Pleasant Waters, Scary Statistics: Boating Accident Liability and Prevention in Florida

From rural lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is home to hundreds of beautiful spots for boating. Especially in the summer months, tourists and locals alike flock toward the water for an exciting day of fishing, tanning, or just relaxing in the sunshine.

Pleasant Waters, Scary Statistics

Unfortunately, our excellent waterways aren’t the only thing Florida is known for. Our state is also a leader in boating accidents. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission (FWCC), there were 723 boating accidents in 2018. This is far more than in any other state. That said, Florida is also home to more boaters than other states, with 915,255 registered vessels as of 2017. More boaters naturally means an increase in boating accidents.

From these accidents, there were 66 fatalities, with most deaths resulting from drowning or trauma. Additionally, a substantial amount of victims—94%—were male and 59% of victims were 51 years old or older. In these crashes, issues like operator inexperience and dangerous weather conditions often played a role. However, drugs and alcohol were the most common problem, with alcohol emerging as a factor in 81% of fatal incidents.

While open waters might seem like the most dangerous place, only 6 of the fatal accidents occurred in the ocean or gulf. More accidents actually occurred in smaller bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, and canals. This is an important reminder than any body of water can quickly become dangerous.

After an Accident

Luckily, most boaters are responsible while enjoying the water, and keep themselves and other safe by following the rules of the water. However, even a responsible boater can still be injured by the reckless actions of someone else.

When someone is injured by another boater’s actions, they might be able to find compensation for their injuries or for a loved one’s wrongful death. For example, if someone is injured after their boat is hit by another boater who has been drinking, they could hold the other boater liable for their negligence. On the water, negligent behavior might include:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Speeding
  • Boating in restricted areas
  • Not giving another boat enough space to pass or maneuver
  • Failing to pay attention to other boats or obstacles
  • Allowing someone without a boating license to operate the boat

Issues can also arise from problems with the boat itself. For example, if a boat rental company fails to include a working radio, it could lead to injuries if the boaters become stranded and cannot call for help. Similarly, defects or malfunctions with the boat can also lead to injuries, and a manufacturer or owner could be liable.

Figuring out liability after a boating or watercraft accident is difficult. It is especially hard when someone is also struggling with injuries, medical bills, lost wages, or even the loss of a loved one. This is why it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney after a boating accident. They will be able to see you through every step.

Staying Safe on the Water

While you can’t always prevent the dangerous actions of others, you can take steps to protect yourself and others while spending a day on the water for fishing, sightseeing, or just plain relaxing!

  • Always have lifejackets in an accessible area, and make sure that children and non-experienced swimmers wear a lifejacket at all times while on the water
  • Avoid alcohol when operating a boat or watercraft, no matter how tempting it might be to have a cold beer or fruity drink while enjoying the sun
  • Obey all signs on the water, like those that warn of no-wake zones or marine life in the area
  • Respect other boaters and others on the water
  • Only allow licensed boaters to operate the boat or watercraft
  • Make sure you have any necessary safety supplies, from a working radio to a first aid kit
  • If you are boating alone, make sure someone knows where you are planning to go and what time you intend to be back
  • Check the weather before heading out and remember that the weather can dramatically change throughout the day
  • Always stay alert


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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