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A boat out on the water in Florida.

Boating is extremely popular in Florida. In 2022, owners registered over one million recreational boats, making it the state with the most registered recreational boats in the U.S. Whether you’re heading to Clearwater Beach or another Pinellas County, there’s always a risk of an accident. Florida has the highest number of boating accident fatalities, with 32 fatal boating accidents in 2022.

Boat operators must comply with Florida legal statutes after an accident. Boat accident attorneys can explain what vessels the state’s boating laws apply to and whether you have grounds to seek damages in a civil suit after a boating accident.

Were you injured in a boat accident? Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys now.

What is considered a boat?

Florida’s boating laws apply to all vessels that meet the state’s definition of a vessel. They include barges, airboats, and other water vessels capable of transporting people on the water. Boating laws apply to motorized and non-motorized vessels, including yachts, sailboats, jet skis, canoes, and kayaks. 

How common are boat accidents in Florida?

Boating accidents claimed 636 lives in the U.S. in 2022. Florida accounted for 32 fatalities, equal to 5% of all boating accident fatalities. Florida is among the states with the highest number of boating accidents annually. 

The most common causes of boat accidents

Common boat accident causes include the following:

  • Alcohol: Operating a personal watercraft while under the influence is responsible for more fatal boat accidents than any other cause
  • Operator error: Boat operators can make mistakes because of negligence or indifference. For example, speeding can cause crashes, and taking sharp turns can cause a boat to tip. 
  • Operator inexperience: New boat drivers may cause a crash because of their lack of experience. They may not realize how much room they need to maneuver between objects or have the skill to steer when driving at high speeds.
  • Weather: Weather changes can significantly impact boaters on the water. Boat operators should always check weather reports before heading out on the water and should monitor the weather while boating.

Other common causes include equipment issues. A defective motor or vessel can cause an accident, which is one of the reasons boat operators should always inspect their vessel and equipment before heading out on the water. 

Accidents vs. negligence in boating accidents

Accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. Someone can be liable for a boating accident if their negligence caused it. Suppose a boat operator took a group of friends out boating; however, they did not inspect their boat and failed to ensure they had flotation devices for everyone. The boat started taking on water, and two passengers ended up in the water without flotation devices and drowned. The boat operator could be liable because their negligence made the accident possible, and they failed to provide flotation devices for all passengers, which Florida boating regulations require. 

Accident investigations can determine if the manufacturer’s or operator’s negligence caused or contributed to the accident.

Common boat accident injuries

Boating accident victims may suffer various injuries, including the following:

  • Amputation: A boat’s propeller can sever a limb, resulting in accidental amputation
  • Broken bones: Impact with an object could throw passengers against the boat or object. The force of the impact could fracture bones.
  • Burns: Passengers can suffer burns if the vessel catches fire
  • Drowning: Passengers will drown if submerged under water for an extended period without enough oxygen
  • Hypothermia: Hypothermia is the medical term applied when a person’s body temperature is dangerously low. Hypothermia can be fatal in severe cases.
  • Lacerations: Sharp edges on the vessel, rocks, or other objects can cut skin
  • Soft tissue injuries: Boating accident victims can suffer soft tissue damage, such as whiplash
  • Neck and spinal cord injuries (SCIs): A blow to the head or back can cause neck or spinal cord injuries. Neck and spinal cord injuries include temporary and permanent injuries, such as paralysis.
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Any blow to the head can cause a TBI, resulting in short- or long-term injuries

Boat operator’s obligations after a crash

Boat operators must stay at the accident site and aid anyone injured in the crash. Boat operators are also required to report boat accidents if the accident meets the reporting criteria, which includes accidents involving the following:

  • $2,000 or more in damage
  • Death
  • Injuries
  • A missing person
  • A vessel capsizing or sinking
  • A vessel collision

What damages can be recovered if I have been injured in a boating accident?

Victims file civil lawsuits seeking financial compensation after an accident. Some victims can seek punitive damages if the factors justify an accusation of reckless conduct or gross negligence. 

Economic damages

Economic damages are monetary damages calculated from bills stemming from your accident. Suppose you cannot care for minor children, have medical bills, and miss time off work. You can seek reimbursement for childcare costs, lost wages, and medical bills. Any expense caused by your accident can qualify under economic damages. 

Other common economic damages include:

  • Property damage costs
  • Transportation expenses

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages are non-monetary damages focusing on how your accident affects your personal life. You can seek non-economic damages to compensate you for psychological harm and personal suffering. Suppose you develop anxiety after your accident, and you’re unable to be intimate with your partner, affecting your relationship and quality of life. You can seek compensation for anxiety, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.

Non-economic damages may also be awarded for the following:

  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

How an experienced boat injury attorney can help you

A boat injury attorney working on paperwork at this desk. Next to him is a stack of books and the scales of justice.

It’s natural to be in shock after an accident, and unless you work in the legal field, you may not be aware of your legal options. Talking to a Clearwater boat accident lawyer is the best way to get the answers you deserve. We’ll provide a free consultation, answer your questions, and explain your legal options.

We’ll investigate your case and gather evidence while you focus on your recovery. We’ll handle settlement negotiations with the at-fault party and fight for fair compensation for your boating accident injury.

Call Bernstein Injury Law Today.


Boating Regulations. (2023). 

Deaths and injuries caused by boating accidents in the U.S. 2002-2022. (2023). 

Key Boating Accident Statistics. (2023). 

Number of registered recreational boats in the United States in 2022, by state. (2023). 

Schwanemann, K. (2023). Florida leads the nation in recreational boats. See which county had the most registered boats

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C): 327.02. (2023). 

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C): 327.30. (2023).

Tampa Car Accident + Personal Injury Lawyers

Jack Bernstein Personal Injury Attorney

For more than 40 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Throughout his career, Bernstein has been a strategist thoroughly dedicated to the idea of protecting the rights of his clients. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

Mr. Bernstein has the experience and expertise to handle a wide range of injury cases. Among the types of plaintiffs Mr. Bernstein represents are individuals involved in car accidents caused by drunk drivers or other exhibiting negligence, medical complications resulting from carelessness caused by a physician or a medical facility, including brain injury, bicycle, motorcycle, moped and truck accidents, admiralty law and cruise ship accidents, accidental drownings, all types of wrongful death lawsuits, along with most injury, catastrophic occurrences and legal malpractice issues.

Our firm handles every type of personal injury and accident case, using negotiation and litigation tactics effectively. We handle cases throughout Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, FL. With a staff of approximately 40 people, including six lawyers and 34 support personnel, we have the legal resources to get the justice you deserve and the maximum recovery for your losses. Schedule your free consultation today; we are always here to help.

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