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Liability in Boating Accidents

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2018 | Motor Vehicle Accidents


Boating safety is a matter that should be taken very seriously. Statistics published by the United States Coast Guard show there were 723 boating accidents in Florida in 2017. Sixty of those accidents were fatal. Regardless of the activity – sailing on a privately owned boat, riding a jet ski or taking a ferry to work – you are at risk for an injury. Though boat operators have a duty to operate their vehicles with the highest degree of care, injuries and accidents still occur frequently as the result of carelessness or negligence.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there is no minimum age to operate a boat. However, certain boating safety requirements are age specific.

Because of the state’s mild climate and unique geographical layout, boating is a very popular activity in Florida. Annually, thousands of tourists descend upon the state for a warm getaway or to see family. Combining the youth of many boat operators, the number of tourists on the water, and the number of residents, accidents are inevitable.

Liability in a Boating Accident

The causes of boating accidents are not complicated or mysterious, and include the following:

  • Slips or falls on a wet surface
  • Collisions between boats
  • A boat tipping or sinking
  • Fires from an engine or other cause

For the majority of boating accidents, liability is based on who is negligent. To be successful in the claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prove the operator of the boat failed in his duty to operate the vessel in a manner that was safe and by not doing so, an injury to the plaintiff resulted.

Examples of boat operator negligence include:

  • Taking the boat out in inclement weather
  • Causing the boat to capsize
  • Going too fast on the water
  • Hitting another vessel
  • Not providing sufficient safety equipment

But often, a person is on a boat for recreational purposes.  In most cases, the boating company requires passengers sign a liability waiver which will release the company from any legal liabilities if an accident occurs. But for a liability waiver to be enforceable in court, it must clearly state the specific rights that are being waived, such as the right to sue. Also, the waiver must not be full of legal jargon. An ordinary person without a legal background must be able to understand the terms and know what they are signing.

If the rights in the waiver are clearly outlined and the waiver can be understood by an ordinary person, courts are likely to enforce it. The only way to fight the waiver in court is to show ambiguity existed when signed. This ambiguity can include what activities are covered by the waiver, its length, or conduct that is subject to the release of liability, such as overt misconduct by the boat operator.

If any ambiguity exists in the terms of the waiver, courts will not enforce the agreement.

Boating Accident Lawyers in Vero Beach are Waiting for Your Call

Lawyers at Vocelle & Berg, LLP realize that the physical and emotional impact of a boating accident can have a significantly adverse effect on your life. Work with us so we can help you through this difficult time. We are here to help. Our knowledgeable Florida boating lawyers fully understand that selecting the right attorney who can be trusted is not easy.

If you have been in a boating accident or have lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence, contact us today. We have extensive experience representing people in your situation. Insurance companies have armies of litigators and experts protecting their interests. You need someone to fight by your side as well.


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