Recreational Boating Accident Lawyers

Cruise Ship, Maritime and Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Miami, Florida & Nationwide

The Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Coast, Gold Coast, Panhandle, Biscayne Bay, Palm Bay, Apalachicola Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay, East Bay, Escambia Bay, Estero Bay, Florida Bay, Pensacola Bay, Ponce de Leon Bay, Sarasota Bay, St. Andrews Bay, Tampa Bay, Whitewater Bay, Inter-Coastal Waterway, canals, lakes, and rivers in Florida offer countless opportunities for recreational boating.

As a result, more yacht and boating accidents occur in Florida every year than in any other state.

If you have been seriously injured in a Florida yachting or boating accident, call us today at 305-371-8000 for a free case evaluation with one of our Board-Certified Miami maritime accident and admiralty attorneys.

Types of Boating Accident Cases

The attorneys at Hickey Law Firm have significant experience handling commercial boating accidents. These include accidents involving crew and passengers, and may be brought about by equipment failure, inadequate maintenance, poor vessel design, and any number of other factors. Commercial vessels may include cruise ships, tankers, barges, and vessels used for similar purposes.

Accidents don’t just occur on commercial vessels, though. According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), recreational vessels account for the largest number of serious and fatal injuries every year. In fact, most serious injuries occur on open motorboats, with personal watercraft, such as jet skis, coming in second. 

We know what to look for in accidents on recreational water vessels. We are prepared to investigate accidents that take place on recreational boats including:

  • Motorboats
  • Yachts
  • Pontoon Boats
  • Party Boats
  • Cabin Boats

We can also assist with injuries sustained in kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized vessels.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed, use the form on this page or call us today to learn about your options.

Jet Ski Accidents

Jet skis and similar personal watercraft pose serval opportunities for serious and fatal injury. Fast, unpredictable, and dangerous, jet skis become incredibly dangerous when drugs, alcohol, and inexperience are involved. However, even experienced and sober riders can have an accident.  

The USCG reports that drowning is the leading cause of fatal injury in jet ski accidents. Trauma, cardiac arrest, and hypothermia are also leading causes of injury and death in these accidents, which are often a result of equipment failure, inclement weather, and other factors beyond the control of the rider.

When a jet ski malfunctions or your sustain an injury due to someone else’s actions, you may be entitled to compensation following a jet ski accident. We are here to review your case and help you determine the best course forward.

Waterskiing & Surface Sports

Being towed behind a boat can be a lot of fun but, as with personal watercraft, there are several dangers involved in these sports. 
Waterskiing, parasailing, tubing, skurfing, bodyboarding, and other surface activities pose drowning and trauma risks. They can also result in propeller injuries, run-over accidents, and other potentially fatal events.

Diving Accidents

Diving accidents can occur regardless of the type of vessel being used. Some of the top causes of diving accidents are:

  • Inadequate Diver Training
  • Equipment Failure
  • Environmental Factors

Divers can get separated and lost. They can get wedged into tight spaces and stuck. They can experience leaking masks, pinched tubing, oxygen problems, and other disorienting events that may exacerbate dangerous conditions. 

When conditions are dangerous or disorienting, a rapid ascent may seem compelling. Unfortunately, depending on how deep a diver has gone, this can result in decompression sickness, more commonly known as The Bends

Symptoms of the bends include:

  • Joint Pain
  • Low Back Pain
  • Numbness and Weakness in the Extremities
  • Head and Neck Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

Difficulties urinating or being unable to urinate are also common symptoms of the bends.

The bends cause tissue and nerve damage, though the condition is not often fatal. It can, however, result in paralysis and may do permanent damage to the bladder, sexual organs, and spinal cord if not treated promptly.

Boating Education and Safety Precautions

The majority of recreational boating accidents occur because of a general lack of boating education. People underestimate the dangers of watercraft compared to land vehicles, and the majority of boat operators do not understand the basic Rules of the Road or nautical safety laws and precautions, such as:

  • What to do when another yacht or boat is coming at them
  • How to approach a big wave or wake at a safe angle and speed
  • The importance of installing "kill switches" (devices that turn of an engine if the operator is thrown from the helm)
  • The importance of wearing life jackets

Florida does not currently require most recreational boat owners to undergo boating education and instruction. Mandatory instruction is limited to operators under a certain age or a vessel over a certain length. This means that many people behind the wheel of a yacht or boat in Florida do not have any specialized knowledge of the vessel's characteristics.

Other Causes of Boating Accidents

Some other common causes of boating accidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to keep a lookout while guests are tubing or water-skiing
  • Defective boat design
  • Defective boat repair
  • Striking a fixed object (e.g. pier, bridge, navigational aid)
  • Overloading and overcrowding
  • Drinking alcohol

The Limitation of Liability Act

The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 is codified in 46 U.S.C. Section 30505. Under the Act, a boat owner can file a lawsuit to limit their liability in an accident to the value of the boat or vessel (plus pending freight at the end of their voyage). This means that if the boat which causes the accident sinks or has little or no value, the owner may owe little or nothing to the injured parties. But there are exceptions and restrictions on when and under what circumstances the LOLA can be used. The statute provides in 46 U.S.C. Sec. 305012, for example, that: 

This chapter does not affect the liability of an individual as a master, officer, or seaman, even though the individual is also an owner of the vessel.

There is a very small window of time to file a response to a boat owner's Limitation of Liability lawsuit, and also introduce a claim for your damages. In order to successfully obtain compensation after a boating accident, injured passengers need the help of an experienced maritime attorney who knows how to navigate this complex area of law.

Why Choose Hickey Law Firm, P.A.

As one of only a few lawyers in Florida who has received Board Certification in Maritime Law, attorney John H. (Jack) Hickey has the specialized experience you need to recover the compensation you deserve after a boating accident.

If you have been seriously injured or if one of your loved ones has been killed in a yacht or recreational boating accident, please contact Hickey Law Firm, P.A. today by calling 305-371-8000 for a free case evaluation. We represent injured boating accident victims throughout the state of Florida.