Articles Posted in Boating and Watercraft Accidents

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The community of Miami woke on Sunday, September 25, 2016, to tragic news: beloved Miami Marlins pitcher, Jose Fernandez, was killed, along with two others, in a boating crash earlier that morning.  This incident is a terrible tragedy.  While the investigation is still pending and the final results will not be known for some time, the initial report indicated that alcohol or drugs were not involved in the crash. The experienced Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano have represented numerous personal injury clients.

As Miami-based personal injury attorneys, we see facts similar to these frequently. While fun and exhilarating, boating is still an inherently dangerous activity.  Many people each year suffer fatal or substantial injuries from boating accidents.  Numerous boating accidents are caused by excessive alcohol intake or ingestion of drugs, while negligence causes others, inattention, carelessness, or inexperience. Boaters must also contend with rapidly changing weather, changing tides, and winds as well as other boaters. Low visibility, especially boating at night, substantially increases the dangers inherent in boating. Continue reading →

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While the conduct of a motorist in disobeying traffic safety laws can constitute important evidence of negligence, Florida law generally bans the introduction of evidence regarding whether a traffic citation was issued to establish a party engaged in the negligent conduct.  Our lawyers understand that this distinction might seem confusing, but the illegal conduct and not the issuing of a citation provides the relevant evidence.  The rationale for this rule is that the judge or jury should make the determination of fault according to the relevant legal standard, rather than a police officer issuing a citation within his discretion and not subject to the same standard of proof.

Our personal watercraft injury lawyers would like to call attention to a recent decision that extends this principle to accidents involving vessels on waterways like a jet ski, Seadoo, boat, or other personal watercraft.  In Soto v. McCulley Marine Services, the defendants’ services were retained to construct an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.  While performing the work, the defendants used a barge to transport materials.  The barge and accompanying tugboat were moored by a dock in the staging area for a 4th of July celebration near a park with a beach.  The area was filled with personal watercrafts because of the holiday and had a reputation for strong currents. Continue reading →

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A teen died and five others were injured when 13 foot boat crashed into a bridge in Wilton Manors.  The boating accident occurred around midnight when a boat holding six teens slammed into a bridge.  Witnesses report that the teens were traveling at a high rate of speed and likely could not stop in time.  Authorities arrived at the scene of the accident to uncover the boat wedged under the low lying bridge that also had several drains going across it.  One of the teens was killed in the accident, while five were injured.  All accident victims are under the age of 18.

Witnesses have stated that there are no lights around the area of the bridge at night and it is likely the teens never saw it coming.  The high school senior that perished in the accident was well known for his love of fishing and boating.  At least one of the injured teens will face a long road to recovery as he fractured his spine, along with other injuries.  Two others were listed as in critical condition. Continue reading →

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The latest in a series of South Florida boating accidents involves a well-known nightclub promoter and his severely injured girlfriend.  A video clip has emerged depicting the small pleasure craft racing towards a seawall near Miami Beach.  The speeding boat T-bones the concrete wall, as Coast Guard personnel race to the scene.  The boat then slowly emerged and began to drift into Biscayne Bay.

The driver of the boat, a 42 year old man, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse but had reportedly turned his life around.  The other passenger on the boat was his 23 year old girlfriend, a Princeton University graduate. She suffered severe head injuries and was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition.  She is currently in a medically induced coma.  The driver is also in Jackson with broken ribs and a broken collarbone.  The accident is currently under investigation.  It has been suggested that the driver blacked out at the time of the accident.

Biscayne Bay Has Been Home to a Number of Boating Accidents in Recent Years

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A mass of boats rushing to return to the marina after a Fourth of July fireworks show in Miami, Florida turned into a chaotic rescue operation when three of the boats collided at high speed, killing four people and injuring another dozen. This deadly boat accident occurred around 10:45 p.m. on Friday, July 4, 2014. It happened near the Dinner Key Marina in Miami. One of the boats involved was a 36 foot pleasure watercraft with a full cabin, while the others were open fishing style boats with outboard motors.

Rescuers spent hours following the accident attempting to determine how many people were killed, missing, or hurt. The darkness reigned confusion, and despair sunk in when the number of deceased victims continue to climb.

Though boating in the U.S. has become increasingly safe in the past few years, this Miami crash highlights the still lethal dangers. The U.S. Coast Guard reported 560 boating related deaths in 2013 and over 2,620 injuries. This equates to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 registered boats, which is a significant decrease in fatal accidents since 2011. Nevertheless, as this recent accident illustrates, accidents can still occur.

Our Miami boat accident lawyers have prepared the following list of the most common causes of boat accidents in Florida, intended to help you stay safe while hitting the waterways this summer.
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In August, a man took his friend, his daughter, and several other boys on a boating trip in the Florida Keys. When one of the young boys started to struggle while swimming off of the boat, Brian Kowalski did not hesitate to jump into the water to save the child from the rip currents that were pulling him away from the boat. He was able to save the child but lost his life in the effort.

Drowning deaths can happen in a variety of circumstances, but they are nearly always preventable. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a drowning accident, the skilled Miami personal injury lawyers and Wrongful Death Lawyers at Greenberg Stone and Urbano are committed to holding the responsible parties accountable for the harm that they caused.

A day spent swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the weather in the Florida Keys ended in tragedy when a little boy lost his grip on a trailing rope and a man lost his life saving him. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Mr. Kowalski was able to swim with the child back to the boat, but was not able to get himself back on board. Tragic accidents like these can be prevented if basic precautions are taken.
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Miami’s hit and run cases have now taken to the waters off the city’s coast. According to cbslocal.com, a couple coming back in their 13-foot Boston Whaler from Nixon Beach to Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, were struck by a 25-foot WhiteWater fishing boat that subsequently left the scene of the accident without providing any kind of assistance to the injured couple on the sinking Boston Whaler.

Hit and Run Victims Left to Die

Steven Hudson, 49, and his girlfriend Brenda O’Campo, 48, had spent the day at a sand bar near Nixon Beach and were coming back to shore when the accident happened. Mr. Hudson suffered serious injuries that left him bleeding from his head and nose. His girlfriend, Ms. O’Campo, only suffered non-life threatening injuries. They were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Thankfully, despite suffering hypothermia, Ms. O’Campo kept her calm and was able to call for help. Her frantic 911 call helped authorities find them. During the call she stated that her boyfriend was unconscious and bleeding, that she could not reach their life jackets or launch a flare and that their boat was taking on water. In the dark of night, she could not tell the rescue operator exactly where they were. To make matters worst, the impact knocked off the lights of the Boston Whaler.

Two rescue crews in helicopters and three agencies were involved in the rescue efforts. It took them nearly an hour to locate the sinking Boston Whaler and its occupants about two and a half miles off shore.

Hit and Run Boat Apparently Located

Later that evening, authorities were able to locate the boat that apparently struck the Boston Whaler at dinner key marina. A 25-foot WhiteWater fishing boat with damage consistent to that suffered in a recent collision was found and the owner stated that the boat had been stolen earlier that day.

Anyone can get involved in an accident, but not everyone commits a felony. Usually, people whose moral turpitude and selfishness makes them believe they are impervious to justice commit felonies. Law abiding (until then) community members decide one day to go boating and forget that drinking alcohol is as forbidden while operating a boat as it is while operating a car. They have a couple of drinks and get into an accident while boating. Suddenly realizing that they may have had one too many drinks and the gravity of their predicament, these until-then responsible people suddenly forget their legal duty to stop, as well as their duty as human beings to assist their victims, especially in cases like this, where the victims were left to an almost certain death had authorities not been able to find them before their boat sank. I don’t want to think about what might have happened to those two people, one of them unconscious and bleeding, had they remained in those pitch dark waters longer…
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According to the MiamiHerald.com, an annual report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has placed Monroe County (Florida Keys) as the number one most dangerous county for boating in Florida, with 93 accidents.

Alarming Increase In Boating Accidents

The report shows an alarming 20 percent increase in “reportable” boating accidents. The standard for a boating accident to be reportable is that it must involve a death, a serious injury or more than $2,000.00 in damages. Curiously, despite a decrease in the number of registered boats, the state saw an increase from 668 reportable accidents in 2010 to 742 reportable accidents in 2011. However, the number of deaths resulting from these accidents went down from 79 deaths in 2010 to 67 deaths in 2011.

The Keys saw five boating deaths and 43 injuries in the year 2011. Following Monroe County, Miami Dade County was the second county with more accidents at 75. Of those, three were fatal accidents and 28 were accidents in which people suffered injuries. It is significant to note that the boating accidents in Miami Dade cost $16 million in damages, while those in the Florida Keys cost $1.2 million in damages.

The other counties with significant numbers of boating accidents were: Palm Beach with 58, Broward with 41, Lee with 41, Pinellas with 36 and Collier with 34. Although boaters only suffered 20 significant accidents in Hillsborough County, they had the highest number of boating and watercraft related deaths at seven. Broward County had the same number of boating deaths as matched Monroe County: six.

According to the report the most common fatal boating accident was falling overboard, with drowning being listed as the cause of death in two-thirds of the cases. Boats or other watercraft hitting other boats or stationary objects was a very common kind of accident, happening in 313 of the 742 cases.

Careless Operation and Other Causes

The report cites careless operation as the most common cause (156 cases) of boating accidents. Also cited were mechanical failure, operator inattention, operator inexperience, bad weather and speeding. The most dangerous time of the day: the hours between 2 and 6 p.m.

Boaters Inexperience

I remember mentioning the jet ski accident in which Sean Kingston, a Miami native Hip Hop star suffered serious injuries, in one of our posts last year. Unfortunately, accidents like this happen every year in Florida waters. Sometimes, the watercraft operator is at fault. In other cases, the watercraft suffers mechanical failure or fails in some way to perform as it should, therefore causing the accident. Often, operators are not trained on how to safely operate their jet ski. Such seems to have been the case with Mr. Kingston, according to a police report released after their investigation into the causes of the accident.
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Sean Kingston, a Miami native Hip Hop star, was taken to Ryder Tauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital critically injured as a result of a jet ski accident late Sunday evening, according to the Miami Herald.

Struck Bridge in Miami Beach

According to Officer Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mr. Kingston, 21, was driving the personal watercraft with a female passenger on board at the time of the accident.
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Three people in a fishing boat that collided with a speed boat last Friday off the MacArthur Causeway were injured and transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The circumstances of the accident are still under investigation.

Boating Accidents Common in Florida

The Sunshine State, with it’s warm climate and beautiful beaches, is an ideal place for all sorts of water activities: boat and jet ski riding, water skiing, tubing, kayaking, parasailing, etc. However, often times, when these activities are carried out without adequate care the result is injury, pain, suffering and even death, instead of enjoyment. As recently stated by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Agency spokesman when talking about two separate incidents: “We’re the boating capital of the world so we’re also the boating accident capital”

In one case, a pair of jet skis operated by a husband and wife (with kids as passengers) crashed into one another, sending the wife to a Miami hospital with bone fractures and a major hand injury.
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