fault party, boaters in Florida are not required to carry liability insurance. This can complicate your claim; if the at-fault party does not carry insurance, you may file a lawsuit directly against the negligent party. However, this does not guarantee that the defendant will have the assets to pay your damages. Fortunately, a large percent of boat owners carry insurance on their boats to protect them from personal liability in the event of a collision.
Of course, the boat operator/owner may not be the at-fault party. When you hire an experienced lawyer, an investigation into the cause of the accident will be opened. You have the right to hold the at-fault party liable for the full extent of damages you’ve suffered.
Act Quickly Following a Boating Accident
Following a boating accident, there is nothing that can be done to reverse what happened or change the fact that you have been seriously injured. However, there is something that you can do to seek compensation for your injuries: filing a personal injury claim. In order to file a claim, however, you must take action within four years of the date of the accident. If you wait longer than four years to file your civil suit, you will be barred from recovery. Our lawyers recommend bringing forth your claim as soon as possible to improve your chances of recovering your full compensation amount.
Tips for Avoiding Boating Accidents in Florida
Florida has the highest number of boating accidents and fatalities on the waterways each year. Some of these accidents are due to uncontrollable factors, but as we discussed earlier, most are preventable.
Here are several important guidelines for staying safe on the water:
- Check the Weather Ahead of Time: Before you go out for the day, be sure to closely monitor the latest weather report. Pay special attention to any advisories for the local area and follow them.
- Have a Float Plan: Before heading out of the water, make sure someone on shore knows what your plan is for the day. Inform them of where you plan to be, how long you plan on being gone, detailed information about your boat, food and survival equipment that is on board the vessel, and detailed information about the passengers who will be on board.
- Follow Navigation Rules: As you would follow the traffic laws on the roadways, be sure to follow all of the navigational rules on the waterways. Observe all speed limits on the water and do not drive the boat recklessly.
- Always Wear Life Jackets: Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket before you go out. Even if you are a good swimmer, you still need a life jacket in the event of a worst-case scenario such as being knocked unconscious and falling into the water.
- Do not Drink while Operating a Boat: Just like when you are going to a bar or a party where alcohol will be consumed, have a designated driver. In other words, the person operating the watercraft should plan on staying sober for the day.
- Put your Phone Away: If you are the boat operator, put your phone away where you are not tempted to message people back and forth. If you want to take photos and videos, have someone else do it for you so you can focus on driving the boat safely.
Schedule Your Free Consultation Today
Boat accidents can be scary. If you are harmed in a boat accident in Florida, you need a skilled attorney who understands boating and negligence laws, and how to get you the compensation that you deserve. When you call our lawyers at the offices of Whibbs Stone Barnett, P.A., we will review your case free of charge, and provide you with the legal advice you need to make an informed decision about what to do next.
You can request your free consultation by sending us a message online today, or by calling our law office directly at 850-500-1111. We have law offices in Ft. Walton Beach, Pensacola, and Fairhope.