Inconsistencies in State Boating Laws Can Cause Victims to Miss Out on Rightful Damages

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

As our boating accident lawyers have advised time and time again, the open waters can breed tons of fun activities during the summer months when boating season is in full swing, but if careful attention isn’t placed on safety, tragedy can strike quickly and severely.

Although maritime agencies such as the Coast Guard and individual state authorities urge boaters and personal watercraft users to refrain from committing acts of negligence that may cost innocent people their lives, year after year, there are some people who just don’t seem to get the message.

The number one cause of boating crashes, injuries and deaths is alcohol, followed closely by speeding, reckless operation of a vessel, pilot inexperience, and sheer lack of attention to one’s surroundings. Even in the most remote areas on the most private bodies of water, accidents can – and do – occur.

Here in Florida, recreational and competitive water activities are as common as walking down the street on a random day. But even in Florida, where the highest frequency of maritime accidents occur, laws penalizing negligent and reckless boaters aren’t as strict as they should be, nor are they consistent with the laws upheld in other states.

For example, when it comes to Boating under the Influence (BUI), some states revoke a boater’s operator’s license if they are involved in an alcohol-related accident. After all, most boats are motor powered entities so why should the laws for boating incidents be any different than for those on land? However, there is no penalty on a boat operator’s driver’s license when a BUI incident occurs in Florida, showing a stark lack of regard over the safety of boaters, passengers and anyone participating in water-related activities.

The trouble with boating accidents also stems from the fact that laws vary depending on where exactly the accidents occur. If the incident takes place on navigable waters, meaning waters that are capable of navigation by both recreational and commercial vessels, then U.S. admiralty and maritime law may apply, which are uniform across the country. However, if the boating accident occurs within non-navigable waters, which include smaller bodies of water such as lakes, streams or small rivers, then state laws will apply for the handling of the incident and the outcome for a personal injury case may be vastly different.

Unfortunately for victims who are injured or lose a loved one because of another boater’s wrongful actions, the variances with these maritime laws can affect their chances of obtaining justice. There are far too many times in which intoxicated boaters who cause fatal accidents due to their disregard of safety regulations do not get penalized as strictly as they may deserve.

Until maritime law is regulated to the point that all states are governed by the same principles in order to ensure boating accident victims’ rights are fully protected is enacted – which is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future –  or until BUI initiatives are taken more seriously, anyone who is involved in a motor boat crash, parasailing accident, jet ski collision or any other water-based accident can turn to an experienced boat accident lawyer to fight for the justice they deserve for their pain and suffering.