Types of Negligence That Leads to Clearwater Boating Accidents

August 25, 2020
Types of Negligence That Leads to Clearwater Boating Accidents

Florida Boating Accident Causes

With around 1,200 miles of coastline and a nearly countless amount of lakes (okay, like 30,000 lakes covering more than 3 million acres, but still, a lot), the state of Florida is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts from around the country. Additionally, a significant percentage of the state's commercial activity involves watercraft, ranging anywhere from cruise lines to parasailing to fishing trips.

But unfortunately, like any other water-based activity, boating involves an inherent risk of bodily injury that can cause anything from minor to serious injuries, or even death.

When most people think about personal injury, they think about car accidents or slip-and-falls, but that is just a portion of the cases. Based on the above statistics, personal injury attorneys in Florida see a lot more boating accidents than one might think. Taking into account all of Florida's water and sunshine, it's really no surprise.

In fact, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that 1,171 people were injured in boating accidents in just a three-year span from 2011-2014.

Boating Negligence

Just because you get hurt on a boat, does not mean that you have a personal injury case or that anyone was negligent. In order to recover damages, you must be able to prove that your injury resulted from someone's negligence.

Negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care (see, duty of care). In other words, you and your lawyer (but mostly your lawyer) will need to prove that someone failed to act with reasonable care. And that, as a result of the negligence, you were injured. This is often one of the most difficult aspects of any personal injury case.

When boating accidents are the result of someone else's negligence, victims are often able to recover for their injuries by filing a Florida personal injury claim. The kinds of losses that are often recoverable after a boating accident include, medical expenses, lost income, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

Clearwater boating accidents can occur for a variety of reasons

Boating accidents can occur for a number of reasons. Like other cases involving preventable accidents, boating accident victims generally must be able to establish that their accident was the result of some type of legal negligence in order to be able to recover. Some of the more common forms of negligence that often result in boating accidents are discussed below.

Operator error – Operator error is consistently ranked among the most common causes of boating accidents in Florida's waterways. Operator error includes things like traveling unreasonably fast in congested waters, impaired boating, inadequate training, or distracted boating. For these reasons you should always treat boating just like you would traveling by car: never ride with a person who is impaired by alcohol, don't allow the driver to text or otherwise be distracted, be sure the person operating the boat knows what they're doing, etc.

Defective vessel design, manufacture, or marketing – A significant number of boating accidents occur because a boat or personal watercraft was defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed. Sometimes, the fact that an accident was the result of a defective vessel is obvious, while in others, the true cause of the accident may require a significant amount of investigation to uncover. As a result, all boating accidents should be reviewed by an experienced maritime attorney. Some of the kinds of accidents that may be the result of a defective vessel include the following:

  • Accidents involving capsizing
  • Boats taking on water and becoming stranded or sinking
  • Accidents that are the result of malfunctioning onboard equipment
  • Fuel tank explosions or onboard fire

Rental company negligence – The boat and personal watercraft industry in Florida is prominent and lucrative. They rent out a significant number of boats to people across the state. These companies have a duty to the public to ensure that their vessels are properly maintained and do not pose any unreasonable risk of injury to those who rent them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Every year a significant number of people are injured in accidents that are the result of negligence on the part of a boat rental company or marina. Just because they own a rental store, does not mean they have followed all the rules. Be sure to rent from a reputable lender.

Collision with another Boat

In a boat collision, both boat operators will usually be at least partly at fault. It's really a matter of how much each party is at fault. This is decided by a percentage, usually by a judge or jury (for example, 20-80, 50-50, etc.). However, there are certain instances when a person may be completely at-fault, like if the other driver was drunk.

Check out this article for the surprising dangers of pontoon boats.

Hitting Another Boat's Wake

Hitting large wake is common, but less thought about the aspect of boating injuries. When a boat hits large wake (the waves that are created by other craft), passengers can be thrown around inside the boat or thrown overboard. The liability in a wake accident will generally depend on the circumstances, such as:

  • the size of the wake
  • the boat's speed
  • the visibility
  • the boat traffic in the area of the accident
  • whether the operator warned the passengers that the boat was approaching a big wake
  • whether the injured person was on a motorboat or a sailboat

Both the person operating the boat you were on and the other boat operator may be responsible for any injuries due to wake. The most common example of wake negligence from the other operator is in a no wake zone (common in manatee protection zones in Florida). If this the case, then any wake violates the boating safety rules, and the operator would be negligent. If the boat was speeding through a crowded area and leaving behind a large wake, the operator may be found negligent for creating too large of a wake for the area.

Hitting a Wave

A wave accident is similar to a wake accident except that there is no other boat to hold liable. So whether or not the boat's operator was negligent will generally depend on the circumstances described above.

Collision with a Submerged Object or Land

Even with the best weather and visibility, a boat can still hit a submerged object or land. In Florida, this is common with sandbars, which can be speckled throughout popular waterways. Poor weather and poor visibility may also be responsible for a boat operator running ashore or crashing into a jetty. The operator's liability for this type of collision will depend on the circumstances. An example of negligence occurs when a boat operator is speeding through a dense rainstorm, without charts or a GPS, and runs into a sandbar. This is negligence.

Failure to Have Proper Safety Equipment on Board

Federal and state boating safety laws and regulations require even small pleasure boats to have various kinds of safety equipment on board, such as life jackets for each passenger, navigational lights, flares, a loud whistle, and a fire extinguisher. While failure to have the proper safety equipment on board will probably not cause an accident, it may cause issues that can be life-threatening or cause injury when it comes to getting rescued. If someone falls overboard, lifejackets may save their life or prevent serious brain injury from near drowning. The lack of proper safety equipment on board could lead to a claim of negligence against the boat's owner.

Of course, there are many other forms negligence that can cause a boating accident. As a result, it is important for anyone who has been hurt in a Florida boating accident to discuss his or her options with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Contact a maritime accident attorney today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Boating accidents can leave victims with serious injuries and medical expenses well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In particularly serious cases, the injuries that victims sustain can lead to mental or physical disabilities that may affect them for years or for the rest of their life. Fortunately, in many instances, Florida law entitles boating accident victims to significant compensation. The Clearwater personal injury attorneys of the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are seasoned personal injury advocates who work tirelessly to ensure that each client we represent obtains the full and fair value of their claim. 

We handle claims all around the Tampa–St Pete–Clearwater Area with multiple locations for your convenience. Please don't hesitate to contact us.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, please call our Clearwater office today at (727) 451-6900

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900






Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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