On September 17, 2020 a former boat captain allegedly caused the death of Zach Forte, a 27-year-old passenger in a boat collision at the Haulover Sandbar. A survivor of the boating crash reportedly told the police that the operator had been drinking and inhaling what may have been methamphetamine or another illegal drug. After the crash, the operator allegedly left the scene without searching for persons injured or in distress. The unfortunate death of the victim appears to have been entirely avoidable. In addition to the criminal charges that the boat operator is facing, he is likely also civilly liable for the young man’s death. Additionally, there may be third parties that also have civil responsibility for the victim’s death; such parties may include a boat rental company and the owner(s) of the boat entrusted to the reportedly intoxicated and impaired operator.
As a Miami maritime law firm specializing in handling boating accident cases, we hear tragic stories like this all too often. As this accident was already a month ago, if the family has not done so already, we suggest they immediately hire an experienced maritime firm so that an investigation can be performed that is in the family’s best interests. The maritime laws that apply to these types of cases are peculiar and require special expertise of experienced maritime lawyers.
Miami-Dade County is a boating community with over 68,000 registered vessels ranging from smaller boats like canoes and bass boats to large yachts and commercial fishing boats. Boating accidents in the Miami waters can occur for many reasons: insufficient training, boating under the influence (BUI), careless or reckless operation of a vessel, equipment malfunctions, etc.
The boating accident attorneys of the Miami maritime law firm of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. examine boating accidents and determine liability for our clients—and we get results.
Most South Florida boating accidents are preventable and we have helped many accident victims and their families recover damages for injuries and wrongful death.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a Common Cause of Fatal Boat Accidents in Miami
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission publishes an annual Boating Accident Statistical Report each year. In 2019, there were 723 reportable boating accidents in Florida, resulting in 65 fatalities and 453 persons injured. The following are some of the most common types of boating accidents in the state of Florida:
Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
Just as DUI is a significant cause of accidents in the Miami-Dade community, boating under the influence or BUI is a contributing factor to many of the state’s boating-related injuries and deaths.
- In 2019, FWC and other law enforcement agencies issued 649 citations for boating under the influence.
- Alcohol or narcotics were involved in 32% of boating fatalities.
- 80% of the operators involved in fatal accidents have no formal boater education, meaning many operators were intoxicated and untrained.
Accidents on boats can occur in many different ways, but falling overboard and drowning was the most widely reported type of fatal boating accident in Florida in 2019:
- 40% of fatal accidents originated from falls overboard.
- Drowning accounted for 66% of the total of wrongful death boating accidents in Florida.
- 43 of the 58 fatal accidents in 2019 were from drowning.
Impact with Boat, Land, Object, or Water
Boats can travel at significantly high speeds and their solid masses make them particularly dangerous projectiles. Moreover, sudden speed and direction changes—usually caused by the operator—can cause passengers to strike the interior of the boat or be thrown overboard. In 2019, 195 injuries were caused by an impact with the boat, and 98 were caused by an impact with a fixed object. 29 people were actually struck by a boat while in the water.
Who’s Responsible for Damages?
The state of Florida does not require boaters to carry insurance, but many boaters who want to limit their liability, insure their vessels. In addition, boat rental companies universally carry coverage to protect their businesses. A maritime law attorney can determine which party is ultimately responsible for damages in a boating accident or injury wrongful death case. Some of the most prevalent types of negligence include:
- Boating Under the Influence – The operator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both.
- Operator Error – Excessive speed, failure to yield the right of way to other vessels, boating in hazardous conditions, etc.
- Livery Error – Boat rental companies are known as liveries and are required to comply with very specific laws regarding training and licensing of boat operators to ensure that the boat operators are capable of safely operating the vessel.
- Equipment Malfunction – The owner failed to properly maintain the boat.
- Insufficient Personal Flotation Devices – The operator or owner failed to have a sufficient number of PFDs for the passengers.
Driver intoxication is a common cause of boating accidents and while there certainly appears to be clear liability in the case of Zach Forte against the boat operator, there may also be liability on other parties such as any owners of the boat and any boat rental companies that were involved.
There are many laws and rules peculiar to maritime law at play in accidents such as these. An attorney experienced at handling these matters should be immediately consulted so that a proper investigation can be completed and the matter handled in the best interests of the family.
Our Firm Has Been Named “Lawyer of the Year” in Admiralty & Maritime for 2020 (Miami)
Admiralty & Maritime refers to accidents at sea – making boating accidents our specialty. If you’ve been injured in a boating accident or you are the family of a boating accident wrongful death victim, you may be entitled to damages under federal maritime law. Our firm has 160 years of combined experience and has recovered over $300 million dollars on behalf of our clients. It is accomplishments such as these that have earned us recognition as “Lawyer of the Year” by US News & World Report. Give us a call today at 877-233-1238 to speak with an experienced boat accident attorney, or contact us for a response within 24 hours.