Florida Boating Accident Lawyer

The State of Florida encompasses over 2,276 miles of tidal coastline and 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways, which are traversed daily by vessels raging in size and utility from airboats to super tankers.  On any given weekend, hundreds of thousands of vessels ply the waters off the Florida coastline and Keys, as well as along the waters of Florida’s rivers and intracoastal waterways.  All of this marine activity inevitably leads to situations giving rise to boating accidents.  Coast Guard statistics for 2013 reveal 4,062  known accidents nationwide, with Florida accounting for the highest percentage among states (16.8%) of the national total.

Laws governing boating are based on federal and state provisions, with federal provisions taking precedence.  Federal law, which is normally enforced by the United States Coast Guard, governs aspects of boating such as the regulation of safety devices, required personal floatation devices and general navigation requirements.  The Coast Guard is specifically tasked with enforcing the Collision Avoidance Regulations (also known as the “COLREGS” or the “Rules of the Road”), which proscribe different rules for inland and international navigation.  States also have their own boating regulations, which are codified in state administrative regulations and laws.  State regulations govern operation and conduct where the COLREGS are silent.  In Florida’s jurisdictional waters, state law governs a complex variety of water activities.  In Florida, the boating laws are found in chapters 327 and 328 of the Florida Statutes.

Florida Personal Injury Law Firm

Florida requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, who operates a vessel with ten horsepower or more to pass an approved boater safety course and have in his or her possession photographic identification and a boater safety identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Only very narrow exceptions apply to this law.

The operator of a vessel involved in a boating accident in Florida waters where there is significant personal injury, death, disappearance of any person under circumstances which indicate death or injury or damage to the vessel or vessels of at least $2,000, must, “by the quickest means possible,” give notice to one of the following: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sheriff of the county in which the accident occurred or the police chief of the municipality in which the accident occurred, if applicable.  It is unlawful to leave the scene of a boating accident in which you are involved without rendering “all possible” aid to the involved persons.  Captains and other professionally licensed operators have increased duties of care in the eyes of the law and are held to a professional standard in the courtroom.

Power and sail boating accidents

Watercraft accidents produce a unique litigation environment.  Ships do not leave skid marks on the water and rarely can the scene of an accident be fully preserved for later inspection.  This makes many boating accidents difficult to pursue in litigation.  Personal injuries can occur through operator negligence or product liability.  Fuel spills resulting from improper maintenance or an accident may also fall into this category.

Personal Watercraft (“PWC”) Related Accidents

The term “Jet Ski” is a trademarked, brand-specific, name used to describe personal watercraft.  Accidents involving PWC litigation are commonly caused by:

  • Driver inexperience.
  • Excessive speed.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Driver inattention.
  • Off throttle steering.

Our experience in marine tort litigation and product liability matters arising under maritime jurisdiction allow our counsel at Podhurst Orseck to effectively represent your interest as a client when a boating or PWC related accident occurs.