I think in the middle of summer, it is always imperative to do a blog on boating safety/liability. It is even more important to do this when you live on the Emerald Coast. Everything we do in the summer surrounds water. Whether we are playing in the bay, ocean, taking a boat out – we are in the water. Recently, the Destin Log put out an article that was enlightening and somewhat disheartening. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2015 boating statistics, Okaloosa County is ranked 12th out of the state’s 67 in “boating incidents.” These incidents included reported accidents, injuries and fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that with 873,507 registered recreational vessels, Florida has more boats than any other state. At the same time, the Sunshine State ranked at the top for the number of recreational boating accidents, with 581 in 2014.
Four Tips for Safe Boating
1. Wear a Flotation Device: Under Florida law, all vessels are required to have onboard a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. The PFDs must be of the appropriate size for the intended wearer, be in serviceable condition, and within easy access.
2. Take a Safe Boating Class: Flotilla 1-4 presents safe boating classes on a regular basis. You can also register for a class at http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=081-01-04
3. Get Your Vessel Inspected: You can sign up for a free vessel safety check at the Flotilla’s website at: http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=081-01-04
4. There’s an App for That: The U.S. Coast Guard has created a mobile app that is available in the iPhone App Store and in Google Play. The free app allows users to access the following features: Find the latest safety regulations, Request a vessel safety check, Check your safety equipment, File a float plan, Navigation rules, Find the nearest NOAA buoy, Report a hazard, Report pollution, Report suspicious activity, and Request emergency assistance
Since 2015, we have had some major boating accidents:
April 11, 2015: a 28 year female was seriously injured when she was struck by a powerboat while paddle boarding near the Shalimar Bridge.
April 18, 2015: A male was killed when the personal watercraft he was riding in the Choctawhatchee Bay hit a wave and he was ejected.
Sep. 4, 2015: a 46 year old male was killed when he was ejected from his 20-foot Bullet boat after the vessel struck a navigational aid in the Choctawhatchee Bay near Bluewater Bay.
March 18, 2016: a 22 year old male was killed when the 28-foot Pursuit boat he was aboard struck the east jetty near Destin. A 22 year old female was aboard the vessel as well and is still missing.
What is the responsibility of a person operating a private boat and what is considered reckless disregard?
The driver of a boat is responsible for the health and welfare of his passengers. The law places a legal duty of care (obligation) upon him to operate his boat safely at all times while looking out for the safety of his passengers. His failure to do this means he’s at-fault when operating his boat. What would be types of at-fault negligence? Anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation (a first-degree misdemeanor).All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other circumstances so as not to endanger people or property. Failure to do so is considered careless operation (a non-criminal infraction). A violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is also a violation of Florida law.
So what happens if you get in a boat accident in a personal water craft?
If you get injured as a result of his failure, the at-fault boating operator’s insurance can affect whether you can recover compensation for injuries. Among the economic and noneconomic damages you may be able to recover as an injured boating accident victim are medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. In some cases, when a boating operator has assets, it may be possible to recover damages directly from the boating operator even if there is not insurance