While there are no requirements for boater licenses in Florida and provisions for boater safety education are relatively lax, there is one firm legal responsibility held by every boat and vessel operator in Florida waters: To avoid reckless or careless operation of that vessel.
The experienced boating injury attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know far too often, this basic “rule of the road” is violated.
F.S. 327.33 defines reckless operation of a vessel as the operation or manipulation of any vessel with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger life and limb, cause property damage or injure another. The same statute defines careless operation of a vehicle as failure to operate the vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner, without regard for traffic, posted speeds and wake restrictions. The former is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, while the latter is a noncriminal violation, subject to fines.
But criminal penalties may do little to compensate those who were hurt by such actions.
It should be noted an operator of a vessel will most likely be liable for damage caused while under the operator’s control, but that often depends on the dedication of your personal injury team.
At our firm, attorneys handle both personal injury and maritime claims, and we will use this to weigh the laws, legal theories and proper jurisdiction in which to bring your claim. Some boating accidents occurring farther out at sea may fall under federal maritime law, which has a differing statute of limitation and criteria to prove boat operator negligence. We understand the complexities of these cases, and commit 100 percent to our clients in their quest for just compensation. We recognize while life may never be the same, you deserve to turn the page on this painful chapter.
While the instances of negligence and/or recklessness on the high seas are extensive, here are just a few examples:
- Operating a vessel with a high speed.
- Allowing a swimmer, diver or skier to come in contact with a propeller.
- Failing to carry proper safety equipment on board.
- Slamming into a big wave at speeds deemed excessive.
- Crashes with other boats or fixed objects.
- Overcrowding or overloading a boat or vessel.
- Weaving through congested waterway traffic.
- Not educating oneself on the “rules of the road.”
- Heading out in poor or potentially dangerous weather conditions.
- Approaching another vessel intentionally and swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid a crash (aka “playing chicken).
- Towing a person on a surfboard, water skis or similar device behind your vessel in such a way it causes the towed person to collide with another person or object.
- Allowing passengers to ride on raised decks, seat backs, transom, gunwale or bow where there may be a risk of falling overboard.
- Operating in a “No Boats” area.
- Boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
These are just a few examples, and do not encompass the full possible spectrum of reckless operation.Reckless/Careless Boating Operation in Florida
Reckless and careless operation of vessels in Florida is a serious and ongoing problem, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
For example, boating under the influence citations issued by Florida authorities have remained a major issue. In 2011, authorities issued 308 BUI citations. In 2012, that figure increased to 329, and fell slightly in 2013 to 303. Vessel operators are presumed under the influence of alcohol if his or her blood alcohol concentration measures at or above 0.08 percent.
For failure to have proper safety equipment and follow regulations, boaters were issued 5,157 citations in 2011, another 4,000 in 2012 and 3,700 in 2013.
Specifically for negligent operation of a vehicle (which includes reckless operation, careless operation, navigation rule violations and failure to report accidents), authorities in Florida issued 1,111 citations in 2011. In 2012, they issued 804 citations and 642 in 2013. These figures coincide with reductions in boat ownership tied to the economic downturn, and also with dwindling resources held by state investigating agencies. Unfortunately, it’s not that boating is getting any safer.
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.