Florida Boat Accident Attorney

October 27, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Florida is the most active state for recreational boating in the U.S. It makes up a significant part of Florida's tourist industry. As a result, there is an abundance of watercraft and boats on Florida's waterways each day. Regrettably, while this activity delivers hours of fun, it also means Florida leads the nation in boating accidents and jet ski crashes.

If you or a loved one were injured in a Florida boat crash, you should know that specific statutes apply to boat accidents. Therefore, you should contact a skilled Florida boat accident attorney to talk about your boating accident claim as soon as possible. Dolman Law Group provides free consultations to all injured boating accident victims. Our boating accident lawyers will meet with you in person or virtually to discuss your injuries, your accident, and your future. We offer honest feedback you can trust so that you can evaluate all your legal options.

Why Should I Hire a Florida Boating Accidents Attorney?

Not every boating accident in Florida requires the services of a personal injury lawyer. However, many do. If you suffered an injury in a boating accident in Florida, you need to find an experienced accident injury lawyer to help you through this difficult time. 

A Florida boating accident lawyer will have the resources and expertise necessary to mount a viable claim for damages against a powerful insurance company. Additionally, insurance companies will be more likely to offer you fair compensation from the outset if you have a reputable personal injury lawyer on your side, as this demonstrates you are willing to invest time and effort into negotiating a fair settlement.

After a catastrophic injury, boat accident victims need someone on their side that they can rely on to help them understand boating laws, file a boat accident claim, and pursue justice and compensation. As boating accident attorneys, we focus our practice on this area of injury claims. Don't risk being stuck with an inadequate settlement by trying to handle your claim on your own. 

Understanding Florida Maritime Laws and Boating Regulations

Florida Boating Accident Lawyer

In Florida, many people visit and rent charter boats for recreational purposes. To avoid frustrating customers and disrupting Florida's tourism-based economy, Florida lacks certain regulations pertaining to boating and recreational water activities. Unfortunately, tourists often lack any boating experience, which is one of the top factors contributing to boating accidents.

Florida's Lax Boating Age Regulations Increase the Risk of Boating Accidents

Case in point, there is no age requirement for boating. Also, operators born before January 1, 1988, are not required to have boating licenses or even undergo boating safety courses to demonstrate competency. This means that many Florida boaters are not licensed or trained in boating safety, making a boating crash more likely and potentially more severe.

However, if you were born after Jan. 1, 1988, you need to prove boating competency with a boating safety certification. This can easily be obtained online after completing a boating safety course. What is dangerous is that you don't need to have this boating certification if you have someone born before 1988 with you. This leaves many opportunities for people with no experience piloting a boat controlling a vessel, and causing boat accidents.

In some cases, people may take out a boat without providing proof of boating safety certification. In situations such as this, the party responsible for renting a vessel out to a clearly unqualified person can be considered liable due to their negligent renting practices.

Florida Boat Accident Claims May Be Litigated in Federal Court

Many Florida residents and even personal injury attorneys are unaware that public waterway accidents come under federal admiralty jurisdiction. This means that the case can, and sometimes must, be brought in Florida's federal courts, which have different judicial procedures. 

A separate set of laws applies to injuries sustained from boat or cruise accidents. Therefore, your Florida personal injury and maritime law attorney must know which standards to use when petitioning the court for compensation. 

For example, you may need to make a claim using the admiralty standards for negligence, not typical car accident standards. Your personal injury attorney must also be qualified to practice in federal court and have experience doing so. Not every boating accident lawyer will meet these criteria.

Common Types of Florida Boat Accidents

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that a collision with another vessel is the leading type of watercraft accident in Florida. Still, injuries to those being towed for watersport activities are also high. When it comes to fatalities, many of these were overboard drowning incidents in which drugs or alcohol were involved.

The primary type of accident, in order of volume, includes:

  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Collisions with fixed objects
  • Flooding
  • Grounding
  • Falls overboard
  • Falls on the boat
  • Fuel fires or explosions
  • Striking underwater objects
  • Capsizing
  • Sinking
  • Wake damage

Certain Florida Waterways Are Riskier for Boaters

Florida has a plethora of different waterways—again, some of the most diverse in the nation. The rules and speeds for boating on these waterways differ, but most accidents occur on the following, from most to least common:

  • Bays and sounds
  • Ocean and the Gulf
  • Rivers and creeks
  • Canal and cuts
  • Inlets and passes
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Ports and harbors
  • Marshes and swamps

Therefore, the most likely Florida boat accident is a collision between two boats on Florida's bays and sounds.

Negligent Florida Boat Operators Can Cause Serious Injuries

In one recent year, there were 836 boating accidents in Florida waters, killing 79 people. While some number of those can likely be attributed to circumstances beyond operator control, like inclement weather, the majority are caused by negligent boat operators. This is just one of the consequences of allowing boat operators with little or no experience to use Florida's waterways. Most accidents happen during recreational cruising or fishing trips. Boating negligence can take many forms. For example:

  • boat operator inattention
  • operator inexperience
  • intoxicated boat operator
  • failure to use a reliable lookout
  • unmaintained watercraft

Unfortunately, many Florida reportable boating accidents take place when a drunk boat operator causes harm. Known as Boating Under the Influence (BUI), it means the operator has ingested too much alcohol or drugs and can no longer safely operate their boat. Someone can be found guilty of BUI if they operate a vessel while alcohol or drugs impair their normal faculties or they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.

There are other circumstances when the negligence of a third party causes a Florida boating accident. For example, if a manufacturer of boat parts produced a defective part that is deemed responsible for causing the boating accident, the maker can potentially be held liable for the damages of the injured parties in a product liability lawsuit.

Watercraft Like Jet Skis Can Cause Serious Boating Accidents in Florida

Florida Jet Ski Accident Attorney

In Florida, another recreational water sport is jet skiing. These watercraft can cause substantial damage if not operated safely. Unfortunately, accidents caused by someone negligently using a jet ski are on the rise in Florida and throughout the nation. So are the settlements for the victims of such reckless conduct. 

For example, several years ago, a jet ski rider was killed in Florida when the jet ski she was riding on collided with a boat. The driver of the jet ski was allegedly drunk. The woman was nearly decapitated in the accident and was immediately killed. The woman's mother sued the boat driver and secured a settlement of $1.95 million. 

In another incident a few years later, a young girl was riding a Polaris jet ski which malfunctioned and collided with a large boat in California. This young woman sustained a permanent disability with severe head trauma that caused her to lose most of her mental capacity. The settlement, in this case, was more than $21 million.

Common Injuries a Florida Boat Accident Attorney at Dolman Law Group Can Handle

Due to the variety of boating accidents, such as slip and fall injuries, drowning accidents, and fire and fuel incidents, no one type of injury is most common other than fatalities caused by drowning. Victims of boating accidents experience a wide range of boating injuries.

Examples of boating accident injuries: Boating Injury Lawyers Florida

  • Lung infections due to water inhalation
  • Severe burns, both thermal and electrical
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Severe lacerations and contusions
  • Near drowning

However, the most serious physical injuries are often traumatic brain injuries, which can happen if a vessel crashes or capsizes and you are thrown overboard into a stable object, such as a jetty of rocks or a dock.  The most severe injuries typically occur after a direct collision with another boat or object.

Although certain types of injuries are usually considered more serious, it is always wise to seek prompt medical attention after being injured in a Florida boating accident. Even if you believe that your injuries are minor, allow a medical professional to make that determination. Receiving treatment as soon as possible can mitigate permanent damage or deterioration and prevent an insurance company from reducing your claim for failure to seek treatment or saying that you exaggerated your injuries.

What Compensation Can Our Boating Accidents Attorneys Recover For You?

Boating accident injuries can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional health as well as your finances. Oftentimes, our clients don't realize the full extent of the damages they are eligible to request because they assume that only economic damages can be reimbursed. Economic damages refer to losses with an established monetary value.

A variety of expenses and losses can be claimed in a boating accident lawsuit. In addition to economic damages, you may be entitled to compensation for non-economic damages, which typically refer to emotional or intangible losses like pain and suffering. If you were injured in a Florida boating accident, our team can help you seek financial compensation for a variety of financial losses.

Examples of damages in a boating accident lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Hospital stays
    • Medications
    • Mobility aides
    • Home modifications
    • Surgery
    • Physical therapy
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Missed promotions
    • Reduced earning capacity 
  • Property damages
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental distress

How Our Florida Boating Accident Lawyers Help Injured Clients Like You

At Dolman Law Group, we have decades of experience helping injured boating accident clients in Florida and beyond. Our boating accident lawyers know that your injuries will affect your life uniquely. As such, we work with you and your medical team to identify possible long-term complications and issues after a serious boating accident. 

This involves a thorough investigation into the accident and the injuries you suffered. Any monetary compensation you receive from the insurance company must include enough to pay for any complications or long-term suffering you may endure.

Our Florida boating accident attorneys know how to stand up to insurance companies after a serious boating accident. We know their tactics to reduce or deny claims, and we don't let them take advantage of our clients. From the start, you can rest assured knowing that you have a team of injury lawyers on your side with extensive experience protecting your rights.

Dolman Law Group Works to Recover Maximum Compensation For Injured Clients

After a serious boating accident, injured victims need someone on their side that they can rely on to help them pursue justice and compensation. At Dolman Law Group, our Florida boating accident lawyers are here to help. We have a strong record of excellence when it comes to negotiating fair settlements for our injured boating accident clients. Our team won't settle your case until we are satisfied that we have maximized the value of your boating accident claim. 

In addition to the value of the settlements we recover, you can measure our character and skills based on testimonials from former clients. At Dolman Law Group, we treat clients with the highest level of respect and consistently prioritize their needs. After all, it is what you deserve from a personal injury attorney. You can count on us to go the extra mile as we pursue maximum compensation for your boating accident claim.

We have supported injured clients for almost two decades as personal injury lawyers. This has given us a powerful combination of experience and knowledge, making us an ideal choice after a serious boating accident in Florida. From coast to coast, our Florida boating attorneys have seen it all. We have represented boating accident survivors and their families after personal watercraft accidents, both big and small. Our boating accident lawyers know the ins and outs of Florida maritime law. Call us today or visit us at one of our many offices located across the state.

Frequently Asked Questions About Florida Boating Accidents

What happens if the boat driver is uninsured?

One problem faced by victims of boat accidents, as opposed to car accidents, is that while liability insurance is recommended for boats in Florida, it is not required. Therefore, if you were injured in a recreational boat accident, there is no guarantee that an insurance policy will cover your immediate medical bills and needs. Your only option may be to seek compensation from the negligent boat operator themself—and they may not have the funds needed to cover your expenses. 

However, a Florida boat accident attorney at Dolman Law Group can determine whether a boat owner or rental company might be liable. If they demonstrated negligence by entrusting their water vessel to someone without boating experience or training, they or their insurance company might owe you compensation. 

How do I choose the best Florida boating accidents attorney?

In Florida, residents have many choices when choosing boat accident lawyers to represent them in a personal injury claim. When making your decision, here are a few valuable things to consider:

  • Does the attorney practice law in Florida and your community?
  • Does the attorney have extensive legal experience representing injured boating accident clients?
  • How does the law firm handle payments? Do they work on a contingency basis?
  • Does the law firm have the time and resources to take on your personal injury lawsuit?
  • Does your boating accident lawyer have experience both negotiating and litigating a boating accident lawsuit?

What can a Florida boat accident lawyer do for me?

You need someone on your side from the moment you suffer a boating accident injury. Your time is better spent recovering and taking care of yourself after an accident than fighting for compensation. You will need to attend doctor's appointments and therapy sessions, and you may find it challenging to tackle anything else. 

Let our Florida boating accident attorneys take the legal burdens off your shoulders. Our Florida boat accident attorneys will:

  • Investigate the boating accident closely
  • Determine the actual cause of the crash
  • Identify all liable parties
  • Gather evidence
  • Interview eyewitnesses
  • Obtain recorded statements
  • Negotiate with insurance companies
  • Work with medical experts

Who can be held liable for a Florida boating accident?

Those who operate a boat recklessly are responsible for damages after a serious boating accident. This includes compensating boating accident victims for the injuries they suffered. In addition, if someone engages in the reckless operation of their vessel and does not adhere to the usual safety precautions and causes the accident, they can be held liable. 

It will all depend on the circumstances of your case. A boat operator can even be responsible for an accident without direct physical contact with another vessel or person. For example, this can happen when a Florida boater creates a wake that causes another vessel to capsize or become damaged. Therefore, it is vital to identify which boat caused the situation and get the operator's information.

Contact a Dedicated Boat Accident Attorney at Dolman Law Group For Help With Your Injury Claim 

If you or a loved one were injured in a boating accident, especially by an inexperienced or negligent boater, Dolman Law Group can help. Our Florida personal injury attorneys can help analyze your case and fight for the compensation you deserve. 

Our legal team knows how to litigate your boat accident lawsuit according to federal admiralty law when necessary. We can help sort through issues with insurance and liability after a boat accident in Florida. Dolman Law Group will see your claim through until we are both satisfied that you have been offered a fair settlement, even if that means taking your boating accident lawsuit to trial.

From Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale to Pensacola and Destin, we've got you covered. Our Florida personal injury law firm offers strategic legal guidance and support when you need it most. Please call our boat accident attorneys today for a free consultation. You can reach us by phone at (727) 451-6900 or through our contact page.  

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

*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, which has a combined 120-plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last 19 years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

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 successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $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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