Florida Boating Fatalities and Negligence

Earlier this month, the United States Coast Guard reported that Florida once again ranked number one in recreational boating accidents and deaths on the water.  Unfortunately, as years have passed, the number for injuries and boating fatalities has increased despite Florida residents’ requirement to take the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Boating Safety Course. Last year alone, the FWC reported approximately 720 boating accidents and among those accidents, 66 resulted in injury.

Florida Boating Fatalities Statistics

Boating in Florida is meant to be a fun-filled activity for friends and families to enjoy. Unfortunately, these outings can lead to serious injuries or fatalities. Below are some accident statistics based on the 2019 Boating fatalities data sheet provided by the FWC:

  • Florida ranks number one on the list of the Top Ten States regarding boating fatalities.
  • In 2019, Florida had 961,266 registered vessels.
  • The fatality rate in 2019 was 6.7% which is 0.5% higher than in previous years. 
  • April was recorded to be the month with the highest fatality count in 2019. 
  • Boating fatalities seemed to increase between the hours of 4 PM to 6 PM. 
  • 80% of boat operators in Florida have no previous boater education.
  • The most common type of accident was due to falling overboard.
  • The primary cause of boating fatalities is drowning.
  • Drowning is the primary reason for fatalities in boating accidents, occurring in 66% of fatal incidents. 

Boating Regulations

Before heading out to sea, there are federal and state requirements that operators and boat owners must comply with. However, there are also numerous Florida boating laws that boaters should know of to prevent any possible fines, injuries, or even fatalities. These regulations include:

  • Boating accidents. – Just like a motor vehicle accident, it is unlawful for the person operating the vessel to flee the scene of a boating accident without reporting it to the proper authorities. If you are involved in a boating accident that has caused a personal injury, death, missing person, or damage to the vessel(s) you must report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, police, or county sheriff.boating fatalities
  • Boating under the influence. – It is a violation of Florida law to operate any vessel or motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A vessel operator that has been suspected of boating under the influence will have to submit to a sobriety test. In Florida, an operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08 or .02 if under 21 years of age. 
  • Reckless and/or careless operation. – If operating a vessel with disregard for the safety of passengers or property, you will be cited for reckless operation. Be sure to follow all posted restrictions, presence of divers-down flag, and be cautious of other vessels to not endanger people outside of the vessel.
  • Vessel speed regulation. – When operating a boat, be sure to follow all speed zone signs. If a speed zone is posted as an “idle speed – no wake” zone, you must operate at the minimum speed that allows the boat to maintain headway.  For “slow down – minimum wake” zones, you must operate fully off plane and completely settle in the water. 

While there is no minimum age to operate a boat, it is recommended to follow all watercraft regulations and boating safety requirements. 

Liability in Boating Accidents

Boating liability after an accident depends on various factors such as where the accident took place, how it occurred, and who was operating the vessel. For example, operators have the responsibility to make sure each passenger is safe in the vessel. However, passengers also have responsibilities such as making sure that the captain of the boat is not impaired and is able to safely operate the boat. Passengers are also responsible for their own impairments and have a duty to be fully aware of what is going on. A boating accident attorney can help review these details through such methods as hiring an expert witness to determine liability. 

If you or someone you know has recently suffered from a boating accident that has resulted in personal injury, damage of property, or a boating fatality, we recommend speaking with an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Panter, Panter & Sampedro are ready to help you and your family with any of your personal injury needs. Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION today by calling (305) 662-6178

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