Florida is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Recreational boating is a popular pastime for residents and tourists alike. There are numerous types of boats available for hire in Florida, including cruise ships, casino boats and fishing charters. Private pleasure craft can be found on virtually every body of water in the state. In addition to boats, personal watercrafts have become quite popular and are found on the waters of our state.
Boating accidents happen under a variety of circumstances, which is why an accident lawyer must know boating. Recreational boating has become extremely popular as Florida’s population has increased. As a result, there are now more boat versus boat collisions and boat versus personal watercraft collisions than ever before. Recreational boats may also strike channel markers, docks or sand bars causing injury to occupants. Obviously alcohol and boats are a dangerous combination. On cruise ships, elevators frequently mislevel causing unsuspecting visitors to fall out of the elevator and injure themselves. Casino boats, fishing charters and even some large cruise ships can choose to head out to sea in inclement weather, unnecessarily endangering the safety of the passenger. On board fires or even sinking ships can also cause injury.
Different laws apply to boating accidents, so an accident lawyer is key to making sure the law protects you. Florida has a state statute, which states: “all vessels, of whatever classification, shall be considered dangerous instrumentalities in this state, and any operator of a vessel shall, during any utilization of the vessel, exercise the highest degree of care in order to prevent injuries to others”,
Unlike the rule relating to motor vehicles, this statute relieves the owner of liability if the owner is not operating the vessel or present on the vessel when an injury occurs. However, it is possible to hold the owner of a vessel liable for the negligence of the operator, when the owner negligently entrusts the vessel to another.
Federal statutes, often referred to as admiralty laws or maritime laws, another crucial part of what an accident lawyer must know, often apply to ships outside of the state’s territorial waters, specifically three miles from shore on the Atlantic side and nine miles from shore on the Gulf side of the state. Included within maritime law is the doctrine of un-seaworthiness. A vessel is not seaworthy if it lacks the proper equipment or devices to allow it to engage safely in the trade for which it was intended. In addition to federal maritime law, there are several federal laws, which protect employees who work on boats, such as the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act. These laws are intended to protect employees who work on vessels on any “navigable” waters, regardless of whether those waters are considered state waters or federal waters.
If you have been injured while boating, we may be able to help you bring a claim against the operator and owner of the vessel. Commercial vessels tend to carry insurance. Private vessels are often insured under a policy of insurance purchased specifically to cover the boat, or sometimes by the owner’s homeowner’s insurance. Please call us if you have questions concerning your rights if you have been injured on a boat.