A relaxing outing on one of Osceola County’s picturesque waterways can take a tragic turn, leaving victims contending with serious injuries. A Coral Springs teen was recently left paralyzed after falling and almost drowning in a boating excursion in Florida.
There were over 800 reported boating accidents in 2020 alone, 175 more cases than in 2019. Forty-six percent of these cases involved collisions with other vessels, resulting in over 79 fatalities.
When boating or water sports cause serious injuries or death, the pain, heartbreak, and loss cannot be overstated.
Common Types of Boat Accidents in Central Florida
Boating accidents can occur during launch, docking, or when the vessel is on the water. As such, there are many ways in which people can get injured, including:
- Slipping and falling when onboarding or offboarding a vessel
- Falling overboard due to rough waters or other conditions
- Traumatic injuries due to sudden movements
- Medical emergencies occurring on the water
- Flooding and subsequent capsizing of the water vessel
- Explosions and associated injuries
- Getting hit by a boat, rocks, or other structures in waterways
- Propeller accidents
Overall, there are many factors involved in boasting excursions, which translates to many ways the boating accident might occur.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
Boat crashes are commonly a result of:
- Alcohol use: Alcohol is the leading cause of boat crashes, thanks to its ability to impair the operator’s judgment and slow their response.
- Speeding: Speeding reduces the amount of time the operator has to react to changing water conditions. It also increases the chances of high-impact crashes, resulting in serious injuries or death.
- Poor weather conditions: Think of fog, high winds, and choppy water. The boat operator should take note of weather predictions and only embark when it’s safe to sail.
- Distractions: When an operator is distracted, they cannot spot other vessels, sea structures, or swimmers on time.
- Mechanical malfunctions: A dead battery, mechanical problems, electrical issues, fuel leaks, and running out of fuel can leave you stranded. At night, this can leave you invisible, increasing the chances of boating accidents.
- Improperly maintained watercraft: Slippery floors, broken navigation systems, mechanical failure, and lack of life vests can lead to accidents and injuries.
- Inexperience: If the boat operator is inexperienced, they are more likely to cause an accident. For example, the operator can poorly ground the boat, causing people to fall overboard or injured from the jarring motion.
- Limited/non-existent gear: It’s also unlawful to embark on sail without enough life jackets, flares, an anchor, horn, lights, and a paddle.
If your accident resulted from negligent acts by the operator or other liable parties, you might be eligible for compensation. Contact Ward Law in case of an accident to learn your options.
Kissimmee Area Boating Regulations to Know
After an accident
According to the Florida Statute § 327.30, the boat operator or owner is responsible for the safety of passengers. The operator should render any assistance necessary to minimize the danger caused by the crash.
The operator should also issue their name, address, and vessel identification (in writing) to the victims.
The vessel operator should then report any accident immediately, especially if it involved:
- Disappearance or death of a person
- Injuries needing medical help beyond first aid
- Property damages of $2,000 and above
- Complete loss of the vessel
- The vessel stacked at the scene of the accident
Reports should be made to:
- The Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1-888-404-39220)
- The sheriff of the county within which the boating accident occurred
- The municipality police within which the accident occurred
Furthermore, operators should not leave the scene of the accident without attending to the first aid needs of the victims. They should also remain at the scene to locate any missing persons and report the accident accordingly.
- Any operator who willfully disregards the safety of riders and their properties will be cited for 1st-degree misdemeanor
- Failure to operate the vessel prudently and reasonably is considered a careless operation
- Any violation of Federal Navigation Rules is a violation of Florida Law
- The exhaust must be underwater, an automotive-style factory muffler, or another device capable of muffling the sound of the engine exhaust adequately.
- Operators must equip their airboats with a flagpole or mast displaying a flag 10+ feet above the lowest part of the vessel.
- The flag must be at least 10 x 12 inches in size, square or rectangular, international orange in color, and visible from any direction.
- Vessels operating in “Idle Speed-No Wake” zones must move at the slowest speed possible to allow the boat to maintain steerageway and headway.
- Vessels operating in “Slow Down – Minimum Wake” zones must navigate off the plane.
- The boat’s wake must be dismal—not excessive as to create a hazard to other watercraft.
- Boat operators suspected of driving under the influence must submit to tests for gauging their breath or blood alcohol levels.
- Operators with breath or blood-alcohol levels of .08 and above should not be operating the vessel.
- Persons below 21 years of age and with a blood-alcohol level of .02 or higher should not be operating the boat.
Operators of vessels powered by 10+ horsepower must:
- Pass a recognized boater safety course
- Have a boating safety education ID issued by Florida FWC
- Have their possession photographic identification
These obligations do not apply for:
- Master of a vessel as licensed by the US Coast Guard
- Operators in a private pond or lake
- Operators accompanied by persons who meet the above requirements
- A non-Florida resident who has completed a NASBLA-approved boater safety course
- Learn more here
- The vessel must have a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device for each person.
- The personal floatation device (PFD) must fit the intended wearer. It should also be easy to access and in serviceable condition.
- Vessels that are 16+ feet long must have one or more USCG-approved throwable Type IV PFD.
- A child below six years must wear a USCG-approved personal floatation device.
- The owner/operator should carry, maintain, and store the safety equipment stipulated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
Boat safety guidelines
- Boats with enclosed gasoline compartments or built-in fuel tanks must carry fire extinguishers.
- Vessels must carry an efficient sound-producing device like a horn or referee’s whistle.
- Vessels shorter than 16 feet must carry three or more approved visual distress signals.
- Recreational vessels must display navigation lights during periods of reduced visibility.
What Should I Do After a Boating Accident in Kissimmee?
If you’re involved in a boating accident and are not severely injured:
#1: Prioritize health and safety precautions
- Check whether everyone is aboard, then determine whether medical attention is needed.
- If someone has fallen overboard, focus on getting them back in the boat.
- Once everyone is aboard, get the vessel to safety and out of the way of other vessels.
- Next, contact 911 and the Coast Guard to inform them of the accident.
- Get started with first-aid treatment.
- If the boat is sinking, wear a life-jacket, climb on floating sand, and signal for help.
- Be sure to receive medical attention when the paramedic arrives.
#2: Gather information about the accident, such as:
- Name, address, and contact details of the boat’s operator
- Name, address, and contact details of passengers
- Name and contact details of witnesses
- The vessel’s registration number
- Insurance details for the liable parties
If possible, take photos or videos showcasing the scene of the accident and any damages.
#3: Report the accident
- Contact the U.S. Coast Guard or local police right away
- Stay calm and report accurate facts about the accident
- Do not speculate or admit fault
#4: Make a claim
- Report the accident to your insurance provider (regardless of the liable party)
- If the operator was negligent, consult a personal injury attorney about taking legal action
How soon after a boating accident should I contact A lawyer?
According to Florida statutes of limitations (§ 95.11), you have up to four years to file an injury lawsuit after a boating accident. You have to abide by this deadline, lest you risk losing the right to sue the negligent party.
In light of this, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The goal here is to discuss your case and determine the best course of action. If you decide to sue the negligent party, you need ample time to file a lawsuit, gather evidence, and complete other requirements before the four-year deadline.
How can a Kissimmee boat accident lawyer help me?
A boat accident lawyer can help with the following:
- Evaluating the eligibility of your case
- Determining the liable party
- Gathering evidence, including dashcam footage and police reports
- Interviewing witnesses and case-relevant experts
- Filing your claim or lawsuit against the negligent party
A boating accident claim or a lawsuit is a complex legal process. There are many varying circumstances, different statutes, regulations, and laws. It is, therefore, essential to work with a skilled attorney who can analyze these unique complexities and advise on your unique boating accident. Contact Ward Law in case of an accident to learn your options.