Establishing Legal Responsibility for Miami Boating Accidents

Miami boating accidentThe tragic death of a professional soccer player in a South Florida boat accident raised questions about how we, as injury attorneys, go about establishing legal responsibility for Miami boating accidents in civil litigation.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported the Jan. 19th death of 25-year-old Anton Walkes, a Major League Soccer player from the Charlotte Football Club, was the result of two vessels colliding near Miami Marine Stadium a day earlier. He was found unconscious on the scene, received CPR, and was hospitalized in critical condition before dying the following day. The English citizen had been in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region for a two-week training camp. He left behind not only his team, but his parents, two siblings, long-time partner, and young daughter.

He was a passenger on an 11-foot personal watercraft operated by a 32-year-old German woman when it collided with a 46′ cabin boat operated by a 69-year-old Florida man. It’s unknown yet whether alcohol was a factor, and the investigation remains open. Worth noting is the fact that local advocacy groups have complained extensively about reckless boating and boat congestion in the marine channel where the fatal boating accident occurred.

Annual Florida Boating Accidents

Florida leads the nation for the most registered vessels (985,000+) as well as the most reportable boating accidents (836 in 2020). According to the FWC, collision with another vessel (as was the case in the crash that killed Walkes) was the No. 1 type of Florida boating accident, accounting for 27 percent of all reportable incidents. While personal watercraft (Jet Skis, Sea Doos, etc.) account for about 15 percent of all registered vessels in Florida, they are involved in 27 percent of all reportable boating accidents. In 2020, there were 15 deaths and 183 injured in boating accidents involving personal watercraft. Nearly 40 percent of all personal watercraft boating accidents occurred in Miami-Dade County.

Some 17,700+ personal watercraft are registered in Miami-Dade County, with about 500 of those being rentals. In a single recent year (2020), these were involved in 41 reported boating accidents in Miami-Dade, including 35 injuries and one death.

Annually, there are an estimated 550 boating accident injuries and 80 boating accident deaths.

Liability for Miami Boating Accidents

Legal responsibility (also known as liability) for a Florida boating accident depends largely on the cause. If it is determined that the cause of the accident – or exacerbation of injuries – was the the fault of someone who failed to exercise reasonable care when they had a duty to do so, that individual may be held liable.

That could be the operator of one vessel or the other or both, if there’s evidence they operated the vehicles recklessly, without due care, or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Some homeowners’ insurance policies will cover boat accidents, but extensive liability restrictions may substantially limit available coverage. A separate policy covering the boat is typically advised. Liability boat insurance isn’t required in Florida, but a lot of boat owners do carry it.

If a charter boat company was involved, they may be liable – for improperly vetting or training employees, poorly maintaining or equipping vessels, being careless in renting vessels, or not properly supervising their workers or others when they have a responsibility to do so. Most of these cases will stem from incidents of negligence (failure to use reasonable care resulting in injury to another), but may also involve vicarious liability. Employers can be vicariously liable (meaning you don’t have to prove wrongdoing) for the negligence or recklessness of employees acting in the course and scope of employment.

In rare cases where the design or manufacture of a boat or some boating apparatus was the cause of someone’s injury, one may file a product liability claim.

If you or a loved one is harmed in a Miami boating accident, speaking with a South Florida wrongful death/personal injury lawyer can help bring your legal options into sharper focus.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Boating Fatalities 2020, FWC

Personal Watercraft Accidents 2020, FWC

More Blog Entries:

Hiring a Broward Injury Lawyer: FAQ on Free Initial Consultations, Jan. 10, 2023, Miami Boating Accident Lawyer Blog

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