With some of the most beautiful scenery our nation has to offer, it's understandable that boating would be a common hobby for many Floridians. We love to get out on the water and enjoy sharing that moment with friends and family as we relax an entire day away on the boat. With the right music and good food, you can be set for the weekend on your home away from home. For most people, their plans on a boat play out exactly as they expected. However, that's not always the case. Accidents still happen when people are not prepared or when poor decisions are made. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's report for 2018, Florida led the nation in boating accidents, injuries, and deaths. We lost 57 lives that year and totaled 607 boating accidents. While even one death is one too many, it is worth mentioning that, though Florida took the lead in 2018, those numbers are actually the lowest they've been since 2015. The decline in accidents suggests an overall decline in accidents for the nation, which is a positive aspect. However, Florida also took the 2018 lead in the number of recreational boats registered. We have more people than ever operating boats, and it's crucial that we hold each other accountable for using them safely. If you or a loved one have suffered from a boating accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh today for a consultation to see what your next steps should be.
What Causes Boating Accidents?
There are a number of unfortunate reasons why a boating accident can happen. The list below is not all-inclusive, but it is based on reports showing the most common reasons:
- Lack of Experience: You should never get into a boat with someone who doesn't have a history of boating. People can rent boats without an extensive history, and this can lead to serious problems. Many make the assumption that operating a boat is no big deal because you can always go at a slow speed. However, there are several factors that a responsible operator needs to consider. The lack of understanding of those factors can lead to a recipe for disaster. You want to be on a boat with an operator who understands not only those factors, but also the laws that must be followed on the water.
- Alcohol: A lot of people like to relax with a drink while on the boat, but one person who should not partake is the operator of the boat. Sadly, the Coast Guard reported two years ago that alcohol was the main factor in over 100 boating deaths nationally. Alcohol impairs one's judgement and ability to operate a vehicle just like it does with someone driving a car, and the boat operator can receive a BUI (Boating Under the Influence).
- Speeding: Speeding is reckless behavior for any vehicle, and boats are no exception. Speeding can affect your ability to stop or change paths when you encounter another boat or object in the water. You increase the chance of irresponsible actions like sharp turns when you're speeding.
- No Lookout: Each boat operator should designate a lookout. The lookout is meant to scan the water and surrounding area for anything the operator may not have noticed on his own. Two sets of eyes are better than one, so always make sure there is a specified, responsible lookout.
- Interacting with Other Boats: Accidents can easily happen when the boat operator refuses to yield to other boats, especially when the other boat is much larger. The waves brought on by a larger boat can affect the boat you are on.
- Bad Weather: Intense weather can impair one's vision or overall ability to operate a boat. Be sure to check the weather before spending a day on a boat. Consider the time of day you're going out as well. The Coast Guard reports that most accidents happen between 2 am-4 am, so weather and light really are key factors to a successful boating trip.
- Lack of Maintenance: Boats require regular maintenance just like any other vehicle. Without routine care, you run the risk of the boat failing to operate properly on the water when it's too late to react. Being a responsible boat operator requires responsible behavior on and off the water, and that includes tracking the maintenance of your boat.
Common Injuries From Boating Accidents
- Propeller Injury
- Electric Shock
- Spinal Cord Injury
How Can I Prevent Boating Accidents?
Make sure you have life jackets on your boat before taking it on the water. The law states that you must have a life jacket for every person on your boat. They do not have to have the jacket on unless they are a minor. Make sure the size of the jacket is appropriate for the person wearing it. For example, an adult-sized life jacket could slip off of a child, resulting in a drowning.
Stay up-to-date on your boat maintenance to avoid carbon dioxide poisoning. In the event of an accident, a boat can emit lethal amounts of carbon dioxide. This is something you should anticipate as a boat owner.
Keep an emergency kit on the boat that includes a first-aid kit, boat lights, and fire extinguishers. Consider keeping more than enough fire extinguishers on the boat because they individually go out after a few seconds. If there ever was a fire on your boat, it might take emergency services a while to get to you, so you will be on your own to fight the flames until help arrives.
What Should I Do After a Boating Accident?
- Call the Coast Guard immediately to report the accident.
- Decide whether or not to get off the boat. If the boat is compromised and you're able to get to land or another boat, move everyone off of the damaged boat. If you're isolated on the water and the boat is still stable, keep everyone safely on the boat until help arrives.
- Take photos of all damages and injuries.
- Exchange insurance information with those involved and contact your insurance company to report the accident.
- If possible, record statements from witnesses and include their contact information.
- If you were injured or experienced damage due to someone else's boating negligence, contact a trusted lawyer at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh to start your claim process today.