Fishing Charter Injury
Florida is considered the “Fishing Capital of the World,” with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reporting more world record fish catches here than in any other state or country.
Florida is also No. 1 in the nation in terms of the economic impact of marine recreational fisheries and commercial fisheries, the FWC notes.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our fishing charter injury attorneys believe that while fishing charter companies benefit greatly from the local and tourist crowds, they are also responsible for keeping their passengers, crew and customers safe.
Legally speaking, Florida law requires a boat license or charter captain to carry paying customers for the purpose of taking or attempting to take saltwater fish or other sea life.
In order to be a saltwater fishing guide in the state of Florida, companies and individuals have to first comply with regulations and requirements set forth by the U.S. Coast Guard. Primary among those is the mandate for all operators of for-hire vessels to obtain a Captain’s license. This includes a testing process that results in issuance of a Merchant Mariner Credential.
Once this is secured, charter captains and charter boats have to purchase a relevant license type, depending on the number of customers intended for routine trips. For example, a charter captain or boat intended for four or fewer customers must pay a license fee of $200, while those intended for 11 or more customers have to pay an $800 license fee.
Unfortunately, there are some operations that fail to abide by these regulations, and even those that do follow the rules aren’t immune to mistakes.Categories of Charter Boats
Charter boats generally come in two categories: full service or bareboat.
In a full service charter, the vessel rental or lease includes at least a captain and sometimes a crew. It is the responsibility of the boat owner to ensure the vessel is fully stocked with fuel and provisions, and must ensure it is seaworthy in all aspects.
In a bareboat charter rental, the renting party is usually responsible for operating the vessel without a captain or crew, and must provide all necessary supplies, including water, food and fuel.
While some charter boat accidents are the result of unforeseen circumstances (inaccurate weather forecasts or rogue waves), the majority are caused by operator error, neglect or misconduct.Popularity of Charter Boats in Florida
Charter boat fishing in Florida is enormously popular.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports Florida is No. 1 in the country for saltwater anglers, with an estimated 2.4 million taking to our waters annually. Saltwater recreational fishing rakes in $7.6 billion for the state each year, and supports an estimated 110,000 jobs, according to a 2014 report.
Florida is also No. 1 in terms of International Game Fish records, holding 1,064 of the 7,157 current records held worldwide.
The top four species harvested (as of 2012) were:
- Stone crab
- Caribbean spiny lobster
- White shrimp
- Red grouper
Snook and red snapper were also popular catches among charter fishing boat patrons.Dangers in Charter Boats
Though charter fishing expedition opportunities are plentiful in Southwest Florida, many passengers aren’t aware of the risks. When a charter boat captain or crew behaves improperly or negligently or operates a vessel that’s unseaworthy, serious injury or death can result.
Some reported incidents and injuries reported as a result of negligent fishing charter operation include:
- Physical or sexual assault by a crew member or fellow passenger
- Slip-and-fall accidents on wet docks or boat surfaces
- Trip-and-fall accidents on cluttered decks, raised thresholds or uneven decks
- Injuries caused by impaired crew members or passengers
- Broken bones and fractures
- Head injuries caused by collisions, improper dockings or groundings
- Deaths caused by collisions and improper boat operation
- Falls overboard and disappearances
When a charter boat passenger is seriously injured due to negligence by the owner, captain, crew or another passenger, those who are hurt have the right under federal maritime law to pursue damages and just compensation. This often covers past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and all related rehabilitative costs.
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.