Boating Accidents

A day on the water in Miami can be a wonderful way to experience this amazing city with friends and family.

However, the process of putting a watercraft on a trailer, driving it in traffic to a marina and then operating the watercraft in the waterways and coastal areas is fraught with hazards.

Let’s take a look at seven areas where personal injuries can occur as we spend time with friends and family on the water.  For each item, we talk about the risk of danger followed by ways to reduce that risk and stay safe.

Driving with a boat on the trailer

Did you know that many boating accidents occur while the watercraft is on land mounted on a trailer?  One of the most dangerous accidents that could happen while driving with a boat on a trailer is for the trailer to come loose from the vehicle that is towing it.  If this happens, there is potential for multiple car accidents to occur as a result. The trailer may collide with vehicles behind it or flip over and dump the boat or jet skis it is carrying.

As the driver of a vehicle towing a boat on a trailer, you are responsible for any personal injury caused by a “runaway” trailer.  In addition to the cost of medical care, you may be sued for wrongful death or made to compensate for the pain and suffering and loss of income caused by your negligence.  

To avoid this, it is highly recommended that you carefully follow trailering best practices as outlined by the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (natm.com).  These include, among other steps, securing your trailer using crossed safety chains as shown in this illustration of an advisory sticker designed to be displayed on trailers:

Your boat’s engine

Did you know that fire, explosion and carbon monoxide are common causes of personal injury and death among boaters in South Florida? Know when to ventilate your boat based on whether you are using an inboard or outboard engine by signing up for a local About Boating Safely course with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons.  In addition to learning how and when to ventilate (too much oxygen fed to an inboard engine can cause your boat to explode, too little in certain circumstances can suffocate you or your guests). As the master of the vessel, you are operating you have a duty of care for everyone on board. Sign up for your local ABS course and learn to keep them safe by preventing extreme personal injuries caused by fire, explosion and asphyxiation.

Boating Under the Influence

Florida statute 327.25, prohibits operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Boating under the influence (BUI) is treated the same as driving under the influence (DUI). BUIs can result in fines, imprisonment and suspension of your state driver’s license.  Drinking and operating a watercraft can also seriously endanger you, your guests and others on the water. Even when guests drink while on your boat, you still have a duty of care as the master of the vessel to ensure that they stay safe.  Drunken guests are in heightened danger of personal injuries that can occur while underway in a boat including craniofacial injuries, propeller blade injuries, drowning and partial drowning, broken bones and more. Avoid alcohol completely as the operator of any vehicle in Florida and be consider not making alcohol available at all to your guests.

“Avoid alcohol completely as the operator of any vehicle in Florida …”

Traveling at night

Local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies expect strict adherence to laws requiring nighttime running lights on all motorized watercraft.  These lights include a red light for the port (left) side of the boat and a green light for the starboard (right) side. Paddle craft (kayaks and paddleboards), as well as sailboats, need one “all-around” white light. There are specific mounting instructions and visibility angles that must be followed and are outlined in the coursework of any About Boating Safely course given by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons.  These lights allow other vessels to see your watercraft at night. This avoids dangerous collisions that can result in catastrophic injuries and death. As the operator of a powerboat, you would be responsible for damage and personal injury caused by the negligent failure to correctly mount nighttime running lights on your vessel. Be sure not to make that mistake.

If you are planning to take a trip in a boat or jetski anywhere in Florida, be sure to follow the recommendations in this article and keep yourself and others safe.  Have you been recently injured in an accident on the water? Call Jared K Newman in the Personal Injury offices at South Florida Law on (954) 900-8885. You can also click here and use this form to upload evidence to support your case.

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