Boating Accidents

What To Do If You Are Involved In A Boat Accident In Florida

Charles R. Lipcon

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Charles R. Lipcon is the firm’s founder and one of the preeminent maritime attorneys in the United States. Mr. Lipcon has been handling maritime lawsuits – including personal injury, wrongful death, sexual assault and rape – for over 40 years. In that time, he and his firm have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

As a peninsula, the state of Florida is naturally home to plenty of water-related activities. Boating is one of the most popular activities. Just as with any high-speed transportation method, boating carries an inherent risk of accidents, which may be severe enough to cause injury or even death. Many boating accidents involve negligence on the part of one or more boat operators; boat rental agencies; or equipment manufacturers.

First Steps After A Boating Accident

It’s essential to be prepared if you are involved in a boating accident. Knowing what to expect can empower you to save your own life or the lives of others. This knowledge may even help you to prevent being involved in a boating accident in the first place. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report, 2020 saw 837 reportable boating accidents and 79 boating-related fatalities.

Being involved in an accident is always a disorienting and scary experience, whether on the road or on the water. However, responding to a boating accident does share some important similarities with the response to car accidents on land, which may help you remember what to do in the event of an incident.

Most importantly, after a boating accident, the first concern should be to determine whether everyone on board is present and accounted for. If possible, people who have fallen overboard should be pulled back onto the boat if it is still seaworthy. If the boat is taking on water, sinking, or otherwise seems unsafe, then you should attempt to climb on floating debris if possible. 

Of course, wearing a life jacket (or having one immediately within reach) is a vital tool to safeguard your life and safety in the event of an accident, so you should do your best to wear one at all times and know where they are stored if you or anyone else isn’t wearing one. According to a 2011 Coast Guard report, 70% of all boating accident fatalities were drowning victims, and 84% of these victims were not wearing a life jacket.

If the boat is still floating and everyone is on board, then care should be taken to move the vessel out of the path of other boaters. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately for assistance. If possible, render medical aid to anyone who is injured. If other vessels were involved in the accident, you should attempt to check on their whereabouts and medical needs.

Following the immediate aftermath of the accident, you should try to get as much information about the other vessel and its occupants as you can, including the identification number of the boat and names and contact information of the occupants, as well as any witnesses you can find. Also, get insurance information and pictures of the damage and the location of the incident. Finally, you and all other passengers should seek medical attention as soon as possible. After an accident, adrenaline and shock can make you think you’re okay even when you’ve sustained a severe injury. Seeing a doctor to get checked out for hidden injuries should be a priority.

When Is A Boating Accident Report Required?

There are nearly a million registered vessels in Florida, and accidents are not an uncommon occurrence, so how do you know when you should report an incident? Federal law provides guidelines that require operators or owners of recreational vessels to file an accident report with the state’s reporting authority if an accident results in:

  • The death of a person
  • The injury of a person that requires medical treatment beyond first aid
  • The disappearance of a person from a vessel under circumstances that indicate a possibility of injury or death
  • Significant damage to boats or other property valued over $2,000
  • The destruction of a boat

If any of these circumstances occur, then a report is required to be filed. In addition, there are time limits that apply. If an accident results in death within 24 hours, an injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or a disappearance, then a report must be filed within 48 hours. Otherwise, a report is required to be filed within ten days.

What To Do If A Person Is Killed Or Goes Missing

As previously mentioned, if a person is killed, seriously injured, or disappears following a boating accident, a report is required to be filed with your state’s regulating authority within 48 hours of the incident. It should be evident to most people that immediately following an accident in which a person is killed or goes missing, the first thing that should be done is to contact the local police, Coast Guard, and/or Fish and Wildlife Agency (such as Florida Fish and Wildlife) as quickly as possible to report the incident and to seek assistance from professionals in locating and rescuing or recovering any missing persons.

Contact Experienced Boating Accident Lawyers

Although boating and related activities are widely practiced and enjoyed in Florida’s waters, participants should keep in mind that all of these activities carry a significant risk of injury. Experiencing a boating accident is frightening, confusing, and overwhelming, mainly if serious injuries or deaths are involved. Fortunately, there is help available. Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. are experienced boat accident lawyers

For 50 years, LM&W has fought for the rights of accident victims. We were named one of the “Lawyer of the Year” in Admiralty and Maritime 2020 (Miami) by US News & World Report, and three of our attorneys were additionally named “Best Lawyers.” LM&W has successfully recovered over $300 million on behalf of our clients in more than 3,000 cases. Our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys have over 200 years of combined experience, and we are passionate about representing accident victims, protecting their rights, and securing the compensation they deserve. You can trust LM&W to fight for you. Use the contact form on our website or call 1-877-233-1238 today.

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