Boating Accidents In Florida
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more and more Florida families are looking for outdoor activities they can do while still remaining socially distant and safe. Boating is a relatively isolated activity, and because of the state’s year-round sunny weather, it is still popular even as winter kicks into full swing. That said, there is always the potential for accident or injury, and if it happens to you, it is important that you know your options.
High Numbers Of Accidents
Data from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) state that in 2019, Florida had almost 1 million vessels registered in the state, and approximately 720 reportable boating accidents occurred. While this may not sound like a high number, it is by far the highest state total, with the next highest number (California’s) registering less than half at 324. Some of the high accident numbers can be attributed to the sheer number of vessels in Florida’s waters, but there are some disturbing trends that are apparent if one examines the data on injuries and fatalities.
Florida does not, as of this writing, require any kind of ‘boating license’ in order to operate a boat or personal watercraft (such as a Jet Ski), merely asking operators born after January 1, 1988 to complete an approved boating safety course that grants a Boating Safety Education Identification Card (BSEIC). Stats show, however, that 80 percent of those drivers who were involved in fatal accidents had no formal boater education of any kind. In addition, use of alcohol or other substances played a role in roughly one-third of boating fatalities.
As with any auto accident on land, anyone who operates a boat in a similarly negligent way may be held liable for any injuries, fatalities, or property damage they cause. However, unlike in auto accident cases, boating accidents are not covered by no-fault laws, which means that very often, the only way to get your medical bills covered is to file suit against the negligent operator, and it is not uncommon for the boater to lack any boat insurance (it is not required in Florida).
In addition, one important fact that many people – including some attorneys! – are unaware of is that many boating accident cases cannot be tried in state court. Federal admiralty law has jurisdiction over any accident case that has occurred on a public waterway, which does cover the majority of waterways in Florida, though not all. If you try to bring a civil negligence case to recover for your injuries, but you bring it in state court, you will be wasting time and trouble if your accident occurred on a public navigable waterway. It is crucial that you engage an attorney that is able to practice in federal court.
Contact A Tampa Boating Accident Attorney
Boating accidents can be just as dangerous as auto accidents, though the law surrounding them differs somewhat. If you have been involved in a boating accident, you need an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney who can help to answer your questions and try to alleviate any kind of concerns. The Rinaldo Law Group can offer knowledgeable and dedicated representation. Call our offices today for a free consultation.