Tampa is a popular boating destination. Waterways, bays, and open waters abound on the peninsula, known year-round for its sun and warm water. Boaters from within and outside of the state come to enjoy the area’s waterways. Tampa’s waters always have many boaters on weekends with good weather. Whether with avid fishermen or partygoers, the waters around Tampa can crowd with charters, personal watercraft, and cruises. Too often, accidents happen.
Boating accidents are hard to understand compared to traffic accidents on roads and interstates since there is sufficient room for boats to travel to and from their destination. Most boat accidents result from operator error. They are often preventable and can have serious consequences for those involved.
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Approximately 800 boat accidents occur each year in Tampa waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Every year, 80 people die in boating accidents, and hundreds more suffer injuries. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Florida has almost one million registered boats.
The Tampa Bay area consistently ranks among Florida’s top boating destinations. Residents and visitors flock to the area throughout the year because of its scenic views, beautiful waters, and party atmosphere. While most boaters are responsible at the helm, plenty disregard safety precautions and create danger for themselves, their passengers, and others on the water.
Tampa sits between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Many boaters from Tampa travel to and from the county and its surrounding waters during their excursions. Tampa boaters and others from throughout the area visit often. Over 50 boating accidents occur in the county annually, resulting in four fatalities and more than 20 injuries.
Under the Bayside Bridge and around Fort De Soto Park are two of the most dangerous locations for boat accidents in Tampa and surrounding waters.
Because boats have so much space for navigating, you might wonder why boat accidents occur and why so many of them result in injuries or death?
One of the most common causes of boat accidents is operator negligence. The boating laws and regulations for recreation are significantly laxer than those for driving, which imposes a minimum age and a licensing process.
One of the biggest dangers to public safety on the water is alcohol. While officials highly enforce open-container laws regarding operating motor vehicles, boaters consume alcohol openly, if not illegally, while operating their vessels.
No one should operate a vessel if their blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit. Many negligent boaters cannot resist the temptation of operating a boat even when alcohol impairs them. Because of impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and reckless behavior, the operator, their passengers, and other boaters are at risk of an accident.
Distractions are not limited to the road. Boat accidents can happen due to many of the same distractions that put motor vehicle drivers at risk. Distracted boat operators can miss warning signs or oncoming vessels because of their phones, passengers, and gadgets.
While some boat operators require a boater safety course, there are exceptions for new boat owners and passengers accompanied by a certified boater. There are a lot of inexperienced boaters on the water due to lax boating regulations and sporadic enforcement. It is possible that boaters don’t understand the waterways’ rules or cannot react to danger when it presents itself.
Dangerous maneuvers, traveling through restricted areas, or getting too close to other vessels or the shore can cause preventable accidents in the water. When watercraft operators are unfamiliar with the laws and signage, they are putting the public at risk.
The posted speed limits on boating channels and high traffic areas are not suggestions but laws to protect marine life and all boaters in the area. In addition to reducing reaction time, excessive speeds on the water can lead to the inability to locate hazards under the water or up ahead, and exponentially increase the risk of death and severe injury in a collision.
The failure of equipment or parts on a boat can cause catastrophic failures during operations, which can cause the boat to sink or even explode. Boaters injured due to the inherent danger in the design or manufacture of the boat can sue the manufacturer or distributor for their negligence.
Boats without personal flotation devices increase the risk of death and injury in an emergency. Not only does the vessel need safety equipment, but it must be easy to access in an emergency. Children under six must wear life jackets on an unanchored or unsecured vessel under 26 feet.
Depending on the type of boat accident, people may suffer different types and degrees of injuries. Boat accident victims can suffer severe and even fatal consequences from injuries other than drowning, which is the most common boat accident fatality.
Life-changing, traumatic, painful injuries caused by boat accidents can have a real impact on survivors’ quality of life and ability to function. Accident victims face risks to their physical, emotional, and mental health, as well as financial burdens and expenses that can strain their relationships with family members and friends.
Boat accidents often result in:
While some of these injuries are more severe than others, they can all be costly in many ways. An injury can affect your time and wallet, as your medical treatment will take time, and the bills pile up quickly. If your injury prevents you from working, you can lose significant income and even lose traction in your overall career or professional goals. Many boat accident injuries also result in severe pain and suffering – both physically and mentally.
Following emergency medical treatment for your injuries and recovery, you should contact a Tampa boat accident lawyer to discuss your legal options. Boat accidents are covered by more than your state’s personal injury laws.
Maritime and federal laws may also apply, along with Florida laws, depending on the location of the accident and the parties involved. A person without legal knowledge and experience cannot easily navigate such a complex situation.
On the waters, a wide range of boats and watercraft differ greatly in size, capabilities, and speeds. You can see almost any vessel on Tampa’s waterways, from luxurious yachts, sailboats, and party boats to fishing dinghies, airboats, and jet skis.
Many factors can cause a boat accident. Boaters, as well as those in the waters nearby, may face various dangers from these accidents.
The boat accidents we most often see in Tampa include:
These four scenarios may require an operator to take action under Florida law:
You can take certain steps to help ensure your safety and the safety of others when a boat accident turns a fun day on the water into a dangerous situation. You can save your life or the lives of other passengers if you take immediate action during a boat accident.
After a boat collision or other boating accident, the priority is to account for all passengers. Take a quick headcount to ensure no one fell overboard if the vessel is still upright. Overboard passengers must attempt to swim to safety or yell for a life jacket if they suffer an injury or cannot swim.
If you can, immediately contact the Coast Guard through the boat’s radio or call 911 on your mobile phone to request medical assistance. Either way, notify the Coast Guard of the accident. Under Florida boating laws, you must report any accident to the authorities that involves more than $2,000 in damage or minor injuries that require more than first aid.
If there are injured parties, you may have to await medical assistance and the police. If injured parties are on board and the boat remains seaworthy, you may need to go ashore. If you are communicating with a dispatcher, ensure you follow the dispatcher’s instructions to preserve life and safety as much as possible.
Collect the information of everyone involved in the accident once everyone is safe or taken care of. All passengers involved, regardless of injury, should be named and contacted. Make sure you collect the registration information of all vessels involved in the accident and request copies of all insurance cards.
Additionally, you may want to ask bystanders or witnesses if they saw what happened. Note the names and contact information of all witnesses to the accident.
If you are busy with other tasks, another passenger or loved one can assist you. Unlike on land, you cannot revisit the accident scene and retrieve evidence later. Take photos and video footage at the accident scene if possible, especially the position of the boats to one another and the surroundings of the accident scene. Take photos of the damage to other boats, as well as the damage to your boat, if you can do so from where you stand. You cannot return to the scene of a boating accident to take photos or collect evidence the way you can with road accidents.
If any other pertinent information comes to your mind, record it visually or note it. Other factors that can influence the accident include environmental factors, the actions of other boaters, or other features that contributed to the accident.
If your injuries prevent you from taking the above steps, you can still pursue compensation for your case. Contact our Tampa boating accident attorneys as soon as possible so we can begin gathering evidence to support liability for your injuries.
A boat accident lawyer can help you protect your rights to compensation and strengthen your chances of recovery after the accident. For a free evaluation of your case, please contact Boohoff Law today at (813) 725-5606. Our skilled Tampa boat accident lawyers have decades of combined experience investigating claims and maximizing compensation.