Imagine you are enjoying a lovely day out on the water but it all suddenly ends when you collide with another boat or large object. You may be hurt and your watercraft might be damaged and even sinking. This scenario could be made worse if your boat was not equipped with the proper safety equipment. Whether you own a boat or rented one, it is crucial to understand the risks of boating and to take precautions to prevent serious injuries.
As a passenger, you often have little control over these types of accidents. As a boat owner or driver that was hit by another watercraft, you might be unclear about what your legal recourse is. Unfortunately, these types of accidents often leave boaters in pain, facing rising expenses, and under the overwhelming stress of not knowing what to do next.
Fortunately, there are legal systems in place that could help you pursue a lawsuit and seek financial compensation for your losses. With a Tampa boat accident lawyer guiding you through your case, you would not have to worry about complex legal statutes. Our skilled personal injury attorneys have experience handling these types of cases and are prepared to help you succeed.
How Do Boat Accidents Typically Occur?
Statistics maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reflect that the overwhelming cause of accidents involving personal watercraft is due to collisions with other vessels. However, a watercraft accident could happen due to a variety of factors. Some common causes of boat wrecks include:
- Operating a watercraft while intoxicated or distracted
- Inexperience operating a boat
- Reckless actions such as speeding
- Poor weather conditions
- Malfunctioning boating equipment
Regardless of how in-control the boat operator seems at the time of the incident, they should be held liable for your damages. An experienced boating collision attorney could analyze the facts of your case to determine the potential amount of fault assigned to the responsible parties.
Boating Safety Guidelines in Tampa
Unfortunately, Tampa state has the highest rate of boating accidents anywhere in the country. You can avoid preventable collisions by making yourself aware of Florida’s Vessel Safety Laws. Specifically, Florida Statute Chapter 327 sets out that anyone who operates a boat with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property can be subject to both criminal charges and civil liability for the injuries they negligently cause. If you are part of the boating community, here are several important rules and regulations you should keep in mind:
- “Personal watercrafts” are defined as marine vessels less than 16 feet in length using an inboard motor, including jet skis.
- Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved non-inflatable personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a life preserver.
- When a vessel less than 26 feet in length is in motion, all children under six years old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD.
- Both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.
- Personal watercrafts may not be used, nor can a vessel pull a skier or riders on a tube, from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are on.
- A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in Tampa. It is a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly allow a child under 14 years old to operate a personal watercraft.
- Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested water traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel at an unreasonably close distance, or if visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or an operator swerving at the last moment to avoid a collision may be classified as reckless operation of a boat. This is a first-degree misdemeanor.
If the boat operator or owner failed to follow these laws, you might have a valid negligence claim, so get in touch with a seasoned accident lawyer right away.
How Long do I Have to File a Boat Wreck Claim?
The statute of limitations for any personal injury lawsuit is four years from the date of the injury. In most cases, if you miss this deadline, your right to collect compensation for your injuries is forfeited. Though there may be some rare exceptions, it is essential to speak with a local boat injury attorney quickly to avoid missing your chance to file suit.
Actions to Take Following a Collision on the Water
Under § 327.30 of the 2019 Florida Statutes, the following steps should be taken by the operator of a boat following a collision or accident:
- Remain at the scene of the accident
- Provide assistance, as practicable, to others involved to save them from harm or minimize the danger caused by the collision
- If the other vessel involved is unattended, the operator must take reasonable steps to locate and notify the boat’s owner of the incident and provide them with their contact information and registration
- Inform any relevant authorities of the collision or accident without delay and by the quickest means available
By assisting others involved in a boating collision or accident and promptly notifying the appropriate authorities, the operator of a vessel could reduce the harm suffered by the passenger. A seasoned personal injury attorney with experience handling boat accident cases could legally advise you of your rights and help you seek the compensation they are owed.
Who Has the Right to File a Civil Suit for Damages?
Under state law, when someone is injured in a boating accident that was caused by another person, they are entitled to compensation for physical and emotional injuries as well as any loss of property. Some of the common types of damages you might receive in a boating accident include:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost time from work
- Loss or diminishing value of future wages
- Damaged property
How a Boating Accident Attorney Can Help You
You may be dealing with recovering from your injuries, worrying about hospital bills, and thinking about others in the accident. Thinking about filing an insurance claim or seeking compensation by hiring an attorney is hard to imagine dealing with, too. But, by hiring an attorney you do not have to go through this process alone. Our experience lends us to take care of:
- Investigating the Accident and Gathering Evidence: We will make sure to get a report if available, talk to any witnesses, and use experts to independently investigate the accident to figure out what exactly happened.
- Filing an Insurance Claim: Part of what an attorney will do is help you file an insurance claim. We will make the calls, fill out the forms, and deal with the insurance company for you.
- Any and all Negotiations, with the Insurance Companies: After filing, the insurance company might make an offer to settle the case. We will make sure that the offer is fair and negotiate with them to cover all your losses.
- Filing a lawsuit if necessary, and subsequently settling your case through mediation or trial: If the insurance company will not agree to a fair settlement, we will file a lawsuit to move the case into litigation. This may involve taking depositions, mediations, and more. If a settlement cannot be reached, we are prepared to take the case to trial to get a judgment from a judge or a jury verdict.
It is important to note that there may be situations where you are not permitted to file a lawsuit.
Could I Sue a Local Jet Ski Rental Company If I Signed a Release or Waiver?
Jet skis are a popular form of recreation, but the activity is inherently dangerous in many ways. Many companies that rent these watercrafts make you sign a waiver or release form before riding. These signed documents tend to hold up in court, absolving the rental company of liability for accidents.
Can I File a Lawsuit on Behalf of My Child?
The state legislature enacted a substantial amendment to § 744.301of the Florida Statutes in April 2010. This legislation reverses the Kirton decision, which had previously held that parents and guardians could not execute enforceable pre-injury releases on behalf of minors in commercial activities.
The amended law now allows parents and natural guardians to execute pre-injury releases for their minor children, but only for those dangers inherent in the activity and only if a specific form is included. The statute does not shield commercial watercraft owners and boat operators from injury caused by their negligence. If you need help handling an injury case involving your minor child, you should seek out a qualified boating accident lawyer.
Call Today to Speak with a Tampa Boat Accident Lawyer
As enjoyable and relaxing as a day of boating can be, it can just as quickly turn into a nightmare. Watercraft wrecks are not as uncommon as they may seem. Depending on the circumstances, they can cause extensive damage to everyone involved.
The aftermath of a boating collision can be a challenging time for you and your family. You may be uncertain whether you have a valid legal claim arising from the accident. You may be at a loss with how to proceed. Our Tampa boat accident lawyers can help! We can give you the advice and counsel you need to move forward.
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