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Florida is a leading state when it comes to boating. It should come as no surprise that countless boaters flock to the state’s sunny shores, year-long sunshine, and beautiful waters. While it is certainly a fun and leisurely activity, Florida is among the top in the nation for accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
No matter the type of boating accident you were involved with, Clark Fountain is equipped to help. Our AV® Preeminent™ and board certified boat accident attorneys know the ins and outs of the laws surrounding boat accidents and can utilize this insight to benefit your case.
Damages & Insurance
Damages from a boating accident are similar to those from automobile accidents. That is, you can recover medical bills, earnings and earning capacity, and pain and suffering. You may be able to recover some damages even if the accident is determined to be no-fault. Insurance exists for this purpose, but obtaining it could be difficult.
The waters of liability for boating accidents can be dark and murky. If you are in a boating accident in Florida and are unsure of your rights and options, give us a call. We are here to help!
You deserve seasoned litigation that cares about you and your life—call 561-899-2100 for a free case consultation!
Main Types of Boat Accidents
There are several main types of boat accidents:
- Vehicle-to-vehicle collision, where the boat you are on strikes another boat or vehicle
- Wake accident, where your boat crosses the wake of another vehicle
- Wave accident, where your boat hits a wave on the water
- Vehicle-to-object collision, where your boat strikes an object such as a rock, reef, or marker.
The type of boat accident can help to determine who is at fault. When your vehicle strikes or is struck by another vehicle, fault and liability is usually split between the pilots of the vehicles. The courts will generally decide, in this case, which operator was more responsible, but if the accident is between a sailboat and a motorboat, the motorboat is likely to be found responsible. Much like in a car accident, passengers may have a legal case against either or both pilots.
Wake accidents are sometimes difficult cases because there are many factors that can come into play. For example, the boat’s speed, the wake’s size, traffic, and the kind of boat all can determine if there was fault, and whether it lies with the operator of the boat that hit the wake, or the operator of the boat that left the wake.
Wave accidents have similar issues, but with no other boat, the issues generally rely upon whether the operator of the boat that hit the wave was negligent in avoiding the wave or warning his passengers.
Finally, in vehicle-to-object collisions, visibility, speed, weather, and other similar circumstances to determine whether the operator was at fault or whether it was truly just an accident.
Accidents Caused by Boat Defects
Our firm has a long history of handling boat accident cases caused by irresponsible people at the helm, but not all boating accidents, injuries, and deaths are the operators’ fault. Many times, a boat’s design, manufacture, maintenance, or lack of proper warnings and instructions are the real cause of tragedy on the water.
Because many boat manufacturers are large companies doing business throughout the United States or the world, the public is led to believe that boats certainly must be highly engineered, well-tested, products that undergo rigorous safety testing.
What the Boating Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
Unfortunately, this is usually not true. Boats are not subject to the performance and crash testing that we are accustomed to seeing regarding motor vehicles. There is no 5-star safety rating system for boats. In fact, there are virtually no mandatory performance safety standards for boats at all. Manufacturers often tout that impressive-sounding organizations such as the United States Coast Guard, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), and the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), have endorsed their boat, but the truth is that none of these organizations test boats, and if any inspections actually occur at all during the manufacturing process the boats are typically inspected when they are not even in the water! The NMMA and the ABYC are captive industry organizations staffed and run by industry insiders whose purpose is to help their member organizations sell more boats.
As incredible as it may seem, the boating industry is largely self-regulated and subject only to voluntary performance standards for which they self-test and self-certify compliance, if they even test at all.
Additionally, boat design techniques typically lag decades or even generations behind motor vehicle design. Whereas cars and trucks are designed and even tested in electronic and digital domains, many boats are designed on the shop floor with carpenters rather than engineers and computer designers. It is common to create boat designs by physically cutting pieces from or adding pieces of existing boats and changing the dimensions or reassembling pieces into a new configuration.
Significant Case Results
Firm Obtains $200 Million Verdict Against the Largest Boat Manufacturer
Important Information for Public Passengers
So, what does all this mean for the public? For starters, perception is not reality. Although the boat your friend invited you on last weekend has a placard that says the boat has a capacity of 12 people, there is better than a 90% chance that the boat has never been tested with even 5 people on board, and the stated 12-person capacity was simply calculated from a non-performance based formula regarding the likely ability of the boat to remain afloat while not moving in still water.
It also means that if a death or injury occurs the design and the evolution of the design of the boat must be thoroughly examined to determine if faulty engineering or manufacturing caused the injury. Although Florida is ground zero for virtually all types of boating and water sports, there are very few law firms that focus on getting to the bottom of what really happened in a boating incident.
Determining the true cause requires real engineers and experts to evaluate all aspects of the design. Over the years, our investigations have uncovered a variety of design and manufacturing shortcomings from adding seating areas without ever considering the effect on performance or the weight of passengers sitting in designated seats to creating a design that allows a boat to turn so sharp that occupants seated in a specific area can be ejected, and everything in between.
The boating industry has been very slow to use on product warnings because labels just aren’t “sexy” and don’t sell boats. As a result, occupants are never advised of known hazards, let alone how to avoid them.
Fight for the Just Compensation You Deserve
When you turn to our legal team for counsel, we get to work right away crafting a compelling claim on your behalf. Backed by more than a billion dollars in recoveries and over 220 years of combined legal experience, we are confident in our ability to help you recover maximum compensation after any type of boating-related accident. We are passionate about seeing negligent parties be held accountable for their actions! Let us fight for the compensation you are owed.
What Are the Leading Causes of Boating Accidents?
Operating a boat on open water requires extensive training and experience; however, only boaters born on or after January 1, 1988, are required to complete a safety course. A majority of fatal boating accidents are caused by boaters who simply don’t have enough safety training.
Some of the top issues leading to boat accidents include:
- Inexperienced Boaters
- Intoxication or Drug Use
- Negligent / Reckless Behavior
- Excessive Speed
- Operator Distraction
Whether you were involved in a boating accident with a yacht, personal watercraft, or airboat, Clark Fountain is ready to represent you. Our skilled West Palm Beach boat accident attorneys can investigate the cause of your accident and help you hold the accountable parties liable for the damages they caused you.