Drinking and Boating is Never Safe

Florida, with its plethora of natural waterways and closeness to the ocean, is the perfect place to go boating. Unfortunately, however, Florida is also a hotbed for boating accidents. When boaters operate their boats negligently – or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol – serious accidents and injuries can result.

Florida, like most other states, has laws in place to promote boat safety and regulate safe boat operation on waterways. However, when people ignore these regulations or act as though the rules do not apply to them, boating accidents become inevitable.

If you have been injured in a boating accident in the State of Florida, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under Florida law. A skilled and knowledgeable New Port Richey boating accident attorney can discuss the facts and circumstances of your case with you, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and/or litigate your case through the Florida court system.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Just as Florida DUI laws restrict the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, BUI laws regulate boat operation under those circumstances as well. Operating a car, truck, or boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can obviously lead to very devastating consequences for everyone involved.

Pursuant to Florida’s current BUI law, a Florida boat operator may be criminally charged or convicted of boating under the influence if he or she operates a watercraft in the State with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This percentage is fairly standard across the country for both DUI and BUI offenses.

It is important to note that a boat operator may also be charged with boating under the influence if a law enforcement officer suspects that the boat operator’s senses or faculties are impaired, as a direct result of alcohol intoxication or drug impairment. Alcohol is a depressant, and as such, it slows down and impairs a person’s central nervous system functioning. As a result, boat operators who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol often have blurry vision and other physical characteristics that prevent them from operating their boats safely. The consequences of boating under the influence can be tragic and may result in collisions with other watercraft, collisions with stationary objects, or overturns.

Willful or Reckless Disregard for Others’ Safety or Property

Along with boating under the influence, a person who operates a boat with ‘willful disregard for the safety of property or persons on board’ may receive a citation for reckless boat operation. Reckless operation is a first-degree misdemeanor in the State of Florida. It is also important to note that when a boat operator violates the Federal Navigation Rules he or she is also deemed to have violated Florida State boating laws.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for enforcing Florida boating regulations and for teaching boat operators about safe, sober, and responsible watercraft operations. When these regulations are properly followed, the chances of boating accidents caused by impaired or reckless boat operation are significantly lessened.

Potential Civil Liability

Along with criminal penalties, including fines and jail time, associated with a BUI conviction, intoxicated boat operators may also be held civilly liable for the boating accidents that they cause – as well as for all of the resulting injuries and damages to those on board the watercraft. Specifically, the boat operator could be deemed liable for careless, reckless, or negligent boat operation.

Boat operators owe a duty to everyone else on the water to act as a reasonably prudent boat operator would act under the same or similar circumstances, and to obey all applicable Florida boating laws and regulations. Whenever a boat operator violates a statute or otherwise breaches this duty of care (such as by boating while intoxicated), and injuries and damages result, the boat operator may be deemed civilly liable.

Because boaters on board a watercraft are generally afforded little, if any, protection (with the exception of a life vest), boating accidents can result in serious and catastrophic injuries – and in the worst cases, death. Common injuries sustained in New Port Richey boating accident cases include the following:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s)
  • Paralysis
  • Cuts, abrasions, and scarring
  • Loss of a body part
  • Fractures
  • Broken bones
  • Death

Potential damages for injured plaintiffs may include payment of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and permanency damages. Moreover, if a loved one dies in a boating accident at the hands of a negligent or intoxicated boat operator, the decedent’s loved ones may be able to recover for the loss of that loved one, including compensation for mental anguish, emotional distress, and related psychological or psychiatric harm.

Other Common Causes of Florida Boating Accidents

While BUI’s, recklessness, and negligence clearly cause boating accidents in the State of Florida on a regular basis, they are not the only cause. When boating accidents occur in Florida, defective products and equipment are sometimes to blame.

When boating parts or equipment (such as motors, steering mechanisms, rudders etc.) are defective or malfunction, leading to boating accidents and injuries, the manufacturers and distributors may be held civilly liable for the resulting injuries and damages caused by manufacturing or design defects. Similarly, if a boat part or piece of equipment is dangerous and a warning is deemed to be inadequate or altogether absent, the manufacturer or distributor may be held civilly liable under a failure to warn theory of liability. As opposed to negligence, these defective product claims arise out of strict liability, and the manufacturer or distributor may be deemed liable without regard to negligence or fault.

Contact a New Port Richey Boating Accident Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case

Drinking and boating never go hand-in-hand under any circumstances and boating accidents – whatever the cause – can lead to serious and catastrophic injuries for everyone involved. If you or someone you love has sustained injuries in a boating accident caused by an intoxicated or negligent boat operator, our compassionate and skilled boating accident attorneys are ready and willing to assist you with your case. If the insurance company refuses to offer a favorable settlement, our attorneys do not shy away from litigating boat accident cases and taking them to trial.

To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a New Port Richey boating accident lawyer, please call us today or contact us online.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275