The Tampa Bay region, including Clearwater, features some of the most amazing waterways in the state.
It’s no wonder these areas are a popular destination for boaters and other water enthusiasts. Though fun and adventure are ever-present in local waters, there is also a risk of injury and even death in the event of a boating accident.
Florida experiences more than 800 boating accidents a year, and roughly half of those accidents result from a boat colliding with another vessel or structure.
If a boating accident injured you due to a negligent boat operator or other sources of liability, a Clearwater boat accident lawyer from Perenich Law Injury Attorneys can help you understand your legal options for seeking compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of your injury. Contact one of our seasoned personal injury attorneys now.
About Boating Accidents in Florida
Nearly 80 people died in Florida in a given year due to boating accidents, and more than 500 suffered injuries. According to Lt. Seth Wagner of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the most common causes of boating accidents in Clearwater and throughout Florida were distracted or inattentive operators or failure to maintain a proper lookout for obstacles such as other vessels.
Other common issues that result in boating accidents include:
- Drug- or alcohol-impaired boat operators: Drug or alcohol impairment erodes the skills that an operator needs to maneuver a boat safely, such as the ability to track moving objects, to control one’s speed, and to make good decisions in emergencies.
- Aggressive boating, which often goes hand-in-hand with impaired boating and can result in serious or fatal accidents.
- Careless boat operators who cause injuries to water skiers, those riding inner-tubes, or even their passengers by failing to operate the boat safely and smoothly and watching for other waterway users.
- Vessels featuring product defects or lack of maintenance and are unseaworthy.
- Lack of proper training to operate the vessel. To operate a boat with 10 horsepower or greater, individuals born on or after January 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Nearly 70 percent of operators in fatal accidents had no formal boater education.
Common Boat Accident Injuries
The most common injury sustained in a Florida boating accident is a laceration. Lacerations are cuts to the skin as a result of contact with sharp objects such as broken glass or boat propellers. While these injuries commonly heal on their own with minimal medical treatment such as sutures and infection monitoring, lacerations can result in scarring and the need for skin graft surgery.
Other types of injuries that are common to Clearwater water vessel collisions include:
- Broken bones, which can result in chronic pain, loss of range of motion, and the need for surgery to set the bones in place.
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries that can result in permanent disabilities. Other types of head injuries that occur in boating accidents include damage to the eyes, nose, or teeth, fractures to the bones in the face, burns, or cuts to the face.
- Back injuries, including spinal cord injuries that can also result in permanent disabilities. Other types of damage to the back and neck resulting from a boating accident can include fractured spinal vertebrae or ruptured, slipped, or herniated discs.
- Internal injuries, which can result from penetration of an object into the abdominal cavity or bumping the abdomen against a hard object, such as the boat railing during an accident. The most serious risk posed by internal injuries is uncontrolled bleeding, known as hemorrhaging, which can result in a dangerous loss of blood volume and result in organ failure and even death.
- Burns, resulting from contact with flame or caustic chemicals. Burns carry a high risk of complications including scarring and infection.
- Limb amputation if a person’s body caught in the boat’s propeller or two objects crushed it during the accident.
- Hypothermia, resulting from falling overboard into cold water and waiting to be found.
What Must Boat Operators Do After a Crash?
Federal and state boating laws require boat operators to remain on the scene and aid injured victims until help arrives. Additionally, they must file a written report of the boating accident to a law enforcement agency such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, or the Clearwater Police Department. Operators should make the report as quickly as possible.
Accidents that require a written report include those that resulted in:
- The death of a person.
- A person becoming missing in the water.
- A person suffering a bodily injury that requires immediate medical treatment.
- At least $2,000 in damage to the boat or boats involved.
- At least $2,000 in damage to structures or personal property.
Federal boating regulations require operators to file a written report of the accident within 48 hours if it involved injuries, death, or a missing person. Operators have ten days to file a report if it involves at least $2,000 in damage to vessels, structures, or property.
Can You File a Boating Accident Report and Still Seek Compensation for Injuries?
Yes. The written boating accident report is simply a report of the accident to a law enforcement agency so they can investigate the causes of the accident and determine the appropriateness of citing and fining the operators involved. You are required as a boat operator to provide this report regardless of whether you had liability for the accident.
Likewise, if your accident resulted from a collision with another boat, its operator is also required to file a written report. The information contained in this report is not admissible as evidence in court. However, the investigating law enforcement agency will use the information provided and the results of their investigation to compile an official accident report that can be used as evidence.
Seeking Compensation After a Water Vessel Crash
If you have suffered injuries or have lost a loved one due to a boating accident in Clearwater, you can seek compensation for your injuries or losses through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. These are legal claims that are filed in civil court that seek to prove who was liable for the boating accident and to show the expenses and impacts you incurred as a result of your injury.
Personal Injury Claims
Individuals who are injured can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their injury through a personal injury lawsuit. This lawsuit must be filed in court within two years of the date on which your accident occurred. Before the lawsuit is filed, your proactive boat accident lawyer in Clearwater will first seek payment of the value of your claim from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. However, be aware that insurance is not required for boats in Florida.
The state, however, strongly encourages boat insurance to:
- Compensate individuals injured in an accident caused by the boat operator.
- Cover bodily harm and property damage that the boat’s owner and passengers can experience while riding in the boat.
- Cover equipment kept in the boat if it is stolen or damaged.
- Cover damage to the vessel itself if it is damaged in storage or in transit to or from a waterway.
Your dedicated Clearwater boat accident attorney will carefully investigate the details of your accident to determine all sources of liability and the associated resources that can compensate you for the injuries you incurred.
The compensation you can receive for the expenses and impacts of your injuries includes:
- Medical expenses incurred in the treatment of your injuries and related complications.
- Wage loss if your injuries caused you to miss time from work.
- Loss of future earning capacity if you became disabled as a result of your boating accident and can no longer earn in the same capacity as you did before.
- Property damage that you sustained as a result of the accident.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your injury prevents you from boating or enjoying other activities that were important to you before the accident.
Wrongful Death Claims
In Florida, if an individual is killed in an accident that—had they lived—would have given rise to a personal injury claim, their family members can seek compensation from the at-fault party for their financial and psychological losses. A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed in court within two years of the date on which the accident occurred.
The individuals who can benefit from the claim include:
- The deceased’s spouse
- The deceased’s children
- The deceased’s parents
- Other biological, step-, or adopted family members who relied on the deceased for support and services.
The types of losses you could seek compensation for through a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical expenses related to the treatment of the deceased’s final injury.
- Reasonable costs associated with funeral services and burial or cremation.
- The loss of earnings and benefits that would have been earned by the deceased, had they survived their injury.
- The loss of services and support provided to the deceased’s dependents.
- The loss of prospective net accumulations to the deceased’s estate.
- The loss of love, guidance, nurturing, companionship, and guidance that the deceased provided to their family members.
How Liability Is Proven in Boating Accident Claims
One of the most important factors regarding the success of your boating injury or wrongful death claims is your ability to prove who caused your injuries.
While boat operators are often the liable parties in boating accidents, other sources of liability can include:
- The manufacturer of defective boat parts that caused the accident.
- The owner of a poorly maintained boat, if different than the operator.
- The rental company that supplied the boat and was responsible for ensuring that it was seaworthy.
- Other passengers of the boat who could have caused an injury or death from horseplay or an intentional act such as throwing someone overboard.
To successfully prove liability, you must show:
- The boat’s operator or other at-fault party had a duty of care to take reasonable actions in a given circumstance to avoid causing harm to others or their property.
- There was a breach in the duty of care that occurred when the at-fault party took actions that were contrary to the reasonable protection of others.
- This breach resulted in a boating accident in which you became injured.
How a Clearwater Boat Accident Attorney Can Help
The dedicated legal team at Perenich Law Injury Attorneys can provide several services aimed at assisting you in obtaining compensation for the impacts and expenses of your injuries.
These services include:
- A free case evaluation so you can learn more about the process and obtain answers to the legal questions you have about your case. This time also allows us to share more about our firm and how our family has been helping the injured of Clearwater for decades.
- Determining all sources of liability.
- Obtaining evidence and witness testimony to prove liability in court and establish a value to your case.
- Valuing your case based on the expenses and impacts you have incurred to help ensure that there is enough compensation to address the effects and costs that you will likely face in the future.
- Settlement negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurer.
- Litigation services.
- Assistance collecting a court award or a negotiated settlement.
For your free case evaluation with a Clearwater boat accident lawyer, contact us. Perenich Law Injury Attorneys are here to help.