Realities of Boating Injuries in Southwest Florida
In Southwest Florida, many of our residents that live here year round or that spend their season here, are here because they want to enjoy boating in the Gulf, the bays, and the local rivers. There is nothing not to love about being on the water on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but the truth about boating is that sunny afternoons on busy boating days are when the majority of fatalities and injuries occur on boats. One might think that bad storm systems, dangerous winds, and perilous lightning are the biggest killers on the water, but it’s none of the above. It is simply from careless boating and not enough defensive operation of vessels on busy and beautiful days. Our law firm has handled many boating injury claims and are familiar with the often very serious injuries that occur on the water.
There are a couple of important factors that play into this dynamic, which is true almost everywhere, but even more so in Florida, because being allowed to captain a boat on Florida waters does not have a stringent screening process. A person can operate a boat in Florida without taking a safety course, applying for a license, or proving to anyone that he or she understands the basics of boating and boating safety. It’s scary to think that the waterways are on any given day full of children, adults, and teenagers pushing their vessel to its top speed without any of the familiar safety standards we have on our roadways. One of the things that makes boating so different and dangerous is that there are no brakes on the water; stopping is accomplished by putting the motor in reverse. All of these dangers on the water contribute to very dangerous collisions, sinking boats, and sadly, injuries and death.
There is plenty of practical knowledge that should be used when on the water to avoid catastrophe while on the water. Whether you are operating a vessel or just along for a ride with someone, always understand what is happening around you and be defensive in your behavior. In 2015 the U.S. Coast Guard calculated that the top five primary contributing factors in accidents are operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed. Alcohol is a contributing factor in the majority of boating fatalities, and drowning without a life jacket is the most common way fatalities occur on the water. Know that boats are responsible for their wake and any destruction it causes, so be very aware of what kind of wake you are creating around vessels smaller than yours because you could have a claim brought against you. And on the flip side of that, if you or your passengers are ever hurt from a dangerous wake, take a description of the boat and get the name of the vessel if possible and report them to the local water policing agencies. In addition to those practical considerations of what happens on the boat, know that before you get on any boat that insurance is an important piece of your safety. Boat insurance policies are separate from auto insurance policies, but carry many of the same coverages. Make sure to have plenty of bodily injury coverage as well as uninsured motorists coverage to protect yourself, your passengers, and your families in the unfortunate scenario of someone being involved in a boating accident.