If you have been involved in a South Florida boating accident, you may have been left with serious, even life-altering injuries. If this is the case, you may also be unable to return to work, therefore unable to pay your normal monthly expenses. If you have a family who is counting on your income, the situation could seem even more desperate. The law firm of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti has helped many people who found themselves in the same situation.
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While the situations could be similar, we believe every client is unique, and, as such, deserves highly personalized attention. Our attorneys understand that you may be feeling frustrated, stressed, anxious and even angry about your situation and the person who caused it. Our 80 years of collective experience ensure you will receive the help you need—whether you need an experienced negotiator or an aggressive, highly skilled litigator, we can help.
Boating Accident Facts
NMMA.org reports that boating is a very popular sport in the United States, with more than 13 million registered boats plus an estimated 4 million unregistered boats. About one in ten U.S. households own a boat, and about 32 percent of U.S. adults will go boating during any given year. While many believe boating is a sport for the wealthy, in fact about 62 percent of boat owners earn less than $75,000 per year, making boating primarily a middle-class activity. While boating offers fun for the entire family, boating accidents can be very serious.
According to American Boating, there were 4,463 boating accidents in the United States in 2016. Of those boating accidents, there were a resulting 2,903 injuries and 701 fatalities. The rate of fatalities following boating accidents increased by 11.3 percent from 2015, with the number of injuries also increasing by 11.1 percent and the number of total accidents increasing by 7.3 percent. About 80 percent of those who died in a boating accident in 2016 were the victims of drowning, and of those who drowned, 83 percent were not wearing a life vest. Wearing a life vest is a crucial component of boating safety, yet the vast majority of adults who are on a boat do not wear a life vest. In the state of Florida, life vests are mandatory for children six and under, but not for others.
Boating Accidents in Key West and Miami
USCGboating.org broke boating fatalities down by state, finding that a full 10 percent of all boating accident deaths occurred in the state of Florida in 2017—more than in any other state. With 723 boating accidents in the state in 2017 and 66 resulting fatalities, the only other state which came even close to these numbers was California. Of course, both Florida and California are unique in the fact that, due to virtually year-round mild weather, boating is a constant activity rather than a spring and summer activity.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found that 63 percent of reportable boating accidents in the state of Florida occurred in 10 counties: Monroe, Miami Dade, Broward, Collier, Palm Beach, Lee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Duval and Okaloosa. Florida’s current boating safety education laws only apply to those born on or after January 1, 1988, who are operating a motorized boat with 10 hp or greater. The same agency found that boat operators most likely to be involved in a boating accident are middle-aged or older males with some boating experience but who have never taken a boating safety course.
Factors Involved in South Florida Boating Accidents
Just as we hope a driver on the road has undergone proper training, understands the rules of the road and adheres to safety precautions, we hope the driver of a boat has these things as well. Unfortunately, the vast majority of fatal boating accident occur on a boat being driven by a person who has received no formal boat operator training or boating safety instruction. The most common causes of boating accidents in the state of Florida include inattention, operator inexperience, careless or reckless operation, excessive speed, machinery failure, weather, violation of navigational rules and alcohol or drug use on the part of the boat operator.
In the state of Florida, alcohol use is believed to be a factor in about a quarter of all boating fatalities and, as most boaters know, there are seldom DWI checkpoints on lakes, rivers or oceans. Severe weather can be a significant factor in boating accidents, particularly strong winds or heavy rains. When the boat operator is inexperienced, the risk of a boating accident during inclement weather increases exponentially. Many believe that boating accidents could be largely prevented if all boating operators were required to have proper training and safety instruction, there was a crackdown on drinking and boating, and the use of life vests was a mandatory requirement for all those on a boat.
Typical Injuries Sustained in a South Florida Boating Accident
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that lacerations are the most common injury sustained in a South Florida boating accident, followed by contusions, broken bones, head injuries, burns, sprains or strains, back injuries, internal injuries, neck injuries, spinal injuries, amputations and hypothermia. While head and neck injuries may seem relatively harmless at the time, serious health issues can result down the line from concussions, traumatic brain injury or whiplash. Brain injuries can occur from a boating accident in two ways:
- From oxygen deprivation which occurs when an individual is submerged underwater or exposed to significant levels of carbon monoxide from a docked or idling boat, or
- When an individual is thrown against a hard surface during a boat collision with another vessel or structure.
Spinal cord injuries can occur from a boating collision but can also occur when the spine is compressed from the boat violently bouncing up and down from waves, or the wake of other vessels. A spinal compression injury, such as a herniated disk can occur in such situations. Amputations most often occur when an individual is thrown from the boat and collides with the propeller blades. Lacerations can also occur from propeller blades or can occur from being thrown into an object on the boat. In rarer cases, a boating injury could be the result of a defect in the boat, or a dangerous condition of a boat, meaning those injured could potentially have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the boat.
Avoiding Boating Accidents
There are a number of ways to avoid boating accidents; perhaps the number one way being to always boat sober. Boating is a fun, social activity and when the hot sun is beating down on those in the boat, a cold beer may sound like a good idea. Unfortunately, being out in the hot sun and on the water all day can exacerbate the effects of alcohol, making it common for a boat operator to be impaired and unaware of that fact. Other ways to avoid boating accidents include:
- Always ensure there is adequate safety equipment onboard the boat, including life jackets for everyone on the boat, a first-aid kit and emergency supplies;
- Ensure boat and safety equipment are properly maintained;
- Monitor water conditions and weather conditions carefully prior to going out on the water;
- Maintain safe boating speeds;
- Follow boating and navigational rules;
- Ensure boat operators have taken an accredited boat safety course;
- Avoid overloading the boat, and
- Be watchful and vigilant—inattention is one of the primary causes of boating accidents.
What to Do Following a South Florida Boating Accident
If you are involved in a boating accident—whether as the operator or a passenger—you must do the following:
- If the boat is sinking, get everyone off safely;
- When possible, move the boat out of the path of oncoming vessels;
- Notify the Coast Guard, giving the location of the accident and whether medical assistance is necessary;
- Obtain medical attention for those who require it;
- Obtain information from those on the other boat, as well as from any witnesses to the accident;
- If possible, take photographs of the damage to the boat and the location of the accident;
- Make an insurance claim with your insurer, and
- If the boating accident was due to the negligence of another, contact an experienced South Florida personal injury attorney to make an injury claim.
A boating accident report must be filed anytime there is a fatality, someone is injured badly enough to require medical attention, there is damage to the boats or to property greater than $2,000, one or both boats are destroyed, or an individual disappeared from the boat during the accident.
How the Boating Accident Attorneys of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti Can Help
Boating accidents are of particular concern to Key West and Miami residents, as well as many other South Florida residents. Having an experienced boating accident attorney from Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti can ensure you and your family’s economic security is properly protected. As the victim of the negligence of another following a boating accident, you deserve a highly professional attorney who has the necessary resources as well as total commitment to their clients and who will work aggressively for compensation for your boating accident injuries. The firm of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti is that firm. We have been helping clients since 1973 and believe our level of experience is the reason you will have the best outcome possible following your boating accident with injuries.
When we represent you in boating accident cases, we provide you the personal, one-on-one attention you deserve. Your case will not be passed around from one attorney to the next or to an inexperienced paralegal. Your case will be handled by an experienced attorney who will know you by your name, not your file number. Our firm initially begins assembling the details and facts of your case. We will carefully investigate the situation and bring in experts in the field of boating. We will also bring in medical professionals to help us understand the extent of the injuries involved. All of these steps are taken to ensure that we have the facts to build a strong case. Contact Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti today for solid legal assistance you can count on.