4 Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Florida
April 12, 2022 | Sagi Shaked | Personal Injury
Florida leads the country in boating accidents. With 679 recreational boating accidents – according to a 2020 report – Florida has more than twice as many accidents as the second-place state, California. Once you include commercial boats, Florida reported 836 boat accidents in 2020.
These accidents killed 79 people and injured 534. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) estimated the property losses from these accidents at over $13 million.
Here are four of the most common causes of boating accidents in Florida.
Boating Accidents in Florida
Florida law requires boat operators to report any accident that involves:
- Bodily injury
- The disappearance of any person
- Damage to any vessel or property totaling at least $2,000
The boating accident report requires you or an investigating police officer to describe:
- Date, time, and location
- Vessels involved
- Names and addresses of the operators and passengers
- Names and addresses of witnesses
- Name, badge number, and law enforcement agency of the investigating officer
- Description of the accident
- Vessel insurance information
Based on these accident reports, the FWC releases an annual report summarizing the boating accidents for that year. The most recent FWC report covered accidents in 2020. It describes the top four causes of boating accidents in Florida as:
Collision with Vessels
Over 70% of boating accidents reported in 2020 happened while cruising. It should come as no surprise that the top two causes of accidents involve collisions.
By far, the most common cause of boating accidents is a collision with another vessel. Just under 27% of Florida boating accidents involve a vessel collision. These collisions include hitting other boats that are moving, anchored, or moored.
You can avoid these accidents by staying focused and avoiding distractions while boating. For accidents that investigators blamed on operator error, inattention and improper lookout were the most common causes of accidents.
Other causes of boating collisions include intoxication, inexperience, and excessive speed.
Collision with a Fixed Object
The second most common cause of boating accidents is a collision with a fixed object. In this context, fixed objects include both natural and manufactured objects such as:
- Piers and docks
- Rocks and submerged trees
These collisions do not include groundings. FWC classifies grounding your vessel separate from collisions.
About 19.5% of boating accidents in Florida involve a collision with a fixed object. Steps you can take to avoid collisions with a fixed object include:
- Watching in all directions, including down
- Using navigation aides to avoid submerged rocks
- Watching your speed, especially in poor visibility
- Being mindful of the sun’s glare on your vision
Finally, you should remain aware of the tides. Objects you can see at low tide might sit just below the surface at high tide.
Flooding and Swamping
Flooding and swamping can sink your boat. At a minimum, you might need to pump the water from your boat to save it when it floods or swamps.
Flooding and swamping can happen for a variety of reasons. Because of Florida’s heavy rains, boats can flood and swamp from a storm. You should watch the weather reports and avoid boating when heavy storms are forecast.
Boats can also swamp in heavy seas. Winds and tides can create waves large enough to swamp and sink your boat.
The wake from another boat can also cause waves large enough to swamp your boat. Make sure you leave ample space between you and other vessels.
Falls overboard in this context refer to falls that are the primary cause of the accident. They do not include falls that happen after the primary cause, like a collision.
Falls overboard can happen. Slick surfaces and sitting on the gunwales can cause falls overboard.
The best way to deal with falls overboard is to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs). If PFDs are not worn, you should have a life ring or other life preserver handy to throw to someone who goes overboard.
Avoiding Boating Accidents
Boating accidents are largely preventable. Good preparation and careful boating can minimize your risk of a boating accident. Contacting a reputable personal injury law firm in Miami after an accident won’t hurt; many law firms offer a free consultation to hear about your case.