Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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Any time a passenger gets into a boat, there is a danger of something going seriously wrong. Whether it be some problem with the boat itself, or the risk of colliding with a stationary object or another vessel, boating has its fair share of inherent risks. This is especially the case in Florida, where boating regulations are notoriously lax.

Boat on WaterIn Florida, there is no requirement to obtain a license prior to operating a boat. The only requirement in place is that anyone born in 1988 or later must obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. These cards, which are available online after taking a short virtual lesson, are good for life with no further requirement.

In South Florida, air boat tours are a common way for locals and tourists alike to explore the Everglades. However, even the guides operating these boats – often at high speeds – are not required to obtain any special permit or license. Additionally, there are no regulations that these boats have any safety features installed. It should come as no surprise then that there were over 700 boating accidents last year, resulting in 67 deaths. This makes Florida the state with the most boating accidents and fatalities.

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Drinking too much can be very dangerous, and excessive alcohol consumption leads to about 88,000 deaths each year in the United States. But while most people are at greater risk of injury while drinking, some people may actually be shielded from liability under Florida law.

BoaterUnder Florida statute 768.36, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the plaintiff is determined to be more than 50 percent at fault for the accident as a result of his intoxication. That means that a person who is injured may not be able to recover compensation from an at-fault party who contributed to their injury if the injured person was under the influence at the time. In order for this doctrine to apply, the plaintiff has to be under the influence to the extent that the person’s “normal faculties were impaired,” or the plaintiff had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Of course, this leaves room for interpretation.

Under the statute, alcohol means any distilled spirit or any beverage with 0.5 percent or more alcohol by volume. In addition, the term “drug” refers to any controlled substance but does not include lawfully obtained drugs or medications that are taken according to a valid prescription. A drug also does not include a medication sold over the counter and taken in the recommended dosage. The statute arises from the concept of “comparative” or “contributory” negligence, which generally holds that a plaintiff’s recovery may be limited or barred by the plaintiff’s own negligence.

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The Iowa Supreme Court recently released a decision affirming a lower court’s ruling in favor of the government defendant in a wrongful death case that was filed by the surviving family of a 10-year-old boy who was killed in a boating accident on a lake owned by the defendant, the state department of natural resources. The lawsuit alleged that the state agency was negligent by permitting a dredge pipe to be used and stored under the lake’s surface, which was a violation of state regulations and created a hazard for which the state should be held accountable. The most recent appellate opinion ruled that the plaintiff had no claim as a matter of law, and the defendant cannot be held liable for the boy’s death.

Boat DeckA Boy Dies after His Mom’s Boyfriend Ignores Warning Buoys and Crashes into an Underwater Pipe

The plaintiffs in the case of McFarlin v. Iowa are the surviving family members of a 10-year-old boy who was killed in a boat accident on an Iowa lake. According to the facts noted in the opinion, the boy’s mother’s boyfriend was operating a speedboat that the boy was riding in and failed to notice or comply with warning buoys that signaled the existence of a dredge pipe beneath the water’s surface. Instead of slowing down and going around the buoys as intended, the boat operator drove the boat into the dangerous area at about 30 miles per hour, crashing the boat into the submerged pipe. As a result of the collision, the boat’s engine disconnected from the back of the boat and flipped into the passenger compartment of the boat, resulting in fatal injuries to the child.

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Florida is a great place for water lovers. With some of the best beaches and boating in the nation, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Florida each year to enjoy the water. However, with so much activity on Florida waters, the chance of a serious or fatal accident occurring increases accordingly.

Jetski on WaterOf all the vessels on Florida waters, one of the most dangerous is the personal watercraft (PWC). In fact, each year there are about 900 accidents involving PWCs, and approximately 35 of those accidents result in death. About 90% of all PWC accidents involve some level of user error.

These figures have actually decreased over recent decades as the PWCs themselves are manufactured with additional safety features, and as state governments are increasing the licensing and regulatory requirements necessary to operate the vehicles. With that said, the numbers are strikingly high when considering the fact that PWCs are not commonly used for transportation, and the amount of time spent aboard PWCs is usually limited.

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Earlier this month in Pompano Beach, a boat accident involving two vessels resulted in one death and several serious injuries. According to one local news report, the fatal accident took place at around 8:20 in the evening on a Saturday in the Intercoastal Waterway.

boat-1450845Evidently, the two vessels involved were traveling near the center of the canal when they collided. One of the boats had five people aboard, three of whom ended up in the water after the collision. Two people from that vessel were hospitalized for their injuries. All aboard are expected to recover.

Rescue crews pulled one man out of the water who was on the second boat, but they were told another man was aboard at the time of the accident. Sadly, it was not until the next day that investigators discovered that man’s body in the canal.

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Authorities have released additional information concerning the March 20, 2015 boating crash that injured Michael Capponi, the 42-year-old man dubbed “the godfather of Miami nightlife,” and his 23-year-old girlfriend. According to a news article published on August 19, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently released a supplemental report detailing the incident. The report noted that the accident was caused by Mr. Capponi passing out and losing consciousness while at the controls of the boat, which resulted in his 25-foot Chris Craft speedboat making a sharp turn and crashing into a sea wall, injuring both occupants. The newly released information in the Commission’s report suggests that Mr. Capponi may have passed out as a result of three previous brain surgeries he had undergone, which may have put him at risk of losing consciousness unexpectedly.

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Surveillance Cameras Capture a Terrifying Crash

According to local news articles describing the incident, the couple was travelling in Mr. Capponi’s speedboat northbound in the Melloy Channel near the U.S. Coast Guard station at the MacArthur Causeway in Miami Beach at 10:00 a.m. on March 20 of this year to visit a business associate. Surveillance cameras captured the vehicle suddenly turning sharply and crashing into a sea wall without slowing down. Mr. Capponi, who was driving the boat, told investigators that he had no memory of the impact or the crash. Fortunately for the boat’s occupants, the accident occurred near a Coast Guard station, and Coast Guard officials were able to run to the site of the accident and tend to the victims until paramedics arrived.

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Earlier this month on the Middle River near Fort Lauderdale, one teen was killed and several others injured when the boat they were riding in crashed into a cement bridge. According to one local news report, the accident occurred late in the evening hours on a weeknight.

boat-4-1545784Evidently, the group of six teens set out around 10:30 on Wednesday evening to take the boat, named the Boston Whaler, out for a cruise. However, about an hour and a half into their journey, the boat collided with a low spot on a cement bridge. According to news reports, the teens were experienced boaters and did have permission from the boat’s owner to use the boat.

Investigators quickly responded to the scene to see if they could determine what caused the fatal boat accident. While no cause has yet been announced, it was dark outside at the time of the accident, and it seems likely that the operator of the vessel likely did not see the approaching bridge. Investigators also determined that at least two of the boat’s occupants were standing at the time of the collision, causing what they called a “pinball effect” inside the boat.

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Prosecutors decided not to charge Lazaro “DJ Laz” Mendez, the host of a popular morning show on Miami’s Hits 97.3 radio station, with any crimes for his involvement in the May 2014 death of a 23-year-old man in the waters off Key Biscayne. According to an article from the Miami Herald, the victim was part of a group of partygoers who were trying to help free the boat that Mr. Mendez was controlling from a sandbar during a promotional beach party event. While the victim was pushing from behind the boat, Mr. Mendez allegedly engaged the engine, causing the man to get sucked into the propellers and killed.

boats-reflected-1-1075395-m Charges were initially being considered based on an allegation that Mr. Mendez had been drinking before the accident and may have been criminally reckless in contributing to the death of the victim. After performing an investigation, prosecutors released a statement last month that there was not sufficient evidence for them to conclude that Mr. Mendez had been drinking or was intoxicated when the accident occurred.

The Parties Have Previously Settled a Civil Lawsuit Filed in this Matter

Although Mr. Mendez is not being charged criminally for his role in the victim’s death, he has already settled a Florida wrongful death lawsuit that was filed by the victim’s family. Civil lawsuits require a lower burden of proof at trial for the plaintiff to be awarded damages, when compared to the burden that prosecutors must meet for a criminal conviction. Because of this difference between civil and criminal cases, it is relatively common for someone who is acquitted or not even charged with a crime to be held responsible for the same conduct through a civil action.

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Earlier this month just east of Boca Chita Key, a deadly boat accident claimed the life of a 72-year-old man. According to one local news report by CBS Miami, the 23-foot boat carrying the man capsized when it was swamped by a wave.

sea-1-1263713-mEvidently, when emergency crews responded, three people had been thrown from the boat into the sea. Upon their arrival, one man had entered cardiac arrest. Responders performed CPR on the elderly man and took him to Mercy Hospital. They were able to keep his heart rate and blood pressure up until arrival at the hospital. Unfortunately, however, he died a short time after he was admitted.

The other two people aboard the boat survived the accident.

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