In 2021, Florida was the top state for boat accidents, with just over 800 recreational boats, of which 751 were reportable accidents. It’s no surprise that so many accidents occured in the Florida waterways; after all, in 2021, there were over 1 million registered vessels.
Read on to learn about recent boat accident cases in Florida, along with accident statistics.
Recent Boat Accident Cases in Florida
- Miami-Dade County (March 2023): A 29-foot boat truck struck a channel marker near the South end of Cutter Bank, ejecting Fourteen people. One 17-year-old teen died after sustaining crash-related injuries. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the boat owners who allegedly purchased alcohol for minors and allowed them to consume it on the boat. Their family also pressed charges against three paramedics and the company who operated the medical helicopter to transport injured victims.
- Northeast Miami-Dade (December 2022): Four people were injured after a boat crashed and caught on fire. Two were taken to the hospital for emergency medical services.
- Key Biscayne near Nixon Beach (June 2022): After two vessels collided, the crash killed two people. An additional 10 people required emergency medical services, with at least two needing to be transferred to a trauma center.
Who Regulates the Waterways in Florida?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement division is the agency that enforces state-wide boating safety laws. In addition to boating law enforcement, they also protect Florida’s natural resources and public waterway safety.
In the event of a boat crash, the FWC, US Coast Guard, Miami Fire Rescue, and paramedics in their jurisdiction will help rescue and treat boat injury victims.
What Is a Reportable Boating Accident in Florida?
According to Florida Statutes§ 327.301, a boating accident in Florida must be reported under any of the following circumstances:
- The accident resulted in bodily injury
- The accident resulted in one or more death
- Or if the accident led to the disappearance of a person
Here are some details about the 751 reportable boating accidents in Florida in 2021:
- A collision with another vessel accounted for 33% of reportable accidents and was the most frequent type of accident (250)
- Water sports were involved in 11 accidents that led to 1 fatality and 12 injuries.
- Water sports involving human power or paddle resulted in 13 accidents and 10 deaths(2 rowboats, 2 canoe, and 9 kayak accidents)
- Mya 2021 had the highest incident rate of boating accidents (102).
- Miami-Dade County was the most dangerous county for boating accidents, with 95 accidents of which included 65 injuries and 7 deaths.
Reportable Boating Fatalities in Florida, 2021
Here are some figures to show the prevalence of Florida boating accident deaths in 2021:
- 60 people died in fatal boating accidents
- 22% (19 events) involved passengers falling overboard, which continues to take the lead for fatal boating accidents every year.
- The leading cause of death in boating accidents is drowning (in 2021, there were 33 drowning deaths, which was 55% of all boating fatalities).
- In addition to boating accidents, May was also the highest month for fatalities, with 10 people dying.
- Alcohol and drug use contributed to nearly a quarter (23%) of boating fatalities in 2021.
- Most boating fatality victims were male (85%, n=51)
- Majority of boat operators involved in fatal accidents were older than 36 years old (72%, n=47).
- The majority of vessels involved in fatal accidents were smaller than 21 feet in length (81%, n =55)
Reportable Boating Injuries in Florida, 2021
Boating is one of the most popular leisure activities in the US, but it doesn’t come without risks. While It’s one of Florida’s favorite pastimes and a great way to explore or relax in Florida’s beautiful scenic waterways, people get injured from boating all the time.
The FWC reported 324 accidents that were associated with 469 injuries in 2021, which translates to 47 injuries per 100,000 registered vessels.
Florida’s Reportable Personal Watercraft Accidents 2021
The legal definition of a personal watercraft (PWC) in Florida is any small vessel that uses:
- And outboard motor or propeller-driven motor
- Or any inboard motor that uses a water jet pump (these types of PWCs are designed for sitting, standing, kneeling, or getting towed behind a vessel)
Personal watercrafts are more commonly known as Wave Runners and Jet Skis. By law, you are only allowed to operate a personal watercraft between sunrise and sunset. Here are the numbers that pertain to PWC accidents in 2021:
- 16% of all registered vessels in Florida are personal water crafts.
- PWCs accounted for 26% (n=195) of all reportable boating accidents.
- Rented PWCs had a higher accident rate in 2021, with 56% of all PWC accidents involving rentals (n=153).
- Over half (52%, n=101) of PWC accidents involved another water vessel colliding with the PWC or vice versa.
- The leading county for PWC accidents was Miami-Dade (n=37), followed by Monroe County (n=21), and Pinellas County (n=18), which collectively made up 44% of all PWC accidents.
- 17 people died in PWC accidents.
- 162 people sustained injuries in PWC accidents.
What Causes Most of Florida’s Boating Accidents?
Data from the FWC and US Coast Guard suggest that there are common causes for a majority of boat accidents in Florida. Here are some of the top causes of boating accidents in Florida and across the country.
Mechanical Failure or Defective Boat Equipment
Boat owners should regularly inspect and maintain their boats to prevent accidents and injuries. But sometimes, even when a boat owner takes all the necessary precautions to ensure boating safety, equipment can fail or have defects. If a defective boat part causes an accident that leads to injuries or death, the boat owner, rental company, recreational company, or other party can be held legally responsible.
Whether it’s from drunk boat operating, inattention, or lack or experience, boat collisions can cause significant damages. Not only will it cause damage to the boats, but passengers can sustain severe injuries if they get thrown overboard or otherwise injured from the collision.
Boat collisions often occur with other vessels or objects in the water, such as logs, docs or other floating debris. Often, the boat driver does not see the obstruction in their pathway earlier enough to evade the object and ends up colliding with it.
Negligent Boat Owners
If a person who is borrowing a boat gets into an accident, the boat owner could be liable. Legally, boat owners are supposed to entrust an experienced and responsible operator to handle their boat. If they fail to do so, they could be responsible for injuries that occur due to a negligent boat operator who was using their boat.
Passengers Falling Overboard
Falling overboard is the most common and most dangerous way people get injured in accidents. It can happen from reckless boat maneuvering, dangerous wake conditions, or drunk boating. It’s also possible to slip and fall overboard, or on the boat. If that happens, you might be eligible to pursue damage compensation.
For example, let’s say you are on a commercial boat like a fishing charter, cruise ship, or a ferry. If you slip and fall due to someone’s negligence in some way, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. As a guest on the boat, you have a right to legally hold the company or boat owner responsible for getting hurt on their boat. That’s because the law provides that they have a legal duty to operate their boat cautiously and provide a safe environment for their guests to prevent harm. Passengers often get injured in these situations when the boat is not designed to safely transport passengers, making a poor decision to operate the boat in bad weather, or failing to warn passengers adequately about safety instructions.
Alcohol Consumption and Drug Use
It’s illegal to drink and drive a boat in Florida. The legal alcohol limit is the same as it is for vehicle operation ,08%. Florida also has an open container law (under Florida Statute 316.1936), prohibiting open containers on a boat.
Boat owners and operators need to keep track of weather conditions and anticipated weather conditions at all times. Strong wind gusts and water currents are generally unsafe conditions for boating, especially for inexperienced operators. Passengers can easily fall overboard with inclement weather conditions.
Consider the two men who recently drowned after vanishing in choppy waters in a Lake near Legoland in Florida. One of the men jumped into the lake to secure the boat’s vessel when the boat began to float away. Another man jumped into the water to save the hymn, but neither one of them made it. Officials believe wind and heavy, choppy waters paired with the men’s inexperience of boating procedures, and lack of adequate swimming abilities, led to their drowning.
Contact a Florida Boat Accident Lawyer Today
A fun day out in the sun can quickly turn into a nightmare if you get into a boat accident. You should not have to deal with medical bills and other damages alone if you were injured due to someone else’s negligence.
If your loved one died in a boating accident, we may be able to help you file a wrongful death claim. Contact our experienced Florida boating accident attorneys to see how we can help you.
Your first consultation is free so schedule it today.