Boating Accidents Hit Highest Number in 9 Years
Attorney and Avid Boater Shares Tips on Boating Laws and What to do if You’re in a Boating Accident
A recent report from Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) shows the number of boating accidents per year is on the rise in Florida…and with the Memorial Day Holiday just days away, marking the unofficial start to summer, it’s more important than ever to know the rules of boating.
In 2020, FWC reported 836 boating accidents in the Sunshine State. That is the highest in nine years and above the average of 722. There were also thousands of more registered vessels in Florida last year.
FWC says almost half of boating accidents last year were because of crashes and 44% of those were because the operator was not paying attention.
Personal Injury attorney and avid boater Michael Pike of Pike & Lustig, says, “Boating is supposed be fun, but the owner and the captain need to always remain vigilant, make sure their watching out for other boats, make sure they are staying within the channel and wake zones that are posted, and make sure they are passing on the right side.”
“Just like driving a car, boat operators need to follow the laws: no drinking and driving a boat, and always pay attention and watch out for other boaters,” he continues.
Fatalities on the water are also up in Florida. FWC reported 79 boating deaths in 2020, up from 65 the year before and the highest in five years.
Palm Beach County ranked third for the number of boating accidents in the state, behind Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties.
The report shows the most common reason for those accidents in Palm Beach County was the driver not paying attention or proper look-out and the most common type of accident was a crash with another boat. There were six deaths in Palm Beach County on the water.
Pike adds that it isn’t just about the driver of the boat paying attention and following the laws; it is also critical that the other boat occupants remain vigilant, stay aware, and wear the appropriate life jackets – especially if they are underage or not familiar with boating.
If you are involved in a boating accident in the ocean, according to Pike, it falls under maritime law, which is a highly complex field of federal law. The reason maritime law applies is because the coastal waters belong to the United States as a whole, not to individual states, he adds. If the boating accident meets certain criteria, it must be reported to the Coast Guard. These criteria include:
- If a life is lost
- If there is substantial injury requiring treatment beyond first aid
- If a person is missing, and there is reason to believe they were injured or killed
- There is a total loss of a vessel
- Total damage caused in the accident equals at least $2,000
Only one of these requirements must be met before a report must be filed.
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