- In 2009, there were 736 deaths attributed to boating accidents in the U.S.
- That year, 3,358 people were injured.
- Deaths due to boating accidents increased nearly 4% from 2008 to 2009.
- Most victims of fatal boating accidents drown.
- More than 8 out of 10 boaters who drown weren’t using life jackets.
- 70% of boaters who drowned were in boats under 21 feet in length.
- Alcohol is a contributing factor in 16 percent of boating-related deaths in the U.S.
Source: U.S. Coast Guard
Florida is a boater’s paradise, with 8,000 miles of coastline, 2,000 marinas, 3 million acres of lakes, 1,700 miles of rivers and nearly 1 million registered vessels. Our pristine waters are a major recreational and tourist draw, so it’s little wonder Florida ranks No. 1 nationally for most boating participation.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there are an estimated 897,000 registered boaters in the state, with 43,700 of those in Lee County, making it No. 3 in boating registrations statewide. There are 20,500 boat registrations in Charlotte and another 21,800 in Collier. Interest in boating and water sport activities has steadily risen, as indicated by booming boat ownership and related tourism.
Unfortunately, this means the number of injurious and fatal boating accidents has climbed as well. In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,062 total accidents nationally, resulting in 560 deaths. Here in the Sunshine State, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported 736 boating accidents that same year, resulting in 62 fatalities and nearly 450 injuries. That’s more than anywhere else in the country – and it’s been that way for years.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our Fort Myers boating accident attorneys have four decades of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits stemming from waterway collisions.
Officials report these accidents result in tens of millions of dollars in losses in property damage alone – with Lee and Collier counties ranking among the top 10 counties with the heftiest losses. Not included in that figure are costs related to emergency response services, medical expenses, wage losses and ongoing treatment – all of which make the toll of these accidents astronomical.
Among the types of boating accident cases we handle:
- Airboat Accidents
- Boat Tenders Accident
- BUI Accidents
- Inadequate Boat Maintenance Accidents
- Jet Ski Accidents
- Wakeboarding Accidents
- Waterskiing Accidents
- Kayak Accidents
- Canoe Accidents
- Inflatable Boat Accidents
Most accidents occurred in bays or sounds, though a fair number happened in the gulf/ocean and in rivers, creeks and canals. The vast majority happened while the boat was in recreational cruise mode.
We recognize alcohol too often plays a role in these cases. Just as we have committed ourselves to obtaining justice and compensation for those wronged by drunk drivers on Florida roads, we have worked tirelessly to ensure impaired boaters are also held accountable.
The FWC reported 15 percent of all fatal boating crashes in the state are attributed to alcohol or drug impairment.
In addition to substance abuse, other commonly cited contributing factors to boat accidents include:
- Inexperienced operators
- Inattentive or careless operators
- Excessive speed
- Failure to keep a lookout for other boats, people or objects
Of course, some crashes are inevitably caused by things we can’t control: weather, hazardous waters and congested waterways. However, a responsible boater will ensure his or her vessel is properly equipped and in good working condition, and will be educated and sober enough to know how to respond in the event of the unexpected. When that doesn’t happen, it can be grounds for a negligence action.
Boater irresponsibility is a major factor in injury cases. Among the most common Florida waterway violations in 2013:
- Boating in restricted areas (3,820 citations)
- Alcohol and drug impairment by operators (303 citations)
- Negligent operation of a vessel (642 citations)
- Personal watercraft violations (259 citations)
- Safety equipment violations (3,709 citations)
A big part of the problem is lack of boater education. The FWC estimates more than half of boating operators involved in accidents have no boating education whatsoever.
There has been a push for change. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 are required to complete an approved boating safety course in order to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or greater. There is no “boating license,” but those who complete the course are given a “Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card,” which is required for operators born in 1988 or later.
While this will eventually have the desired impact, it’s worth noting most operators involved in boating accidents in 2013 were over the age of 35. According to the FWC, 31 percent were between the ages of 36 and 50, and 35 percent were 51 or older.
The devastating impact of these accidents can be lifelong – or life-ending. Our experienced South Florida boating accident lawyers are heavily invested in every case we take. We work closely with seasoned accident investigators and other experts to help build a strong case and get you the compensation to which you are rightfully entitled.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.