Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Attorney

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has a reputation for having a vibrant waterfront space that is a hub for recreational sailing, watersports, and tourism. This bustling aquatic playground, however, is not without its risks. Florida leads the nation in boating accidents by a significant margin—a sobering statistic that underscores the need to be safe whenever you’re on the water. Whether it’s the tranquil beaches, the busy water channels, or the serene rivers and swamps, water enthusiasts—including swimmers, surfers, scuba divers, and boat owners—immerse themselves in these waters daily. Yet, this high volume of activity, combined with Florida’s warm and humid weather, significantly increases the likelihood of accidents.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a boating accident in Fort Lauderdale, it’s crucial to understand the risks and know your rights. One way to do so is to enlist the help of an experienced Fort Lauderdale boating accident lawyer. Accidents on the water can range from minor to severe ones resulting in injuries or even fatalities. Whether you were injured while swimming, diving, spearfishing, or working for a marine company, or if you’ve suffered from exposure to hazardous substances, there’s a legal framework to protect and compensate you.

As boating accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, our law firm dedicates ourselves to providing expert legal assistance in these complex situations. Our team understands the intricacies of both federal and state maritime laws, and we commit ourselves to ensuring we work to protect your rights. We recognize the unique challenges victims of boating accidents face in Fort Lauderdale and are ready to offer the support and guidance needed to help you through the legal process.

Alarming Amount of Annual Boating Accidents in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Many regard Fort Lauderdale as a paradise for boaters, but it faces a concerning reality: a notably high frequency of boating accidents yearly. This alarming trend highlights a critical need for heightened awareness and safety measures in the city’s bustling waterways.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in 2022, there were 735 boating accidents with 65 fatalities, 16 fewer than in 2021. Additionally, the FWC notes that from 2010 to 2022, the state issued triple the amount of Boating Safety Education Cards, and these cards help ensure people have formal boating education. However, they found that 45 operators involved in the 65 fatal accidents didn’t have this certification, and 515 of the 926 boaters in accidents that were severe enough to be reportable didn’t have it either.

Another concerning statistic is that Florida had the most boating accidents recorded in 2022 out of any state in the United States. They had almost double the amount of the second-highest state, California. Out of the 65 fatal accidents, there were 66 deaths.

If you have been involved in a boating accident and require legal assistance, contact a boating accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale today.

What Is Causing So Many Boating Accidents in Fort Lauderdale?

Fort Lauderdale’s bustling waterways are a hub of marine activity and a hotspot for boating accidents. As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) highlighted in its 2022 report, several factors contribute to this worrying trend.

One of the leading causes of these accidents is operator inattention. With over 200 accidents linked to this factor alone, it’s clear that a moment’s distraction can have severe consequences on the water. This is closely followed by operator inexperience, which is responsible for around 100 accidents. Inexperienced boaters, unfamiliar with the nuances of being on busy or challenging waterways, significantly contribute to the accident rate.

Excessive speed is another major cause. In 2022, speeding led to 43 accidents. Speeding on the water, like on the roads, increases the risk of losing control and the severity of any resulting accident. Carelessness and inattention, often overlapping with excessive speed and inexperience, were factors in 29 accidents.

Alcohol use remains a significant and worrying factor, involved in 26 accidents in 2022. Intoxication impairs judgment and reaction times, making it a leading cause of fatal boating accidents.

Other notable causes our Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorneys see include capsizing, failure to maintain a proper lookout, man-overboard incidents, and collisions with swimmers or submerged objects. Negligent maintenance and defective boat parts also play a role, leading to unexpected and dangerous situations on the water. These statistics paint a clear picture: many boating accidents in Fort Lauderdale are preventable, with responsible boating practices and increased awareness vital to reducing these alarming numbers.

What Are Some Types of Maritime and Boating Accidents in Florida?

In Florida, a state renowned for its extensive coastline and thriving maritime activity, marine and boating accidents are unfortunately common. These incidents vary widely in their nature and severity, reflecting the state’s diverse range of watercraft and activities.

  • Cruise Ship Injuries: Florida, with Port Miami and Port Everglades as central hubs, is a significant center for the cruise industry. Injuries sustained aboard cruise ships departing from these ports often lead to legal cases against cruise lines for negligence. These cases typically fall under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
  • Kayaks: Kayaks, which are less maneuverable and slower than motorboats and personal watercraft, present unique risks. Kayakers, especially in high-traffic areas like intercoastal waterways, face a heightened injury risk due to not having a solid fiberglass frame surrounding them to take the brunt of the impact as many boats offer. Their inability to quickly move out of harm’s way makes them particularly vulnerable to accidents.
  • Marina Accidents: Accidents occurring within marinas or on docks are common in Florida. These incidents often involve poorly maintained or unsafe docks and are governed by maritime laws. The variety of activities and the heavy use of these facilities contribute to the frequency of such accidents.
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): This category includes smaller, pump-jet-propelled vessels like WaveRunners and jet skis, which the rider usually sits or stands on. With their increasing popularity, particularly among rental companies targeting inexperienced customers, accidents involving PWCs have increased. While appealing, the agility and speed of these crafts often contribute to accidents, mainly when operated by young or inexperienced riders.
  • Private Recreational Boats and Commercial Vessels: As Fort Lauderdale boating accident lawyers we see that many boat accidents in Florida involve collisions. These can occur between two moving boats or between a boat and a stationary object, such as navigational markers. The crowded waterways, particularly in tourist areas, exacerbate the risk of such collisions.

Steps to Take Immediately After a Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident

After a boating accident in Fort Lauderdale, taking immediate and appropriate steps is crucial for ensuring safety, complying with legal requirements, and preserving your rights. Here are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: Keep Everyone Safe

The priority is to ensure everyone’s safety. Check for injuries and give first aid from the boat’s emergency kit if necessary. Call for professional help, such as the Coast Guard, if there are serious injuries. If someone has fallen overboard, try to assist them by throwing a buoy, rope, or flotation device. Jump in after them only if necessary, and ensure you wear a life jacket.

Step 2: Stop the Vessel and Conduct a Head Count

If you are the boat operator, you must stop immediately and ensure your vessel is not obstructing other boats. Conduct a head count to ensure everyone is accounted for and assist anyone in danger.

Step 3: Seek Medical Attention

Even if injuries seem minor, it’s crucial to have a thorough medical check-up. Some injuries may not show immediate symptoms but could be severe.

Step 4: Report the Accident

Federal law requires reporting the boating accident if it involves a fatality, a missing person, an injury requiring more than first aid, significant property damage, or a destroyed vessel. In Florida, report the accident to the appropriate state authority. Make the report factually accurate, and avoid speculations or admitting fault. If you have any questions contact a Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorney.

Step 5: Collect Information

Gather details from other parties, such as names, contact details, vessel identification, and insurance information. Get witness accounts and their contact information. Document the scene with photos, capturing the location, boat positions, visible damage, and injuries.

Step 6: Notify Your Insurance Company

Let your insurance company know about the accident. You might need to rely on your insurance to cover damages no matter who caused the accident.

  • Be Careful Around the Other Parties’ Insurers: If approached by insurers of other involved parties, be cautious when you talk to them. Avoid statements that could be used against your interest. It’s often best to let an experienced boating accident attorney in Fort Lauderdale handle these discussions.

Step 7: Consider Legal Consultation

Whether or not you plan to file an injury suit, consulting with an experienced legal representative can be crucial. An attorney can guide you through the legal processes  and help protect your rights, especially if you have severe injuries from the accident.

Remember, it can be stressful and chaotic after a boating accident. Following these steps can help you manage the situation more effectively and safeguard your legal interests.

Do I Need a Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Lawyer or Can I Handle My Own Case?

Choosing between hiring an attorney or handling your case in Fort Lauderdale on your own is a huge decision, especially given the complexities of maritime law and the potential for substantial losses. While it’s possible to manage some aspects of your case independently, there are several key ways in which a specialized attorney, such as those at our firm, Schilling & Silvers, can be invaluable.

  • Expertise in Maritime Law: Maritime law is a specialized field. A lawyer experienced in boating accidents understands the nuances of these laws, which can be crucial for a successful outcome.
  • Gathering Evidence: An attorney can gather the necessary evidence to support your claim. This includes collecting photos, videos, and witness statements that are critical for establishing the facts of the case.
  • Securing Police Reports: Lawyers can quickly get copies of official reports, such as police or Coast Guard reports, which are vital for establishing the details of the accident.
  • Determining Liability: Determining liability in boating accidents can involve various factors like negligence, operator error, or equipment failure. Attorneys have the expertise to identify all liable parties.
  • Calculating Total Losses: An experienced attorney can accurately estimate your total losses. This includes immediate medical costs, long-term expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
  • Handling Negotiations: Insurance companies often aim to minimize payouts. A lawyer can handle negotiations, ensuring you are not pressured into accepting an unfair settlement.
  • Court Representation: Legal representation is essential if your case goes to court. They will represent you, present your case effectively, and argue on your behalf, particularly if it is complex or high-stakes.
  • Understanding the Legal Process: The legal process can be overwhelming, especially when recovering from an injury. A lawyer can guide you through each step, providing clarity and support.

So, while it’s technically possible to handle a boating accident case independently, the expertise, support, and representation a Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorney provides are invaluable. They not only increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome but also allow you to focus on your recovery while they handle the legal complexities of your case.

Who Is Liable in a Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Claim?

In a Fort Lauderdale boating accident claim, determining liability is critical and can be complex, as multiple parties may be responsible. Florida law provides a framework for establishing who you can hold accountable for such incidents. Depending on the specifics of the case, liable parties may include the following:

  • Boat Captain: The court usually finds boat captains liable for accidents. They are legally obligated to operate their vessels safely. Common reasons for their liability include inexperience, recklessness, impaired boating, and distracted boating. Any failure to follow safety standards or regulations can lead to the captain being held responsible.
  • Boat Owner: Liability can extend to the boat owner, even if they were not operating the vessel at the time of the accident. Owners can be held responsible for accidents caused by hired people or anyone they negligently entrusted their boat with. This includes professional crew members, friends, family, and members of boat clubs or charter renters, especially if they are inexperienced or unqualified.
  • Passenger: In specific scenarios, passengers can also be liable for boating accidents. For instance, if a passenger’s actions (like being intoxicated and interfering with the vessel’s operation) contribute to an accident, you can hold them accountable.
  • Boat or Engine Manufacturer: The manufacturer could be liable if the accident was caused by a defect in the boat or its engine. Under Florida law, product liability can lead to manufacturers being held responsible for injuries arising from product defects.
  • Marine Maintenance Service Provider: If an accident is traced back to negligent maintenance, the service provider who performed the maintenance may be liable. This includes cases where improper or inadequate maintenance made the vessel unsafe.

Injured in a boating incident? Speak with a Fort Lauderdale boating accident attorney at Schilling & Silvers Property and Accident Attorneys today.

What Are Florida's Boating Laws and Regulations?

Florida’s boating laws and regulations ensure safe and responsible use of its waterways. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Airboat Regulations: Airboats must display a flag for visibility and have an effective muffling device.
  • Boat and Personal Watercraft Rental Facilities: Facilities must provide safety instructions and equipment and cannot rent to individuals under 18.
  • Boating Accidents: Operators must report accidents involving severe injury, death, disappearance, or property damage over $2,000 to appropriate authorities and not leave the scene without aiding those involved.
  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI): BUI is illegal, with .08 BAC as presumed impairment, and .02 BAC for those under 21.
  • Diving Regulations: Boaters must maintain distance from dive flags, and divers must stay within a specified proximity to their flags.
  • Equipment and Lighting Requirements: Vessels must carry appropriate safety equipment, including personal flotation devices (PFDs) for each person, sound-producing devices, and visual distress signals.
  • Mandatory Violator Education: Repeat offenders of boating infractions are required to complete a boater education course.
  • Maximum Loading and Horsepower: Boats under 20 feet must comply with the manufacturer’s capacity plate for weight, persons, or horsepower.
  • Mooring to Markers or Buoys: Mooring to navigation aids is prohibited except in emergencies.
  • Muffling Devices: Vessels must have an effective muffling device for noise control.
  • Personal Watercraft Regulations: Operators and passengers must wear approved PFDs and adhere to operation hours and safe practices.
  • Reckless and Careless Operation: Mandatory throwable life preserver on all vessels; reckless operation and failure to consider safety are penalized.
  • Vessel Registration: Most vessels must be registered, with registration numbers displayed on both sides and an annual decal near these numbers. Documented vessels using Florida waters also need state registration.
  • Vessel Speed Restrictions: Speed must be adjusted to minimize wake in designated areas.
  • Water Ski Regulations: Waterskiing requires a USCG-approved PFD and is prohibited at night and while impaired. Operators must ensure safe towing practices.

For a more detailed look at Florida’s boating laws and regulations, refer to Florida Statute 327 and Florida Statute 328.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

For those navigating the waters of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, several resources are available to enhance boating safety and education. These resources provide valuable information, from local guidelines to comprehensive safety courses, ensuring enjoyable and safe boating experiences.

  • Broward Safe Boating Guide: This guide is a must-read for anyone boating in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale. It offers detailed information on local boating rules, safety tips, and nautical details about the area’s waterways. The guide includes maps and other valuable resources for experienced and novice boaters.
  • Boating Safety Courses: The U.S. Coast Guard’s website lists boating safety courses. These courses are crucial for anyone looking to improve their boating skills and knowledge. They cover various topics, including navigation, boating laws, weather awareness, and emergency procedures.
  • Boating Safety and Education – Florida HSMV: This Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department resource focuses on statewide boating safety and education. It’s an excellent place to find information on Florida’s boating laws, requirements for boater education, and safety tips.

Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Law Firm

At Schilling & Silvers Property and Accident Attorneys, our extensive experience as boating accident lawyers in Fort Lauderdale sets us apart. We’re deeply familiar with the complexities of maritime law and the unique challenges boating accidents present in this bustling marine environment. Our dedicated team is committed to delivering expert legal guidance and robust representation, ensuring our clients receive the justice and compensation they deserve for their losses and injuries.