Tampa Boating Accident Attorney
Boating is a popular pastime in Florida. With year-round sunshine and warm water surrounding the peninsula, there is no shortage of waterways, bays, and open waters that attract boaters from within the state and around the world. On any given weekend with beautiful weather, you will see thousands of boaters in the waters of Florida. From avid fishermen to partygoers, charters, personal watercraft, and cruises the waters in and around Tampa Bay can get quite busy. Unfortunately, accidents can occur.
Unlike roads and interstates, where traffic congestion can increase the risk of accidents, it is hard to understand why boating accidents occur when there is ample space available for boats to travel to and from their destination. The reality is that the vast majority of boat accidents happen because of operator error. Boat accidents can be catastrophic to those involved and are often avoidable.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a boating accident, contact the Tampa boating accident lawyers at Fernandez Firm today to learn more about your legal options moving forward.
How Common Are Boat-Related Accidents in Tampa?
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida waters see over 800 boat accidents each year. Nearly 80 people will lose their lives annually in a boat-related incident, and hundreds more suffer injuries in collisions. This is no surprise. Florida has the most registered boat owners, with nearly one million registered vessels.
Tampa Bay consistently ranks as one of the top boating destinations within the state. Its scenic views, beautiful waters, and party atmosphere attract residents and visitors to the waters throughout the year. While most boaters behave responsibly at the helm, there are many that throw caution to the wind and create dangerous situations for themselves, their passengers, and others on the waters.
What Are the Different Types of Boat Accidents That Can Occur?
The range of boats and watercraft on the waters can vary greatly in size, capabilities, and speed. Each watercraft has its own dangers and attributes that can make it more susceptible to an accident or injuries for those aboard. Florida attracts all kinds of different watercraft; from the lavish yachts, sailboats, and party boats to fish dinghies, airboats, and jet skis, you can find almost any of these vessels along the various waterways within Florida.
Various circumstances can lead to a boat accident. These accidents can result in different dangers to the occupants of a boat and boaters and others in the waters nearby.
Examples of types of boat accidents in Tampa can include:
- Running aground
- Vessel collisions
- Water sport injuries
- Man overboard
- Propeller injuries
- Slip and falls on deck
- Running over waders, snorkelers, divers, or swimmers
Where Do Most Boat Accidents Occur in Tampa?
Pinellas County is surrounded by both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Many avid Tampa boaters will travel to and from the county and their surrounding waters during their excursions. Pinellas County is a hotspot for Tampa boaters and others throughout the area. The county ranks fourth in the state for the most boating accidents annually, with over 50 accidents reported with four fatalities and over 20 individuals with injuries.
Some of the most dangerous hotspots for boat accidents in Tampa and surrounding areas are in the areas between Fort De Soto Park and Madeira Beach, and under the Bayside Bridge.
Why Do Boat Accidents Happen?
With so much space for boats to comfortably navigate, why do boat accidents happen in the first place and why do so many end in injuries or fatalities?
The number one most common cause for boat accidents is the negligence of an operator of a vessel. Unlike driving, which has a minimum age requirement and licensing process, boating laws and regulations for recreation are much more lax.
Common Causes of Boat Accidents in Florida
Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
Alcohol is one of the biggest threats to the safety of the public on the waters. Unlike the operation of motor vehicles, where the enforcement of open container laws is often strict, boaters often openly, if illegally, consume alcohol while on their vessel. It is against the law to operate a vessel with a Blood Alcohol Level above the legal limit. Unfortunately, the temptation for many negligent boaters is often too great, and many will still operate a boat even while knowingly impaired by alcohol. This puts the operator, their passengers, and other boaters around them at risk of an accident due to impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and reckless behaviors.
Distractions are not only a problem on the roads. Many of the same distractions that put motor vehicle drivers in danger can heighten the risk of boat accidents. Boat operators can become distracted by their phones, other passengers, gadgets, and miss warning signs or oncoming vessels until it is too late.
While certain vessel operators require a boater safety course, this requirement has exceptions for new boat owners and those who drive the boat with a certified operator aboard. Lax boat operation regulations combined with sporadic enforcement lead many inexperienced boaters to be present on the waters on any given day. Boaters may not know the rules for the waterways or can’t react to dangers that present themselves.
Dangerous maneuvers on a boat, or traveling through restricted areas or too close to other vessels or the shore, can lead to preventable accidents. Boaters with little to no experience in the waters or limited awareness of signage and laws can put the public at risk when they are in charge of the operation of a watercraft.
Posted speed limits on boating channels and high traffic areas are not suggestions but rather laws for the safety of all boaters and marine life in the area. Excess speeds on the water are hazardous due to the reduction of reaction time, the inability to identify hazards under the water or up ahead, and the exponential increase in the risk of fatality and severe injury if a collision occurs.
Defective parts or equipment on a boat can cause catastrophic failures during the operation of the vessel that can lead to the boat sinking or even explosions on the water. Boaters injured due to inherent danger in the design or manufacturing of the boat or elements of the boat may be able to file a claim or suit against the manufacturer or distributor of the defective product.
No Safety Equipment
A boat without personal flotation devices for all aboard increases the risk of death and injury should something go wrong. The vessel not only needs safety equipment, but it requires easy access in an emergency. In addition, children under six years of age must wear a life jacket at all times when a vessel under 26 feet is not secured or anchored.
What Are the Most Common Injuries in a Boating Accident?
The type of boat accident can have a great impact on the types and severity of injuries suffered by those involved. While the most common fatality in a boat accident is drowning, other injuries can cause boat accident victims severe and fatal consequences.
Boat accident injuries can have lifelong, traumatic, painful consequences for survivors and real impacts on their quality of life and ability to function. Risks to the physical, emotional, and mental health of an accident victim combine with financial burdens and expenses that can put a strain on their futures and their relationships with family and friends.
Common injuries in a boat accident can include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of limb
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord damage
- Severe lacerations
What Should You Do If You Are in a Boat Accident?
When a fun day on the water turns into an unexpected dangerous situation with a boat accident, there are certain steps you can take to help ensure your safety and that of those around you. If you are in a boat accident, immediate action can save your life or that of other passengers.
Account for Everyone
The most important priority after a boat collision or other type of boat accident is to account for everyone. If the vessel is still upright, take an immediate headcount to make certain no one fell overboard. If you find yourself overboard or another passenger is overboard, you must attempt to swim to safety or yell for a PFD to be thrown to you if you are injured or otherwise unable to swim.
Radio for Help or Call 911
Immediately contact the Coast Guard through your boat’s radio or call 911 over a mobile phone if there is adequate service to request medical assistance or notify them that an accident has occurred. Under Florida boating laws, you must report any accident that involves damage of more than $2,000 or minor injuries requiring more than just first aid at the scene to the authorities.
Await Medical Assistance and The Authorities
If there are injured parties, you may need to await medical assistance and law enforcement. If the boat remains sea-worthy and the injured parties are on board, you may need to make your way to shore. Follow the directions and advice of the dispatcher you are in communications with to ensure you follow the instructions to preserve life and safety as best as possible for all involved.
Gather Vital Information
Once everyone is safe or being tended to, take a moment to gather the information of everyone involved in the accident. This includes the name and contact information of the boat operators and all passengers involved regardless of injury. If there is insurance coverage, request copies of all insurance cards and make certain to take down registration information for the vessels involved in the accident.
Also, see if there are any witnesses or bystanders that may have seen the accident transpire. Take down the identifying information and contact information for all witnesses to the accident.
Take Photographs of Damage and the Scene
You can take this action yourself, or if you are occupied with other tasks, ask another passenger or loved one to assist you. Take photographs and video footage at the scene of the accident. Photograph all the vessels involved, the positions of the boats in respect to one another, and the environment around the accident scene. If you can do so from your vantage point, photograph the damage to the other vessels and the damage to the boat you were on.
If there is any other information you feel is pertinent, make sure to record it visually or notate it. This can include environmental features that contributed to the accident or the injuries suffered, or statements made by other boaters that can indicate the actions that led to the accident.
Call the Fernandez Firm for an Evaluation With Our Tampa Boat Accident Lawyers
Once you have received emergency medical attention for your injuries and are in treatment and recovery, you should contact a Tampa boat accident lawyer to discuss the legal options available to you. Boat accidents are beyond just the personal injury laws of your state.
Depending on the location of the accident and the parties involved; maritime and federal laws will apply in addition to the laws of Florida. This creates a complex situation that an individual without legal knowledge and experience cannot easily navigate.
The Fernandez Firm is here to help.
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