With its extensive coastline and good weather, Florida is a popular destination for recreational boating. With all of the boats, jet skis, and other water vessels sharing the sea, it’s no wonder the U.S. Coast Guard reported Florida as the leading state in terms of annual boating accidents (679) and boating deaths (62) in 2019.
Boat accidents can happen for many reasons, some of which cannot be avoided, such as bad weather conditions. Other times, they are caused by the reckless or negligent behavior of a boat driver. This article will explore some of the most common causes of boating deaths and injuries.
Regardless of the cause or circumstances, if you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident in Florida, there is a chance you could be entitled to compensation. If you or your family member has been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t suffer in silence.
Contact The Law Place today for a free legal consultation with one of our attorneys. Get answers to any legal questions you might have regarding personal injury claims, and receive free no-obligation legal advice specific to your case.
Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call now for a free consultation at (941) 444-4444.
What Is the Main Cause of Most Fatal Boating Accidents?
Although many boat drivers do their best to follow the rules and regulations that keep everyone safe while out at sea, boating accidents are still a common occurrence in Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard report on recreational boating accidents found that the most common cause of fatal accidents at sea was operator inattention. When a boat driver fails to pay proper attention, this can lead to collisions, slip-and-falls aboard, or passengers falling overboard.
The other common causes of fatal boating accidents are:
- Improper lookout – Staying alert is vital when operating any type of vehicle. Failing to do increases the risk of a collision.
- Operator inexperience – Novice boat operators may fail to follow correct safety procedures. Many boat accidents are caused by young boat operators with insufficient experience or driving with recklessness/ at excessive speed.
- Machinery failure – Serious boating accidents are sometimes caused by a defect or failure of a part of the boat’s machinery. This could be the result of defective parts, regular wear, and tear, or improper use.
- Hazardous waters or poor weather conditions – Bad weather conditions make it much harder to maintain control of your personal watercraft, and large waves can cause falls overboard or a boat to capsize.
- Boating under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol – As with driving a car under the influence, boat operators impaired by a substance are more likely to drive recklessly and cause collisions.
These can all lead to accidents that cause serious injuries. The following accidents lead to a high number of fatalities every year:
- Falls overboard – The most common cause of fatal boat accidents is where a person accidentally falls off the vessel, usually because of speeding or a sudden change in vehicle direction.
- Departed vessel – This is where a passenger exits the boat voluntarily, such as diving or jumping in. Doing so when in unsafe waters or when the boat is in motion can lead to fatal consequences, particularly if the passenger is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Capsizing – A large or powerful wave or collision can cause the boat to overturn.
- Collision – This could be with a fixed object or another watercraft
Accidents such as these are particularly dangerous compared to comparable accidents on land, as emergency medical assistance is not as readily available, and summoning help is especially difficult if the boat operator is injured.
These types of accidents can easily lead to drowning, the leading cause of boating accident fatalities. Even if they are not injured, once a person falls into the water, they could go into hypothermia, shock, or become unconscious, making it difficult for even a strong swimmer to survive. This is why it is so essential that everyone aboard wears a lifejacket at all times.
Boating Emergencies Leading to Fatalities
Boating, while a popular recreational activity, comes with inherent risks, and certain emergencies have been noted to lead to a higher number of fatalities. Understanding these dangers is crucial for both recreational boaters and professionals to mitigate risks and prevent tragic outcomes.
Capsizing and Falls Overboard
Capsizing, the overturning of a boat, is one of the most common emergencies leading to fatalities. Often resulting from overloading, uneven weight distribution, or hitting a large wave at high speed, capsizing can lead to passengers being thrown into the water. Similarly, falls overboard, often due to loss of balance or collision impacts, are equally dangerous. In both scenarios, the risk of drowning is significant, especially if individuals are not wearing life jackets.
Collisions with Other Vessels or Objects
Collisions, whether with other boats, submerged objects, or landmasses, are a leading cause of boating fatalities. High-speed impacts can result in severe injuries or throw passengers into the water. Collisions often occur due to operator inattention, inexperience, or operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Fire and Explosions
Fires and explosions, though less common, are particularly dangerous emergencies on boats. Causes include fuel leaks, improper fueling practices, electrical issues, and engine overheating. These incidents can lead to severe burns, smoke inhalation injuries, and fatalities, especially if the boat is far from shore or rescue services.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Often overlooked, carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer on boats. It typically arises from engine exhaust, generator fumes, or cooking appliances. Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, victims may not realize they’re being poisoned until it’s too late, making it a particularly insidious danger on enclosed or poorly ventilated boats.
Severe Weather and Rough Waters
Encountering severe weather, such as thunderstorms, high winds, or rough waters, can quickly turn a boating excursion fatal. Boats can capsize or be swamped by large waves, and passengers may suffer from hypothermia or drowning. Fatalities in these conditions are often due to inadequate preparation, ignoring weather warnings, or a lack of emergency equipment.
Drowning remains the most common cause of death in boating accidents. It can result from any of the above emergencies, especially if safety protocols like wearing life jackets are not followed. Drowning often occurs silently and quickly, underscoring the importance of safety gear and vigilance while on the water.
How Can I Reduce the Risk of a Fatal Boating Accident?
As a boat owner, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and others out at sea. There are certain things you can do to reduce the risk of a boat accident, for example:
- Travel at a safe speed – You are more likely to lose control of your boat when driving at excessive speed.
- Pay attention – Operator inattention is the leading cause of boating accidents. For example, boat operators have the responsibility to check weather reports and lookout for early warning signs of collision hazards.
- Follow navigational rules – You should always follow all rules governing the waters in your area.
- Regularly maintain your boat – Many boating accidents are caused by equipment failure that could have been prevented had the equipment been adequately maintained.
- Life jackets – Ensure that all passengers are wearing appropriate safety equipment.
- Know who to call – Have the local coast guard contact details to hand so they are easily accessible in emergency situations.
- Check the local weather reports – Be on the lookout for signs of storms or hazardous boating weather, as well as other potential hazards.
Should I Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Following a Boat Accident?
The short answer is yes. Whether you were injured on a boat operated by someone else or in a collision because of the negligent behavior of another boat operator or passenger, you deserve to seek justice. Florida’s laws entitle you to file a personal injury claim against any party that wrongfully injures you by neglecting their duty of care. Depending on the specifics of your case, this could be, for example, a boat operator, a boat part manufacturer, a boat rental company, or another passenger.
Under Florida Statute 768.81, Florida operates under a system of comparative negligence. This means that any party can be found liable following an accident, and the percentage of their fault will limit the amount they can claim in a personal injury lawsuit. If your accident was caused, for example, by a boat driver’s improper lookout, but you were speeding, you could also be found partially to blame for the crash. Insurance adjusters and opposing injury attorneys will do whatever they can to devalue your claim or shift the blame onto you to reduce the amount they must payout.
Enlisting the help of an experienced boat accident attorney will drastically increase your chances of a favorable outcome for your case. Their intimate knowledge of Florida boating injury laws and experience dealing with big insurance companies means that you will be in safe hands. A personal injury attorney can help you claim compensation for damages following a boating accident such as:
- Medical treatment for your injuries.
- Lost wages due to your injuries.
- Property damage.
- Wrongful death.
FAQ For Boating Accident Victims
What are the leading causes of boating accidents resulting in death in Florida?
The leading causes of fatal boating accidents in Florida include operator inattention, inexperienced boat operators, excessive speed, machinery failure, and alcohol use. Weather conditions and hazardous waters also significantly contribute to these tragic incidents. boati
How does operator inattention contribute to fatal boating accidents?
Operator inattention, where the boat operator fails to pay adequate attention to their surroundings, boat operation, or the weather, is a significant factor. This negligence can lead to collisions, capsizing, or passengers falling overboard, often resulting in fatal outcomes.
Can families file a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal boating accident?
Yes, families of victims can file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one dies in a boating accident caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct. This legal action seeks compensation for the loss of support, services, and companionship, as well as funeral expenses.
What should be known about boat operator inattention as a cause of boating deaths?
Boat operator inattention is often related to distractions like mobile devices, conversations with passengers, or activities on the boat. It’s crucial for operators to stay alert and focused on navigation and safety at all times to prevent accidents.
Are there any specific statistics on deaths related to boating accidents in Florida?
According to reports, Florida consistently ranks high in the number of boating accidents and fatalities. For instance, in recent years, there have been over 50 boating fatalities annually in the state, with many attributed to operator inattention and other preventable causes.
How does carbon monoxide poisoning occur in boating accidents?
Carbon monoxide poisoning in boating can occur from engine exhaust. Boaters can be exposed while idling, slow-speed cruising, or being inside a cabin without proper ventilation. This is especially dangerous because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless.
What are the common repercussions of a loved one’s death in a boating accident?
The death of a loved one in a boating accident often results in emotional trauma for the family. There’s also the financial impact, especially if the deceased was a primary income earner. Families may seek damages through wrongful death lawsuits.
What safety measures can reduce the risk of fatal boating accidents?
Safety measures include wearing life jackets, avoiding alcohol while operating the boat, regular boat maintenance, and operators taking boater safety courses. Being aware of weather conditions and following navigational rules are also critical for safety.
Call The Law Place
Call The Law Place today to arrange a free consultation with one of our lawyers.
Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call now for a free consultation at (941) 444-4444.