Florida’s beautiful waterways, lakes, and beaches make boating a very popular pastime in the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, many boating accidents occur every year, often resulting in serious injuries. If you were injured as a result of a boating accident, you may be legally entitled to recover from the person responsible, just as victims of car accidents may recover for their injuries.
However, because different laws apply to accidents occurring on the water, boating accident claims are often more complicated than traditional personal injury claims. Unlike most accidents in St. Petersburg, the circumstances surrounding a boating accident can be very hard to recreate at a later date, which is often necessary to determine fault. The special considerations that must be taken into account when a boat accident occurs make the assistance of an attorney with experience in this field invaluable.
A St. Petersburg boat accident lawyer will help you understand these complex laws and can assist you in bringing a claim to recover for your injuries under either Florida or maritime law, depending on your specific circumstances.
Elements of a Boat Injury Claim
In order to recover for a personal injury claim as a result of a boat accident, you will need to prove in a court of law that your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligent actions. Just as is the case when driving a car, there are many legal requirements that everyone must abide by when operating a boat.
These laws have been enacted by the Florida legislature to safeguard everyone enjoying the water, whether they are in a boat, on a surfboard, or on the shore.
If you believe the other party involved in your boating accident was acting unreasonably or negligently in violation of these laws, they may be liable for your injuries. In addition, if the other boat involved in your accident was a commercial vessel, such as a fishing boat or tourist attraction, the company owning the vessel may be liable as well.
Florida Boat Laws
The laws governing the operation of boats in Florida can be found in Title XXIV, Chapter 327, Florida Statutes. Anyone operating a boat, whether or not they have passengers on board, is legally required to operate it in a reasonable and prudent manner, and must abide by all posted speed and wake restrictions.
Operating a boat in a reckless manner, or in a way that shows no regard for the safety of others, is prohibited by section 327.33. In addition, section 327.35 prohibits “boating under the influence,” in the same way that driving while under the influence of a controlled substance is illegal on land.
Although there are many laws regulating the operation of boats in Florida waters, there are few requirements restricting who may legally operate a boat. Unlike the stringent process required to obtain a driver’s license, anyone over the age of 14 who has taken a boating safety class may legally operate a boat in Florida.
Although everyone is required to abide by all applicable rules and regulations once on the water, the relaxed restrictions on who can operate a boat in the first place mean that many young or inexperienced boaters can be found in Florida’s waterways. This is especially true during the tourist season, when boats are often available for rent by visitors to the state.
Florida law does not require operators of boats to carry boating insurance, which can make recovering for a boating accident more complicated than recovering for a car accident. In some cases, a homeowner’s insurance policy may extend to cover damages resulting from a boating accident, but this will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Your boat accident attorney in St. Petersburg will be able to examine the specific circumstances of your accident to help you identify any potential insurance coverage that may be available to assist in your recovery.
What Qualifies For Compensation
If you were injured as the result of a boat accident caused by another boat operator’s negligent actions, you may be legally entitled to recover monetary damages for your injuries, regardless of boating insurance coverage. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be able to bring claims to recover for the reasonable value of your medical expenses, as well as your past and future lost earnings, if your injuries resulted in the loss of your employment.
Under certain circumstances, you may also seek to recover for pain and suffering. Your boat accident attorney in St. Petersburg will help you determine what types of recovery are available to you as a result of the specific circumstances surrounding your accident.
In order to successfully recover damages resulting from a boating accident, you must be able to prove that your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence. Because Florida is a comparative fault state, many parties may be assigned fault in an accident even if only one suffered an injury.
When determining a personal injury claim, the court will examine all evidence relating to the occurrence of the accident in order to assign a proportion of fault to each party involved. Even if you are found to be partially at fault for causing the accident, you may still be entitled to recover substantial damages. Your total damage award will merely be decreased in proportion to your share of the fault for the accident.
In a boating accident, assigning fault among the parties involved can be extremely complicated, as transient elements such as the current or weather conditions may have played a role in the accident.
It is thus important to have appropriate evidence to show the judge what conditions existed at the time the accident occurred, as actions that would not be negligent on calm seas may rise to the level of negligence if weather conditions made taking those actions dangerous when the accident occurred.
The assistance of an attorney with experience in bringing these types of claims is invaluable when determining fault in a boating accident, as this process requires an intimate understanding of what factors must be taken into account when an accident occurs on the water.
Your Florida boat accident lawyer will assist you in collecting all the evidence necessary to show the judge how the accident occurred, so that fault can be appropriately determined.
How A Boat Accident Attorney Can Help
When seeking to recover injuries that occurred as the result of a boat accident, you will need to be able to recreate in a court of law the specific circumstances that led to the accident so that an accurate determination of fault can be made. Because the physical evidence of a boat accident is often limited to the boat itself, complicating factors such as the effect of the weather or other people in the water can be very hard to prove.
In addition, depending on how far from the shore your accident occurred, maritime law, as opposed to Florida state law, may apply. You will need an attorney who understands the nuances of the different laws affecting boating accidents to ensure the best possible chances of recovery.
An experienced St. Petersburg boat accident attorney will assist you in bringing your claim under all applicable laws, and will be with you every step of the way as you seek legal relief.