Clearwater Boating Accident Lawyer

January 7, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

When Your Fun on the Water Turns Tragic

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq. - Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Clearwater is a great place for recreational boating. The warm weather and sunny skies draw both residents and visitors to the state's many waterways. However, setting sail for a day of relaxation can quickly turn tragic due to the reckless actions of another boater. Boaters must maintain control of their vessels at all times and responsibly operate them.

Everyone has a right to enjoy boating in Clearwater. When someone fails to follow the rules and the results are injuries that change your life forever, it isn't fair. Depending upon your injuries, you may never return to boating again. If you were seriously injured or you lost a loved one due to the careless actions of another boater, discuss your case with the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA's Clearwater boating accident lawyers today. Fight for justice by contacting the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA as soon as possible.

Upon reviewing the details of your accident, our Clearwater personal injury attorneys will determine the best course of action for you. Protect your financial future by scheduling a free case evaluation to learn if you have a personal injury claim.

State Boating Safety Regulations

Important safety regulations exist to protect those on the water. A violation of any of the following can result in a serious accident or injury:

  • All vessels are required to have U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices on board—one for each person.
  • Vessels 16 feet or longer must include a U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable flotation device in the event of a person falling overboard.
  • Vessels 25 feet or smaller must include personal floatation devices for children under the age of six. Children must wear the device once the vessel is underway.
  • Vessels with built-in fuel tanks must have fire extinguishers on board.
  • All vessels must carry an efficient sound-producing device.
  • Vessels of less than 16 feet must carry no less than three distress signals for nighttime use. Larger vessels must carry three distress signals for nighttime and three for daytime.
  • Appropriate lighting for the size of vessel for nighttime use.

Another important safety law applies to divers. The divers-down law requires divers to use either the traditional flags or buoys to alert vessels to divers. However, If your day of diving resulted in serious injury to you due to the inattention of a boat operator, you deserve justice.

While the majority of boat operators practice safe boating, not all boaters think the rules apply to them. Many boaters don't think they will get caught or that they can safely operate their boat while enjoying a beer. Others may think that because they are in a boat—and not a car—that there is no serious risk of causing an accident. These common misconceptions can have serious consequences for you and your loved ones. Any activity that involves a boat and water, no matter how deep, has the potential to turn tragic with reckless behavior.

Florida laws and regulations regarding boating are in place for a reason. The law enforcement department of the Florida Division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission do their best to respond to enforce the rules, however, they can't always be everywhere at once.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety show that 4,145 boating accidents occurred throughout the nation during 2018. The accidents resulted in 633 deaths and 2, 511 injuries.

The joint report also lists the following as the most common causes of boating accidents resulting in injury:

  • Boating Accident LawyerOperator inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Excessive speed
  • Operator inexperience
  • Alcohol use

Holidays, vacations, and weekends are a time of crowded waterways with vessels of all types sharing water space. When an operator engages in just one of the dangerous actions listed above, they place themselves, their passengers, and other boaters at risk for serious harm. No matter what the size or type of your boat, you deserve to enjoy a day of recreation and relaxation without experiencing serious injury.

Additional statistics from the report list the types of vessels with the top casualty numbers:

  • Open motorboat
  • Personal watercraft
  • Canoe/kayak
  • Cabin motorboat
  • Pontoon

Boating under the influence (BUI) results in 16 percent of all boating fatalities. The same blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for drivers in Florida, 08 percent or higher, applies to boat operators. Whether in a boat or a car, alcohol has the same effect on the body, reducing reaction time, impairing judgment, and blurring vision. Boating involves more variables that require concentration, such as the depth of the water and wave direction.

Types of Serious Injuries

Boating Accident Life vest

One of the most common forms of injury or death from a boating accident is drowning. Of the 449 reported boating deaths from drowning, 356 did not wear a life vest. Types of serious injuries from boating accidents can include:

Anoxic brain injury (ABI) - When a person falls overboard during a collision or nearly drowns due to other circumstances, they may experience a serious brain injury. Depending upon how long they are underwater, their near-drowning can result in an anoxic brain injury due to the lack of oxygen to the brain.

The tragic results of a near-drowning can leave a loved one in a permanent vegetative state, with brain damage, or acute respiratory distress syndrome. While you may want to keep your loved one at home, they may require 24-hour care, making a nursing home facility your only option. The average costs of such care in Florida averages between $8,000 to $9,000 per month.

Spinal cord injury - A serious boating accident may result in a spinal cord injury. If you must dive off the boat to escape a fire or collision, you risk permanent spinal cord damage. Such an injury can leave you with limited or no movement or sensation. Expenses such as home modifications and mobility chairs are ongoing costs throughout your lifetime. Experts estimate the associated costs of a spinal cord injury to reach into the millions of dollars per year.

Traumatic injury to limbs - Almost 180 accidents and 25 deaths involved a boat propeller in one recent year. Ejection from a boat or jumping off to escape injury can lead to gravely injured limbs if contact is made with the propeller. Amputation of any limb leads to a serious life change as you learn to adapt to your new reality.

Burns - Explosions and fire as the result of a boating accident can leave you or a loved one with serious burns. Treatment typically requires transport to a specialized burn center. Painful skin grafts and plastic surgery to cover scars are often a part of a burn patient endures during recovery.

This list contains just a few examples of the types of injuries possible from a boat accident. If your fun day on the water turned into a nightmare due to a careless and negligent boat operator, we can help. No one should pay out-of-pocket for expenses they acquire due to the negligence of someone else. If this happened to you or someone you love, contact The Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA as soon as possible.

Florida Law Regarding Boating Accidents

A boat operator involved in an accident in which the following occurred must report the accident:

  • Personal injury beyond immediate basic first-aid
  • The disappearance of any person under circumstances that indicate death or injury
  • Damage to the vessel and/or property damage of up to or exceeding $2,000

The operator must report the accident as quickly as possible to one of the following:

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • The sheriff of the county in which the accident occurred
  • The police of the municipality in which the accident occurred

If the operator of the boat that caused the accident leaves the scene, document as much information as possible, such as the type of boat, the boat color, and any visible registration numbers or the boat name. Boat operators who leave the scene of an accident without rendering aid could face a third-degree felony if convicted.

Wrongful Death

Boating accidents can result in injuries that simply aren't survivable. The tragic loss of your loved one can leave you with funeral and burial costs, loss of income, and the loss of companionship. Filing a wrongful death claim is your right under Florida law. The statute of limitations for filing such a claim is two years. While this may seem like a long time, 24 months can pass very quickly when you are grieving.

While no amount of money can ever replace your loved one, it can help to ease your financial burden. At the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we understand the stress and sadness you face with your loss. We have no tolerance for aggressive insurance companies representatives who pressure you to accept a low dollar settlement. Let our legal team deal with the insurance companies. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Boating Safety Classes Might Prevent Injuries

Florida doesn't require a “boat license.” Instead, boaters born on or after January 1, 1988, who plan to operate a boat of 10 horsepower or more, must complete an approved boat safety course. Upon successful completion of the course, operators will receive a Florida Boating Safety ID Card. The boating safety card never expires.

The boat safety course is also required for those who must fulfill mandatory violator requirements. Violators, like those who cause an accident involving personal injury or death, must pay to take an additional course online. Unfortunately, these requirements don't prevent someone from engaging in—or repeating—dangerous behavior while operating their boat. Whether it is the influence of alcohol, the pressure to impress friends, or the thrill of operating at high speed, the risk to others is very real. When a boat operator views their recreational vehicle as a type of toy, they tend to operate it more recklessly. Failing to operate their boat safely can cause serious injuries that change lives forever.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA: Your Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyers

A serious injury from a boating accident can result in never-ending medical bills and an inability to return to your career. When a reckless boater operates their vessel in a negligent manner, you deserve justice.

Just like wrongful death claims, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to offer a personal injury settlement soon after the accident. While the amount offered may seem like a large sum for you and your family, chances are it isn't enough to cover your future financial needs. Insurance companies are looking out for their best interests and not yours. It is important that you not sign anything during this difficult time. Don't speak with insurance company representatives, and contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA instead.

While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We work hard on behalf of our clients to negotiate a fair settlement for you. If we cannot reach an out-of-court settlement, we are ready and willing to go to trial.

The time for filing a personal injury claim in Florida is four years. The clock starts ticking the moment you become injured. Reviewing your case, collecting evidence, and interviewing witnesses all take time. The sooner you schedule your free case evaluation, the sooner we can get to work for you.

At the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we offer free case evaluations, and there is no attorney's fee unless we secure compensation for you. No one should suffer physically, financially, and emotionally due to the reckless actions of another person. If your injuries are not your fault, we can help hold accountable those responsible for their actions. Contact us today or call us at 833-552-7274.

Clearwater Office
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900


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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