Whether you’re cruising along the Atlantic Ocean, Alligator Lake, or St. John’s River, one wrong move can end in catastrophe. Your boat may collide with another boat, a stationary object, another water vessel like a jet ski or kayak, or even a swimmer, causing potentially life-threatening injuries. In these situations, contacting a Jacksonville boating accident lawyer can be pivotal in navigating through the legal complexities that may arise, ensuring that your rights and interests are protected.
If you or a loved one was involved in a Jacksonville boating accident, contact a Steinger, Greene & Feiner lawyer for elite representation. From the initial consultation to court proceedings, our personal injury lawyers will do whatever it takes to get you justice and fair compensation.
Boating Accidents in Florida
Florida has one of the highest rates of annual boating accidents and fatalities in the nation. Duval County specifically, which is home to Jacksonville, consistently ranks in the top counties for the most boating accidents. Here are some key statistics from the past few years.
- In 2020, 804 boating accidents and 70 fatalities occurred in Florida
- In 2021, 719 boating accidents and 60 fatalities occurred in Florida
- In 2022, 735 boating accidents and 65 fatalities occurred in Florida
What makes Florida so prone to boating accidents and fatalities compared to other states? These are two reasons why Florida has such a high rate of boating accidents each year.
High Tourist Influx
Florida is a popular vacation destination. Between the sunny skies, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and thriving sea life, tourists from across the country frequently travel to the sunshine state for a week of rest and relaxation. Many tourists spend their time out on the water, engaging in various aquatic activities, like boating. With more vessels on the water, more accidents are likely to occur. The spring and summer months experience the highest levels of accidents and fatalities, as this is peak boating season.
Large Boat Population
Florida is The Boating Capital of the World. With easy access to open waters year-round, it’s no wonder Florida has so many boats setting sail in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. In 2022, more than one million boats were registered statewide, the highest number in the country. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, anywhere from seven to ten deaths occur per 100,000 registered boats. Statistically speaking, between 7,000 and 10,000 people could die with that many boats out on the water.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
1. Operator inattention and distraction
The leading cause of boating accidents in Florida is a lack of attention while operating the vessel. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 43% of Florida boating accidents between 2003 and 2022 occurred because the operator either wasn’t paying attention, wasn’t experienced enough to operate the boat, or hadn’t received adequate boat operation training. That’s nearly half of all accidents that occurred.
While issuing more Boating Safety Education Cards is helpful, it’s not a catch-all solution for this problem. Although the number of Boating Safety Education Cards issued by the state of Florida tripled between 2010 and 2022, 45 of the operators who were involved in fatal boating accidents still had no formal boating education. Quality boating education is the key here.
2. Alcohol and drug influence
It’s illegal in Florida to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The same rule applies when you’re out on the water. If you operate a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you’re in violation of Florida law. If authorities suspect you of violating this law, you’ll be subjected to a sobriety test and either a physical or chemical test to measure the alcohol content in your body. A boat operator with a blood or breath alcohol content that’s .08 or higher is considered to be under the influence.
Drugs and alcohol alter your brain’s chemistry and your ability to perceive things. When you have enough drugs or alcohol in your system, you have limited focus and delayed response times. This can be dangerous and even fatal when it comes to operating a boat.
3. Weather conditions
Poor weather conditions impact visibility and response times on the water. For example, fog and heavy rainfall make it difficult to see more than a few feet in front of your boat, which increases the risk of colliding with a boat, another vessel, or a swimmer. Additionally, high winds push your boat in the direction it’s blowing. Even if you steer in the opposite direction, the wind will have its way and can cause you to crash into another boat.
4. Engine or machinery failure
Some factors are simply out of your control. Your boat’s engine might give out, or a piece of equipment might fail mid-operation, leaving you with zero control over the vessel. All you can do in this situation is remain alert and be aware of your surroundings. Performing routine boat maintenance can also help prevent these issues from occurring in the first place.
5. Failure to obey local boating laws
Boating laws exist for a reason. They keep people safe by reducing the risk of accidents on the water. When someone breaks a boating law, it not only puts themselves but those around them in danger. Remember that these laws aren’t intended to restrict but to protect you from harm.
Types of Injuries Caused by Boating Accidents
Drowning and Hypoxia
Falling overboard and drowning are the top two injuries that boating accidents cause. Hypoxia, which is characterized by a lack of oxygen in the tissue, is another leading injury that can result in organ damage if left untreated.
Why are these risks in particular so common? According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 81% of drowning victims between 2003 and 2022 weren’t wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. While other factors play a role, the lack of a life jacket can be catastrophic. The simple act of putting on a life jacket can save lives.
Broken Bones and Lacerations
The sheer impact of being thrown around on a boat or into the water—especially if the boat is traveling at a high speed—can create severe cuts and even break bones. While generally not life-threatening, broken bones and lacerations can cause excessive bleeding, infections, and scarring.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Severe impact to the head during a boating accident can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI). While a mild TBI might only impact brain cells temporarily, a more serious TBI can cause bleeding, tissue tears, bruising, and other brain damage. Severe TBIs may cause permanent brain damage or death.
Soft Tissue Damage and Burns
Boating accidents involving a collision or sudden stop can cause soft tissue injuries like whiplash, which are associated with pain and discomfort. If the accident involves a fire or explosion, the operator and any passengers may sustain severe burns.
Spinal Cord Injuries
One wrong move in a boating accident can result in a spinal cord injury that may cause partial or complete paralysis. These injuries can have lifelong consequences.
Why You Need a Boating Accident Lawyer in Jacksonville
Because it borders an ocean, Florida has maritime laws that govern various nautical issues and private maritime disputes, including boating accidents. Unless you’re a maritime expert, these laws are confusing. As your trusted boating accident expert, Steinger, Greene & Feiner know Florida maritime law and will help you navigate its complexities every step of the way. Our goal is to achieve justice and secure the compensation you need to cover economic and non-economic costs like:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage
- Nursing care
What to Do After a Boating Accident
1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Your safety is the most important factor when you’re involved in a boating accident. Before you do anything else, seek medical attention. If you sustained severe injuries like lacerations, burns, or broken bones, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical care. If your injuries are less severe, drop by an urgent care clinic.
2. Document the Accident Scene
Don’t leave the accident scene until you take photos and videos of the damage. Your insurance company and attorney will need this information to assess the damages, determine fault, and calculate compensation.
3. Contact a Specialized Boating Accident Lawyer
Don’t handle your boating accident case alone. Contact a Jacksonville boating accident lawyer to ensure you get the representation and compensation you need.
4. Don’t Discuss the Accident With Insurance Companies Without Legal Counsel
Insurance companies can and will use anything you say against you, especially if the information you share implies fault. Refrain from discussing your boating accident with your insurance company until you’ve secured legal aid.
How Steinger, Greene & Feiner Can Help
Our Florida boating accident lawyers are ready to take on your case. Thanks to our wealth of resources and years of expertise in handling boating accident cases, we can help you:
- Investigate your case: We’ll gather evidence, interview witnesses, and contact medical professionals and other experts to understand exactly what happened.
- Determine fault: We’ll determine who was responsible for the accident and hold them accountable for their actions.
- Secure maximum compensation: We won’t stop until you receive the money you need to recover. This includes negotiating with insurance companies to ensure fair compensation is provided.
- Meet deadlines: The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida depends on when your boating accident occurred. If it occurred on 03/23/2023 or sooner, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If your accident occurred after 03/23/2023, you have two years to file a lawsuit. If you lost a loved one to a boating accident, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. Our team will ensure the statute of limitations and all other deadlines are met.
Not sure if your boating accident is covered by our services? We represent the following accident types:
- Sailboat accidents
- Speedboat accidents
- Jet ski accidents
- Canoe accidents
- Kayak accidents
- Rental boat accidents
- Tour boat accidents
- Water skiing accidents
- Commercial boating accidents
- Fishing boat accidents
- Cruise ship accidents
- Yacht accidents
Our Success Stories
See why previous clients were satisfied with the case results we achieved.
“I had the best experience with my attorney, Josh. He was always available to answer any questions I had. He is kind and thoughtful even if a question I had was silly. He always reassured me everything was going to be alright, and it was. I will be referring him and your Law Firm to anyone who needs an excellent Personal Injury Attorney.”
“Steinger, Greene & Feiner is the firm you will truly be happy with. They kept me informed of my case every step of the way & in a very timely manner. They made me feel confident and treated me with such kindness. I am a very happy & satisfied customer.”
Consult a Jacksonville Boating Accident Lawyer Today
Whether you’re operating a boat or joining as a passenger, make boat safety a top priority. Simple things like wearing a life jacket and receiving proper training can reduce the risk of accidents and save lives if one were to occur. You should also obey all Florida maritime laws and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
If you were involved in a boating accident in Jacksonville, don’t hesitate to contact our team. Steinger, Greene & Feiner will work tirelessly to secure the compensation you need to recover from your accident and cover all accident-related expenses. Call today to get started with a free case evaluation.