Boating Accidents

With so many beaches, lakes, and rivers in Florida, boating can be a way of life in the Sunshine State. Along with the fun comes an element of risk when other boat operators are not careful. If you have been in an accident involving any kind of vessel, you may need help understanding your legal options.

If someone else is to blame for your injuries or property damage, schedule a free consultation with a Florida boat accident lawyer from Howell & Thornhill P.A. We will assess your circumstances and determine who should be held responsible. Our attorneys can develop your claim and assist you in pursuing fair and appropriate compensation. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your case.

Why Choose Howell & Thornhill for Your Florida Boat Accident Claim

Boating accidents can cause harm to both people and property. Whether you need medical assistance or a repair estimate, the frustration and worry over how to get back to normal can be overwhelming. Instead, you can put your trust in the experience and skills of the boat accident attorneys at Howell & Thornhill.

We have been in business since 1975 and worked with thousands of people like you. We offer critical services, such as investigation, accident reconstruction, and diagnosis from medical specialists. You always work directly with our attorneys.  We don’t have case managers that screen calls for lawyers.  You talk to a lawyer.

We have multiple offices, so we are always close by and can meet you where it is most convenient for your needs. Finally, we work on a contingency basis: you do not pay us until and unless we win. Our entire team is committed to serving your needs with compassion and attention to detail, fighting for the financial relief and justice you deserve.

Boating Accidents in Florida

The latest report on boat injuries from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows a reduction in accidents from the previous year. Florida boaters had 735 incidents on the water in 2022, 16 fewer than in 2021. Sixty-five people lost their lives in 2022, with drowning as the cause of most fatalities.

In an effort to reduce these tragedies, the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles requires that anyone born after January 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating course or obtain an equivalent certification before operating any vessel with an engine of ten horsepower or more on our waters. This includes visitors, who can apply for a temporary certificate or show proof that they have met similar requirements in another state or location.

Bad Judgement Can Lead to Injuries and Arrests While Boating

Florida law enforcement takes boating violations as seriously as they do automobile traffic violations. Just like car accidents, boat operators can be charged with criminal offenses for any of the following actions

  • Failing to report an accident
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Failing to render aid to others in the water after an incident
  • Recklessly operating any boat or personal watercraft
  • Driving a boat without an education card
  • Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Violating safe or no-wake zones
  • Refusing to submit to chemical tests after arrest

If you feel that someone else is responsible for your mishap on or around your watercraft, you may need professional help to identify the wrongdoers. This is crucial whether you wish to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Working with a qualified Florida boating accident lawyer from our team can make this task less demanding since we manage the paperwork and deadlines for you.

Boat Accidents Can Cause Serious Injuries for Everyone Involved

Unfortunately, many boat captains decide to take risks or have a few too many drinks while on the water. Similar to pedestrian or bicycle accidents, large motorized boats can wreak havoc on swimmers and those on kayaks or paddleboards. Even getting onto a boat can be risky for small children or those who are less mobile.

When boaters ignore the rules of the water, they can cause severe injuries in situations such as:

  • Boats passing by swimmers could cause them to drown or be injured by propellers.
  • Skiers can suffer injury if the driver is speeding or does not have a lookout.
  • Passengers can be bounced out of the boat if the driver crosses a wake too fast.
  • People can slip on the dock or decking and suffer muscle strains or broken bones.
  • Unskilled boat operators may collide with other boats, buoys, bridges, or docks.

Our boating accident attorneys have handled cases where victims were left with broken bones, head injuries, internal bleeding, and other serious injuries. In the worst cases, someone may pass away from a boat accident. On top of this, vessels may be damaged and require repair. Our team can work with you to determine the best approach for recovering physically, financially, and emotionally after a boat accident.

Florida Does Not Require Boat Insurance

Like nearly every other state, Florida does not require boat owners to purchase liability insurance before operating their vessels. If you have a loan on the boat, your lender likely will require you to maintain some kind of coverage, although it typically does not pay very much after a boating accident.

There is a common saying that “a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into.” This is especially true when it comes to facing the aftermath of an accident. Other boat owners who cause you harm may not have liability insurance.

With serious injuries, most victims will need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to recover any damages from those responsible. The boat accident lawyers at Howell & Thornhill can help you calculate the value of your claim, taking into account damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation and therapy expenses
  • Lost income if you cannot work
  • Repair or replacement costs for all personal property
  • Repair or replacement for your vessel
  • Severe conditions such as amputation, paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, or burns
  • Isolation, fear, grief
  • Pain and suffering

Each accident and its damages will be unique, but after speaking with a Florida boat accident attorney, you will have a better idea of what your claim is worth. Our team will include past, current, and future costs so you are not left facing greater expenses if your condition gets worse. You can rely on us to manage your case for the best possible outcome.

What to Do After Experiencing a Boating Accident

So many things can go wrong on the water, and it is crucial to act quickly to prevent injury and loss of life. You must also work to protect your claim and avoid suffering inaccurate claims of liability. Here are some steps you can take after an accident involving watercraft:

  • Get medical assistance immediately: Call the authorities or flag down a law enforcement boat. If possible, render aid to others by throwing them flotation devices or removing them from the water if you can do so safely and without risking your own well-being.
  • Report the accident: If there are injuries, you have already called 911 for help. Police can investigate the situation and determine if any violations have occurred. They can also aid those involved in the crash and route other vessels away from any danger. Their accident report will be valuable to you as evidence later on.
  • Gather information and evidence: Exchange contact and any insurance details with everyone else involved. Take photos and videos of injuries, property damage, all vessels, weather and water conditions, and anything else that may be relevant.
  • Seek follow-up medical care: Whether you think you are hurt or not, get evaluated at the scene or by a doctor in the days after the accident. Some injuries will not appear until later, and an exam establishes a direct connection to the mishap.
  • Contact your insurance provider: Regardless of what kind of insurance you have, speak with your insurer to determine whether the boat accident is covered. If so, they will verify policy limits and terms with you. Not notifying them can be counted against you if you file a claim.
  • Hire a boat accident attorney: Speaking with a lawyer right after the accident lets you examine the available choices for dealing with your injuries, property damage, and compensation.

Although many people have a natural instinct to apologize after an accident, it is crucial that you avoid admitting guilt even when you did nothing wrong to be nice. Insurance providers and attorneys for the other parties will use this against you. Stay calm, get medical help, and contact our top-notch boating accident lawyers to assess your situation and provide guidance.

Potential Liable Parties in a Florida Boat Accident

In most cases, a boating accident results from one person failing to follow the rules and harming others. This is commonly called negligence, and proving it is key to a successful personal injury claim against those responsible. However, negligence is more than just someone who does not know how to drive a boat.  The owner of the vehicle may have responsibility as well as any employer of the driver.

The boat accident lawyers at Howell & Thornhill will uncover all potentially liable parties and determine their part in the incident. Our team can reconstruct the accident and present robust evidence demonstrating what happened and how. We create a powerful case to persuade insurance representatives and juries.

Florida In-Land Waters Are Home to Many Kinds of Boats

Because water is so prevalent throughout the state, Floridians and visitors use many types of watercraft to enjoy leisure, work, and business activities. Each has different features that make them useful or enjoyable, but they also carry unique risks that could lead to an accident.

Sport Boats

When engaging in waterskiing, sailing, or kayaking, outdoor enthusiasts may choose a sporting boat. These are often budget-friendly, especially paddleboards and JetSkis, offering a way for folks to get in the water without a lot of skill. Larger boats can be more demanding and carry greater danger.

  • Sailboats: Subject to capsizing or being blown off course by strong winds, a sailboat can leave passengers at the mercy of rain, wind, and storms.
  • Kayaks and paddleboards: With no motors, these quiet vessels allow users to explore shallow creeks and rivers. They are harder to see from larger vessels and could be easily overturned, putting you at risk of harm.
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): Jetskis, Waverunners, and Sea-Doos offer speed and maneuverability that can quickly cause an accident in the hands of inexperienced drivers or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Ski boats: Fast, with large motors to reach high speeds, ski boats can cause massive waves and overpower other boats. Skiers may be injured if they are not strong enough, or they could be left stranded in the path of other boats if they fall.

Leisure Boats

More stable than sport boats, leisure craft are still prone to injuring people if operated poorly.  Other than hitting other boats, these leisure boats can also be dangerous to unsuspecting passengers if the owner overloads them:

  • Center console boats: A frequent choice for families, when too many people are gathered at the bow or stern, the unbalanced weight can cause the vessel to take on water and sink, causing harm.
  • Pontoon boats: Sometimes called “party barges,” these flat-decked boats are stable in calm waters and are popular with families and gatherings. Rough waves can make them difficult to control.

How a Boat Accident Lawyer From Howell & Thornhill Helps Your Florida Case Case

Our attorneys and staff are dedicated to investigating and pursuing every boating accident case with the client’s best interests in mind. We examine all the evidence and identify all liable parties, which helps us maximize your avenues for compensation. Our office works as a family, and we focus on helping clients feel like part of our family as we manage their cases.

Your Howell & Thornhill attorney will strengthen your boating accident claim by:

  • Answering your questions and concerns throughout your case
  • Employing our in-house resources and extensive network of specialists in the investigative, medical, and reconstruction fields
  • Collecting powerful evidence to support your arguments for the liable party’s negligence
  • Gathering supporting documentation for your injury and damage claims
  • Working on a contingency fee basis so you get the help you need right away
  • Negotiating with insurance adjusters and opposing counsel to reach the best possible settlement outcome for your situation

As the oldest personal injury law firm in Polk County, Florida, each attorney fights personally for every client, regardless of the size of the losses. We do the job right, and we do not rest until the work is done.

Contact Howell & Thornhill to Hire a Florida Boat Accident Lawyer

When you or a loved one has been hurt on the water, put your worries to rest by contacting Howell & Thornhill to speak with a Florida boat accident lawyer. We offer no-risk, free initial consultations to listen to your story and begin building your case.

Begin discovering your options for compensation when you schedule a case evaluation today.