By:   Jason R. Margulies

Photo of a YachtLipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. are the nation’s leading maritime lawyers, and we have earned this reputation for good reason. With all four of our partners named to “Best Lawyers”® by US News & World Report, and our firm named to “Best Law Firms”®, we are highly recognized for our expertise and ability. We have handled a significant number of injury cases that occurred on yachts, and have successfully recovered more than $300 million for both crew and passengers injured on yachts and other maritime injury cases. These cases are unique because they often pose jurisdictional challenges. Fortunately, we are well versed in dealing with these challenges to obtain the maximum recovery for you or your loved one, under the applicable laws.

What Should You Do After a Yacht Accident?

There are a number of steps you should take as soon as possible following a boating accident injury or yacht accident.
Photo of a Yacht

1. Call 911

The first thing you should do after a yacht accident is call 911. If there are any injuries, it is important to get medical help to the scene as soon as possible. The police will also come and make an accident report. This report will be an important piece of evidence in your personal injury case.

2. Check for Injuries and Offer Aid

If you are involved in a boating accident in Florida, the law requires you to give all possible aid to others who are injured or in danger. You also need to make reasonable efforts to locate the other vessel’s owner and anyone else who may be affected. Leaving the scene of a boating accident where someone is injured without doing these things can result in a criminal third-degree felony charge.

3. Document the Scene of the Boating Accident

If you are physically able, you should take steps to document the scene. Take pictures, get contact information, and talk to witnesses. Over time, evidence can be lost and memories can fade, so it’s important to document this information as early as possible.

4. File a Boating Accident Report

Florida law requires the operator and/or owner of a vessel to file an accident report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement or the area sheriff/police department within:

  • 24 hours if a person disappears or requires medical treatment beyond first aid
  • 48 hours if a person dies
  • 10 days if there is more than $2,000 in property damage or a complete loss of the vessel

Failing to do this can result in criminal penalties.

When to Demand Justice After a Yacht Accident

Traditionally, ownership and use of yachts were only for the “rich and famous.” However, more and more individuals are able to afford to partake of some of the luxuries associated with yachting. As the number of yachters increases, so does the number of accidents. A yachting accident lawyer knows the injuries incurred in such accidents can be quite serious, and some accidents may even lead to death. Accordingly, anyone who has sustained injuries or lost a loved one after a yachting accident or any other type of recreational boat incident is encouraged to contact a well-versed attorney who can advise you of your legal options and rights.

Note that both passengers and crew members can be victims of yacht accidents. We discuss aspects of yacht accidents, boating accidents, yacht accident lawsuits, and how a yacht accident lawyer can help you below.

What Can Our Maritime Lawyers Do for You?

The laws governing yachts and other recreational boats can be very complex. However, working with a skilled lawyer can help accident victims gain a better understanding of their rights under the law. If you are looking to hire a boating accident lawyer, there are several attributes you should look out for.

We Have Over 200 Years of Combined Experience

Maritime accidents are different from other types of accidents. A car accident lawyer may be willing to take your case, but they likely do not have the experience necessary to effectively handle a yachting case.

Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., has been handling maritime cases for nearly 50 years, and our 12 attorneys have over 200 years of combined experience.

We are well versed in the intricacies of maritime law and the unique challenges that a crewmember or passenger faces when suing a yacht owner or pursuing a boating accident claim.

Our Past Case Results

We have successfully handled over 3,000 cases and recovered over $300 million for our clients. Examples of our successful boat accident cases include:

  • Confidential multi-million dollar recovery for deckhand working on a sailboat after limb amputation.
  • $1.5 million settlement for a seaman who died after being struck in the head by malfunctioning equipment.
  • $776,000 jury verdict for a seaman who died due to inadequate medical treatment while working on a vessel.
  • $150,000 settlement for a yacht employee who was injured while carrying out an employer’s negligent orders.
  • $120,000 settlement for a yacht captain who suffered a back injury while working.

Our past results won’t tell you what outcome to expect in your case, but they do attest to our experience, abilities, and effectiveness.

Our Stellar Reputation as Leading Accident Lawyers

We have worked hard for nearly 50 years to cultivate a reputation as a knowledgeable and experienced maritime law firm. We are frequently consulted by national news outlets about maritime issues. Our firm and lawyers have been featured on television and other news media including The New York Times, CNN, FOX News, TIME, and NBC News, just to name a few.

Our lawyers have also received numerous awards. Most recently, attorney Charles R. Lipcon was named “Lawyer of the Year for 2020 in Admiralty & Maritime Law by US News & World Report, and all four of our named partners have been named to “Best Lawyers in America.”

Common Injuries and Risk Factors

Even on luxury vessels like yachts, passengers and those working onboard can experience various injuries, some of which are more common than others. Some of the common injuries that can occur in boating accident cases include:

  • Heavy lifting injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations
  • Head and back injuries
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Paralysis

But what causes these injuries? Some of the common incidents leading to injuries include:

  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Capsizing
  • Slip and falls
  • Hypothermia
  • Falling overboard
  • Repetitive heavy lifting
  • Propeller strikes

Your rights and remedies in case of injury will vary depending on whether you are a passenger or a worker and depending on the location of the injury. However, in most cases, you can seek compensation if the accident was caused by someone else’s careless behavior.

If you were injured or lost a loved one as the result of a yachting accident caused by another, you have the right to seek compensation. We have successfully handled many cases where passengers aboard a Yacht were injured due to the clear fault or negligence of the vessel owner.

Getting Compensation for a Personal Injury from a Yacht Accident

To obtain compensation based on someone else’s negligence, you must prove four elements:

  • The person had a duty to act in a certain way
  • The person breached their duty
  • The breached caused an accident
  • You suffered damages as a result of the accident

Photo of a Yacht

There are many careless actions that may constitute negligence. For example, passengers and/or workers may misuse personal floatation devices or fail to use them altogether. Alcohol consumption also often plays a part in many boating accident claims, as does the inability of passengers and/or workers to abide by basic boat safety rules. Other common negligent actions include:

  • Improperly maintaining equipment
  • Operator inattention
  • Failure to have a lookout
  • Having inadequate safety equipment
  • Operator inexperience
  • Traveling into a storm
  • Defective construction or design of the boat or components

There are some inherent dangers in any boating activity. Accidents can occur even when people take precautions. However, more often than not, an accident is the result of carelessness or recklessness. If someone else caused or contributed to your accident, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries. An experienced yacht accident attorney can help you understand your options.

Common Causes of Yacht Accidents

For your case to be successful, your yacht accident attorney must show that someone else’s negligence was the cause of your accident or resulting injuries. We will need to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of your yacht accident and boating accident injuries to uncover the identities of those responsible. Florida boating accidents and your boating accident injury can occur for many reasons.

For example, if the captain of the yacht was distracted, boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or lacked the experience needed to safely operate a boat, they could be held accountable if victims suffered severe injuries or damages. Although many victims are quick to assume the boat captain is to blame, this may not always be the case.

When parts on the boat malfunction or are defective, even the most experienced yacht captain may be unable to prevent severe injuries or death. Nearly anyone involved in the chain of distribution of boat parts could be held accountable in these situations. When yacht owners fail to make necessary repairs to vessels, and the damaged equipment or boat parts ultimately fail, a devastating boat accident and catastrophic injuries can occur.

Other common causes of yacht accidents and a serious boating accident could include the following:

  • Inclement weather conditions
  • Failure to look out for hazards
  • Operating a yacht at excessive speed
  • Yacht engine or steering issues
  • Running aground
  • Drownings
  • Overloaded boats
  • Fires and explosions
  • Failure to wear appropriate safety equipment or gear
  • Boat owner negligence or negligent boat operator conduct
  • Violations of Florida maritime laws
  • Wrongful death claim

These are just a few examples of ways in which yacht accidents can occur. If your injuries happened in another type of yacht accident, you may still have grounds for legal action against those responsible. Our in-depth investigation into the cause of your injuries will uncover the truth.

The Value of Your Yacht Accident Injury Claim

After suffering debilitating injuries in a yacht accident, you may be wondering how much compensation you could expect to recover. Every person’s case is different, but all victims have the right to be made whole when another party’s negligence is the cause of their injuries. The way in which you can recover compensation will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.

For example, if you were a yacht passenger, you would have the opportunity to pursue a personal injury lawsuit or claim with the insurance company. In your civil claim, you can seek total compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. Collectively, these account for every single loss you have endured as a result of someone else’s negligent contact. Some examples of recoverable damages in a personal injury yacht accident claim include:

  • Personal property damages
  • Current and future medical costs
  • Costs of medical devices or equipment and co-pays
  • Loss of household services
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Loss of income and employee benefits
  • Chronic physical pain
  • Emotional trauma and stress
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Embarrassment and inconvenience
  • Skin scarring and disfigurement

However, yacht crew members may be entitled to benefits under the Jones Act. Only employees considered seamen will be eligible for benefits under the Jones Act. The Jones Act offers most if not all of the damages set out above.

As a crewmember or seafarer, you are also entitled to compensation for what is known as maintenance and cure in addition to the same types of economic and non-economic damages available through a personal injury claim. Maintenance refers to the cost of your daily living expenses, while care refers to your medical bills. As a seaman, the shipowner can also be held accountable if your injuries occur due to unseaworthiness.

Our personal injury attorneys can help you get the most out of your claim, no matter what type of serious injuries you sustained or the type of personal injury claims you are dealing with.

Wrongful Death from a Yacht Accident

If you lost a loved one as a result of a yacht accident, you can seek justice by filing a wrongful death suit. In Florida, the personal representative of the person’s estate can bring a lawsuit on behalf of family members. You can obtain damages for things like:

  • Mental anguish caused by the death
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of companionship and protection
  • Past medical bills and funeral expenses

Additionally, the estate may seek damages for lost earnings between the time of injury and the time of death. The estate may also get damages for financial losses to the estate caused by the person’s untimely death.

The laws applicable to wrongful death actions under maritime law are among the most complex and intricate laws in our country. This is why it is critical to obtain an experienced maritime and yacht accident attorney to properly follow the laws to obtain the maximum financial recovery.

Maritime Laws and Regulations That Protect Crew Members

Yachts are certainly big business throughout Florida, and it typically takes several crewmembers to maintain and operate the vessel. Crewmembers and their families should be aware that they are protected by the same laws that protect commercial ship crewmembers.

Maritime Law’s Definition of “Seaworthy”

Maritime law requires the owner of a vessel to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy. Examples of unseaworthiness include:

  • Instability of the vessel
  • Lack of safety equipment
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Lack of proper procedures, rules, or regulations
  • Lack of warning signs
  • Trip hazards and inadequate railings
  • Incompetent, inadequate, or dangerous crew
  • Noncompliance with federal regulations
  • Worn out or missing equipment

A maritime worker who suffers injury due to the vessel’s unseaworthiness can recover damages from the owner for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Jones Act

The Jones Act permits maritime workers to sue their employers for negligence when they are injured on the job. Negligence can be based on things like:

  • Failure to avoid bad weather
  • Failure to keep equipment safely maintained
  • Lack of care in hiring
  • Failure to provide adequate medical treatment
  • Lack of care in supervising or instructing employees

Damages under the Jones Act can include things like lost income, medical costs, and pain and suffering. If a maritime worker is killed on the job, their loved ones may bring a wrongful death action against the employer.

Maintenance and Cure

When a maritime worker suffers an injury on the job, they are typically not eligible to make a traditional workers’ compensation claim. Instead, maritime employers must pay “maintenance and cure” to injured employees.

Maintenance is the cost of daily living, such as rent, utilities, and food. Cure is the cost of the employee’s medical care and treatment. To receive maintenance and cure, an employee need only show that they were injured in the course of their employment. They do not need to prove fault.

Yacht Accident and Boating Accident Injury FAQ

We understand how overwhelmed and confused you may be feeling during this challenging time in your life. You have many questions currently left unanswered. For this reason, we have answered some of our former clients’ most frequently asked questions regarding yacht accidents below. If you have additional questions we did not cover on this page, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys to discuss your specific concerns in greater detail.

How long do I have to file a claim for a yacht or boating accident?

Can I still file a claim if I was partially at fault for the yacht accident?

Demand Justice With Help From the Nation’s Leading Yacht Accident Law Firm

If you suffered injury in a yacht or other maritime accident, contact the attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., right away. We have more than 200 years of combined experience and the knowledge you need to pursue a successful claim. Our nationally and internationally recognized lawyers have changed how maritime injury claims are handled due to our extensive work in handling landmark yacht and admiralty claims. Our firm has earned countless awards and accolades, including selection as one of the “Best Law Firms”® by US News & World Report for nearly a decade.

Our team has provided expert opinion and analysis regarding cruise and maritime laws on some of the world’s most popular and renowned news programs globally. We are ready to seek justice for crew members, passengers, and others injured on yachts. We have the resources and tenacity to zealously pursue your claim even against the biggest companies with the deepest pockets. Our experienced and aggressive maritime injury lawyers will give you individualized attention and fight to get you every dollar you deserve. Fill out our online contact form or call our office at 877-233-1238 to schedule your free consultation at one of our eight office locations across the nation.