Earlier this week a 52-year-old charter school principal was killed and his 4-year-old daughter was seriously injured when their personal watercraft collided with a 34-foot boat in Clearwater, Florida. ABC Action News reports that the accident took place just before 5:00 pm on Saturday and that the cause of the accident is still under investigation. While it is currently unknown whether or not a personal injury lawsuit and/or wrongful death claim will be filed in connection with this boating accident, if a lawsuit is filed the success of that claim will greatly depend on who is found to be at fault for causing the accident.
Determining Fault After a Boating Accident
Boat captains out on the water are legally required to adhere to the rules of the water much like automobile drivers are required to follow the rules of the road. Boat captains who are found to have breached these rules of the water and consequently cause an accident are often found to be at fault (or partially at fault if the negligent or wrongful actions of multiple captains contributed to the crash) for the resulting accident.
A comprehensive summary of Florida’s boating laws can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, but some basic rules of the water include the following:
- All vessels must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner so as not to endanger people or property,
- A vessel’s wake may not create a hazard to other vessels or be excessive,
- Vessels must obey all posted speed restrictions,
- It is illegal to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs,
- It is unlawful to tow a water skier between 30 minutes past sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise,
- Vessels under power must give way to non-powered vessels,
- Vessels approaching from the right have the right of way, and
- All captains must give way in order to avoid a collision (regardless of who had the right of way).
Here in Florida liability after a boating accident is apportioned in the same manner as liability after a car accident. First, the court distributes liability between the parties involved in proportion to their respective degrees of fault. For example, if two motorboats crashed in part due to Boat A’s speeding and Boat B’s failure to give way a court of law may be determined that Boat A was 40 percent at fault for causing the accident while Boat B was 60 percent at fault. Next, because Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, the injured party that initiated the lawsuit can still recover compensation even if they were partially at fault for causing the accident, however, that plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage that they are found to be responsible.
Need Legal Advice? Contact a Local Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida boating accident due to someone else’s negligent or wrongful act, consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party in order to recover the compensation to which you are entitled. To discuss your legal options with an experienced personal injury lawyer, contact Piccin & Glynn, Attorneys at Law, today at 352-581-6174.