Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Attorney
The boating accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Chalik & Chalik have seen the unfortunate aftermath of boat accidents in Fort Lauderdale. Broward County has more than 300 miles of beautiful waterways open to boaters and watercraft enthusiasts. Boating is one of the most popular recreational activities in Fort Lauderdale – a fact that comes as no surprise to locals and tourists. Sunny skies, sparkling waters, and exciting places like the Everglades and Deerfield Island Park attract thousands of boaters every year. Boating isn’t always just fun in the sun, however. Boating accidents can turn an adventure into tragedy. Call our office today for a free, no obligation consultation and speak to our Fort Lauderdale boating accident lawyers at Chalik & Chalik.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Lawyers Today
If you need legal assistance with insurance settlement negotiations or if you believe your case has merit as a personal injury claim in Fort Lauderdale, visit an attorney for counsel. It’s possible that you could receive a greater award in a PI claim compared to accepting an insurance settlement offer. For more in-depth information about what your individual boating accident case could be worth, talk with an experienced Fort Lauderdale boating injury attorney at the Law Offices of Chalik & Chalik today.
Fort Lauderdale Boating Laws and Safety Regulations
Many people mistakenly believe that operating a water vessel comes with less stringent rules than driving a motor vehicle. Boats can be just as dangerous as motor vehicles, and they require the same amount of diligence and care by operators. Boating also comes with waterway laws and safety regulations that boaters and passengers must obey on the waters of Fort Lauderdale. These rules include:
- Watercrafts must remain at least 200 yards offshore, except during launch or return to a designated boat launching area.
- Watercrafts may not anchor or interfere with others’ use of the channel area of a waterway.
- Watercraft operators cannot have more than a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration level while boating.
- Watercraft owners must properly maintain their vessels at all times. This includes equipping boats with proper lights, safety, and emergency gear before launch.
Boaters also have the responsibility to act as reasonable and prudent persons would in the same situation. Boaters should pay attention to weather conditions, undergo proper training before operating a water vessel, watch the waterway at all times, and understand all boating rules and requirements before launch. Any type of negligence on the boater’s part, resulting in a collision, can make the boater liable for resultant damages.
What If I Signed a Liability Waiver?
Liability waivers are common in many industries where paying customers assume a degree of risk to partake in a paid activity. For example, attending a day cruise may require signing a liability waiver stating that you agree not to file a lawsuit against the operator in the event of an accident. These waivers rarely hold up in court, especially in cases involving negligence.
A company that offers recreational boating as a paid attraction may ask customers to sign liability waivers before commencing the activity, but the operator still has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure patron safety. Florida state law sometimes enforces liability waivers, but only if the operator meets specific legal criteria. If the operator or owner of a water-based attraction did not meet his or her requirements, the liability waiver will not hold up in court.
When these accidents lead to lawsuits, the concept of “assumed risk” is considered. Some activities like rock climbing, skiing, and watercraft activities are inherently dangerous, but patrons may willingly assume the risk to enjoy the activity. The exact wording of the liability waiver may come into question, but a Florida judge will likely enforce the waiver unless the operator engaged in any intentional conduct that resulted in injury. This could include physically throwing a customer from the vessel, operating the vessel at dangerous speeds, or knowingly entering dangerous or choppy waters.
Our Fort Lauderdale boat accident attorneys will be your best resource for determining the bearing a liability waiver may have on your case. You must prove that the defendant acted outside the scope of the service you intended to buy and his or her intentional actions resulted in your damages. Under Florida law, if the defendant met his or her legal obligations, the liability waiver may prevent you from filing a lawsuit.
Common Causes of Boating Injuries in Fort Lauderdale
- Too many occupants or too much cargo
- Colliding with a moving or fixed object
- Boating under the influence
- Riding a large wake or operating the boat at an unsafe speed
- Failure to follow the rules of boat operating
Types of Damages in a Boat Accident
Depending on the severity of the collision, a boating accident can result in thousands of dollars in property damages. It could also result in serious passenger injuries, as well as traumas to swimmers or divers nearby. Accidental drowning can occur as a result of a boating accident, especially when head traumas in the crash render a person unconscious in the water. Some boating injuries in Fort Lauderdale have even resulted in death.
The amount your boating accident case could be worth depends on the severity and types of damages. The Fort Lauderdale courts can grant boat injury victims compensation for past and future medical costs, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all costs relating to a loved one’s death in the event of fatal wounds. The at-fault boater likely has insurance that will cover your damages. Fort Lauderdale’s “no-fault” laws apply in boating accidents as in car crashes – victims would first seek compensation through their own insurers, and then go to the other boater’s insurer for additional coverage.
Boat Accident Statistics in Florida
The United States Coast Guard collates all recreational boating accident data into its annual Recreational Boating Statistics Report. Boaters in the Fort Lauderdale area and throughout Florida should understand the risks of boating accidents and know a few key statistics:
- In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard tracked 4,463 recreational boating accidents across the country. This included 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries, and totaled about $49 million in property damages.
- The fatality rate for recreational boating increased 11.3% from 2015 to 2016. The fatality rate for 2016 was 5.9 deaths per every 100,000 registered recreational water vessels.
- Between 2015 and 2016, the number of accidents increased 7.3%, the number of deaths increased 12%, and the number of injuries caused by recreational boating accidents increased 11.1%.
- In recreational boating accidents with a determined cause of death, 80% of fatalities resulted from drowning. 83% of these drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
- 80% of drowning victims were using boats smaller than 21 feet in length.
- In accidents where investigators could determine operator instruction, 77% of deaths occurred on boats with an operator who did not have adequate safety training. Only 13% of accidents occurred with an operator who had completed a nationally-approved safety course.
- 171 of the accidents tracked in 2016 involved contact with a propeller, resulting in 175 injuries and 24 deaths.
- The leading cause of fatal recreational boating accidents is alcohol use. In cases where investigators could determine the cause of accidents, alcohol was a major factor in 15% of the fatalities.
- Motorboats are the most common vessels found in fatal crashes, and involved 47% of the fatalities recorded for 2016. 18% involved personal watercraft such as jet skis, and cabin motorboats were involved in 15% of fatal accidents.