Who is liable in a boating accident?

One of the best things about living in Florida is the access to water. No matter where you are in the state, you are never far from a river, lake, or ocean. Because of this access, it makes sense that Florida would have the highest number of recreational boating vessels in the country. In fact, in 2020, Florida had almost 959 thousand registered boats. With so many registered boats, it follows that Florida would also have the highest number of boating accidents in the country. In 2020, Florida had 836 reported boating accidents.


Though boating is an enjoyable way to pass the time, it must be done safely and responsibly. It is up to the boat operator to ensure that all boating laws are followed while the boat is in operation. Failure to do so can result in an accident, which can cause injuries or even death. If you have been involved in a boating accident on the Treasure Coast, consider contacting an experienced Florida boating accident attorney at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd.

Boating Laws in Florida

When an individual decides to operate a boat in Florida, they are held responsible for following the boating laws put forth by the state of Florida to ensure the safety of everyone around. These are some examples of the laws that boating operators are expected to follow:

  • Boat operators are required to follow posted speed limits at all times. Speed limits are lower in areas where there are dangerous waters. Even on open waters, boaters must not operate at excessive speeds that would put other boaters in danger.
  • Boat operators under 25 years of age are required to take a boating safety course. However, apart from the safety course condition, there is not a minimum age requirement for operating a boat in Florida. Boat operators are expected to keep identification on them at all times and must have proof of course completion if applicable.
  • Boating while under the influence of any drugs or alcohol is illegal. In fact, boat operators can be stopped by officers of the law if they are suspected of operating the boat while impaired. If stopped, the boat operators may be asked to comply with a sobriety test.

Causes of Boating Accidents in Florida

While many factors contribute to boating accidents, there are a few that seem to cause the majority of accidents. According to the United States Coast Guard, some common causes of boating accidents in Florida are:

  • Operator Inattention/Improper Lookout — According to Lt. Seth Wagner, FWC Boating and Waterways Section, “Many operators believe they are looking around, but they are not recognizing potential hazards or are distracted by dividing their attention between things like electronic devices or other occupants in the boat.” 
  • Operator Inexperience — When boat operators are uninformed and inexperienced about what to do in a variety of situations, the risk of accidents increases greatly. It is a good idea for all boat operators to take a boat safety course, even if they are not legally required to in order to operate a boat.
  • Excessive Speed — Speeding is one of the main causes of accidents, and can be even more dangerous at night. It is important for boat operators to maintain safe speeds at all times of day in order to avoid being involved in a serious or deadly boat accident.
  • Machinery Failure — When boats are not well maintained or are made with defective parts, it can cause accidents to occur. It is the responsibility of the boat owner to ensure that the boat is in safe working condition before heading out on the water. The manufacturer of the boats also has a responsibility to ensure that all parts are working as expected when the boat is manufactured.

Determining Liability in a Boating Accident

In boating accidents, liability is generally determined by looking at negligence. Should an accident occur, the boat operator may be held liable for any injuries that are a result of that accident if the vessel is not cared for, maintained, and operated in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Boat owners and operators are expected to maintain reasonable standards of care and conduct while operating the water vessel. Some examples of failing to maintain and exercise a reasonable standard of care are:

  • Taking a boat out in inclement weather
  • Operating a boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Speeding and hitting another boat
  • Not having proper safety equipment on the vessel

If the boat accident involves multiple boats, then more than one operator could be held partially liable. If you were injured as a result of a boating accident, you may be able to file a claim against all boat operators who were involved. If you are a boat operator and were injured as a result of the crash, you may only be able to file a claim against another operator if it has been determined that you were less than 50% liable for the crash.

Contact an Experienced Florida Boating Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident caused by someone else’s negligence, reach out to an experienced attorney at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd. Our knowledgeable attorneys have been helping residents of the Treasure Coast for over 30 years. Boating accident cases can be complicated, but our lawyers have the experience necessary to help you receive the maximum compensation possible for your particular case.

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation. During your no-obligation consultation, you will be able to receive individualized advice about your case. After hearing the details of your case, our lawyers will be able to determine the best way to move forward with your case and maximize the chances of you receiving the compensation necessary for you to move on from your accident.

Being in an accident of any kind can be stressful, and you should be able to spend the time afterward focusing on healing, not worrying about paying for medical bills and lost wages. Hiring a lawyer from Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd and Lloyd can give you peace of mind and let you rest assured that someone is fighting for you as you fight to regain your life after your boating accident. Schedule your free consultation today by calling (866) 930-6435 or contacting us online.

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