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Who is liable if I am injured on a boat?

Floridians are blessed with beautiful weather that allows them to enjoy boating whenever they want – even during these winter months. It’s probably why Florida is the Number One boating state in the country.

As boaters are enjoying on-the-water winter adventures, it’s important to be careful to not injure themselves, as the Number One boating state also comes with a high number of accidents.

In 2016, counted 4,463 accidents that resulted in 701 deaths and 2,903 injuries. That was a 7.3 percent increase in the number of accidents, a 12 percent increase in the number of deaths and an 11.1 percent increase in the number of injuries from 2015.

If you are among those injured in a boating accident, who is liable for your injury?

Liability dependent upon negligence

Victims or their families are typically able to sue the operator of the boat for negligence or for failure to provide reasonable safety. A slippery deck or having more passengers on board than life vests could be considered negligent.

You can also sue the owner of the boat, the manufacturing company, the rental company or other passengers if those passengers acted in a negligent or reckless way. Examples of passenger negligence include throwing someone in the water without a life vest, knowing he or she can’t swim. The Coast Guard statistics show 80 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned.

Federal or state law?

Generally speaking, whether a case will fall under federal or state law will depend on whether or not the injury occurred on “navigable waterways.”

Federal law determines navigable waterways as “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.” Injuries that occur on navigable waterways are subject to federal law, while those that don’t are subject to Florida law.

However, it is best to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney, as these laws can get complicated. These professionals can also help determine and prove negligence in your case.

As you are venturing out on the water, be safe and know that if you are injured you have the right to compensation if your vessel becomes unsafe.

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