The enjoyment of watercrafts along the coast of Florida, such as boating, waterskiing, wake boarding, swimming, fishing and jet skiing has risen over the past decade, with well over one million vessels in use today. However, this type of recreation is adding to a growing danger amongst our nation’s waterways and carries a serious risk for injury. Florida’s destination as one of the leading world vacation spots means that these types of water sports are often enjoyed by inexperienced individuals. These types of activities are fun, but can be dangerous, especially in the hands of someone who is intoxicated or inexperienced. A number of unfortunate events have lead to tragedy on the water, whether boating in a large vessel or smaller watercraft.
We’ve seen the recipe for disaster all too often: an inexperienced operator, a few too many beers, a lot of distractions, a powerful boat, a sharp propeller, open water, a skier or wake boarder in back, all in the context and vicinity of 100′s of other boaters and jet skiers with similar distractions.
A personal watercraft is defined by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Class A inboard vessel, under 13 feet in length, powered by an inboard motor and a jet pump, that is designed to be operated by a person or persons standing, sitting, or kneeling on the craft rather than within the confines of a hull. What this means is that a personal watercraft is a small, open boat that is powered by an engine inside the vessel which pulls in water through a port in the bottom of the boat and expels it at high pressure through a nozzle that controls direction.
A watercraft is a vessel or craft designed to move across or through water. The name is derived from the term “craft” which was used to describe all types of water-going vessels. The term craft has since been expanded to include all types of vessels which travel on water (watercraft), in air (aircraft) and in space (spacecraft).
Most watercraft would be described as either a ship or a boat. However, there are a number of craft which many people would consider neither a ship nor a boat, such as:
- Surfboards (when used as a paddle board)
- Jet Skis
Boating accidents can cause damage to watercraft and can result in the drowning of innocent persons. Boating is a great way to enjoy the coast of Florida but often tragedy results because of the carelessness of the watercraft operator. In 2010, the Coast Guard counted 4,604 accidents that involved 672 deaths, 3,153 injuries and approximately $35.5 million in property damages as a result of recreational boating accidents. The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. Broken bones and cuts and bruises are the most common injuries sustained in Florida personal watercraft accidents. However, head injuries and internal injuries are also commonly reported.
As of 2003 there were 12,794,616 registered boats and personal watercraft in the United States. According to the United States Coast Guard, nowhere in the country are there more registered boats than in the State of Florida with over one million registered boats. In addition, approximately 450,000 boats registered in other states use Florida waterways in any given year.
Jet Skis and other high-speed Personal Water Crafts are small and lively providing inexpensive fun in waterways for nearly a decade. They’ve been described as snowmobiles for the water by some – extremely fast and easy to maneuver. While these recreational vessels can provide hours of safe entertainment, they can be extremely dangerous in the hands of a negligent, inexperienced, and/or intoxicated driver.
A Jet Skier is more likely to get hurt than a motor boater and even more likely than a canoer or kayaker. The injuries sustained in a Jet Ski accident or collision can be severe. Some of these injuries include drowning to death, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, amputations, hypothermia, head injuries, disfigurement, or situations where someone is ejected from the Jet Ski, which can cause a soft tissue injury or broken bones.
It is a general rule of the law that the operators of a boat or Jet Ski and their owner have a duty to exercise the highest degree of care in order to prevent injuries to others. If you’ve been the victim of a Jet Ski or other personal water craft accident, you have the right to seek reparations for your injuries.
It is unlawful in the State of Florida to operate a vessel without regard for the safety of persons or property. This means with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag, swimmers, and other circumstances so as not to endanger people or property. Such operator will be cited for reckless operation (a first degree misdemeanor).
While many people turn to watercraft – such as jet skis, privately owner vessels, commercial boats, and other watercraft in order to transport goods or to enjoy some time on the water, boating accidents can make excursions out to lakes or oceans deadly. If an individual is injured as a result of a watercraft accident, they may be able to seek financial compensation by hiring a watercraft accident attorney.
Fortunately, the majority of watercraft accidents are entirely preventable. Many collisions and accidents involving personal watercraft and other vessels are caused by negligence, intoxication, equipment failure, inadequate training, or weather and water conditions. The inexperience – or the errors – of the person operating the vessel also cause collisions.
Rented watercraft pose a serious risk to riders in Florida, even riders who sign a waiver before renting a watercraft, should consult an experienced injury attorney. Nearly half of the state’s serious personal watercraft accidents occurred on a rented watercraft.
Even on a cruise ship, accidents can happen. An Ocean cruise aboard a luxury liner should be filled with fun, sun, shopping and dining. But a dream vacation can come to a halt when dangerous conditions on board lead to a tourist’s injury or death. The same can be said for excursions at ports of call.
In many cases, a passenger’s cruise ticket provides for a one-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims against the cruise ship. While cruise ship cases typically settle out of court, it is critical to retain an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
Suing cruise lines can be complex. If you fail to follow the rules on your ticket, you run the very real risk of the court throwing out your personal injury claim against the cruise ship company. Cruise line contracts often contain clauses written to limit your claim. We have experience challenging many of these limiting clauses on your behalf. Your claim for compensation can extend beyond the parent cruise company. We have experience tracking down companies that may be liable to compensate you for your cruise ship injury – the company that chartered the cruise ship, the company that operated the cruise ship, and even the company that sold you your ticket.
Not all claims have to go to court to get fair settlement for clients. But you do need to work with attorneys who aren’t afraid to go to trial and who have a reputation for aggressive litigation.
Victims should not hesitate from filing a lawsuit for fear of filing a frivolous lawsuit. Let your attorney – not an insurance agent – determine what is frivolous and when justice should be pursued. Statutes of limitation limit the length of time you have to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file within the time allowed, you may be denied the justice due you.
At Rue & Ziffra, P.A., our personal watercraft injury attorneys will help you understand your legal options and will discuss your specific case so that you know what to expect. Laws relating to watercraft vessels are exceedingly complex and require an intensive knowledge of not only specific state laws governing boating accidents, but also federal maritime and international waterway laws. We will also work with your insurance company and others involved in your particular situation to ensure that you get excellent care and medical attention quickly and effectively.
When individuals are involved in a boating or other accidents in the water, they are often faced with many uncertainties in regards to their rights and future. Below, we hope to provide you with assurance as we answer our most common questions regarding watercraft accidents:
At Rue & Ziffra, P.A., we know that being in a watercraft accident is both a complicated and overwhelming experience for you and your family. In the aftermath of the collision, victims are confronted with intricate rules and laws, countless unknowns, and an unrelenting fight against the trucking company involved for compensation of your damages.
We sincerely hope that this information has aided you in your time of need. However, we do realize that the above questions and answers are just the beginning. This is why our attorneys want you to know that you don’t have to be left in the dark in your time of need – there are legal professionals here that are knowledgeable and prepared to fight for your better interests.
If you or someone close to you has been involved in a boating accident, please contact an experienced accident attorney now at Rue & Ziffra, P.A. We proudly serve areas throughout and around Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando, and Leesburg.