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St. Petersburg Boat Accident Lawyers

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The St. Petersburg boat accident attorneys of Salter, Healy, Rivera & Heptner are committed to providing strong representation to boating accident victims and developing a personal relationship with you to ensure you collect in your case. Watercraft such as boats and jet skis can be dangerous, and people who suffer accidents while using these vessels can experience serious consequences. With nearly 30 combined years of legal experience and a reputation for civil trial law work, our lawyers have the skills necessary to deliver positive results in your case.

Why Choose Us

  • Our firm is dedicated to securing maximum compensation on your behalf. We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and jury verdicts over our years of operation.
  • Boat accidents can result in very serious, painful injuries. Our attorneys will handle your case from start to finish so you can focus on recovery, not complex litigation.
  • We understand that boat accidents often lead to financial hardship. That’s why our firm operates on a contingency fee basis—if we do not secure compensation on your behalf, you will not be charged legal fees.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Maneuvering a boat or a jet ski is different from controlling a car on the road, which means that more precautions and attention are required while operating these vehicles. Persons who are negligent or inexperienced at controlling their crafts can be held liable for their actions based on various conditions:

  • Erratic boating
  • Disregard for posted warnings
  • Improper or absent boating license
  • Improperly maintained equipment
  • Negligent boating
  • We identify the factors that contributed to your accident and determine the liable party.

National Boat Accident Statistics

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) monitors and reports on recreational boating accidents each year. According to its report on recreational boating incidents in 2020, the USCG counted 5,265 accidents that resulted in 767 fatalities and 3,191 injuries. Combined, recreational boating accidents in the United States led to approximately $62.5 million dollars in property damage.

Additional statistics on recreational boat accidents in 2020 include the following.

  • The most common type of boating accident involved collisions with another recreational vessel, contributing to 1,379 accidents, 66 deaths, and 831 injuries.
  • The next most common types of boating accidents included flooding, collision with a fixed object, grounding, and falls overboard.
  • The top contributing factor of 2020 boating accidents was operator inattention, contributing to 664 accidents, 55 deaths, and 383 injuries.
  • The next leading causes of recreational boating accidents were operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure.
  • Alcohol use also contributed to a large number of boating incidents, causing 296 accidents, 115 deaths, and 260 injuries.
  • In cases where the cause of death was identified, 75 percent of victims in fatal boating accidents drowned.

Legal Options After a Boating Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured after a boating accident, you have options for financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim. To obtain a fair settlement in these types of claims, you will need to prove that the other party is responsible for your accident and your resulting injuries. All boat operators have a duty to operate their vessels in a safe manner and to follow all applicable boating laws. If a boat operator deviates from this duty of care and causes your accident, you can prove his or her liability.

During the insurance claims process, an adjuster will investigate your accident and determine whether or not the policyholder’s actions were responsible. In a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to gather enough evidence to support the following four elements.

  • The boat operator owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident.
  • The boat operator breached his or her duty of care through a negligent act or failure to act.
  • The boat operator’s breach of duty caused your boating accident.
  • You suffered damages in the accident that you can recover in your lawsuit.

For example, say that you are injured in a collision with a boat operator who was under the influence of alcohol. Under Florida law, it is illegal to operate a vessel while drunk, and the operator breaches his or her duty of care by boating under the influence. You can use evidence like police reports, videos and photographs, witness testimony, and medical records to establish the breach and causation.

Getting Compensation for Your Injuries

When you have suffered a boating accident, our attorneys work hard to prove the other party’s liability. We leverage our significant trial law experience to secure compensation for:

  • Medical bills. Medical treatment can be extremely expensive. We secure coverage for your bills to give you a smooth recovery.
  • Rehabilitation costs. If you require physical therapy or other rehabilitation after your injury, we secure compensation for the costs.
  • Pain and suffering. Damages for pain and suffering, and loss of consortium are among the types of compensation we seek on your behalf.
  • Loss of wages. To compensate you for the time you miss from work, we seek damages to cover your lost wages and earning capacity.

What Are Florida’s Comparative Negligence Rules?

While you may be able to establish the other party’s liability, accusations of shared fault could harm your future claim. The boat operator or owner may claim that you were partially responsible for the accident in some way. If an insurance representative believes these statements, he or she could use them as justification to deny or reduce your claim.

If a judge accepts these claims, your award could be reduced according to Florida’s comparative negligence rules. The court will reduce the amount of compensation you can recover by the amount of liability you share. Even if you are up to 99% at fault, you can recover 1% of your original award.

For example, say that a boat owner claims that you were not paying attention to the water at the time of the accident. The court assigns you 40% of the liability. If you request a $100,000 settlement, you will only receive $60,000. In these situations, it is important to hire an attorney who can defend you against accusations of shared fault and preserve maximum compensation in your claim.

Boating Accidents and Liability Waivers

Some boat operators require passengers to sign a liability waiver prior to departure. The purpose of this waiver is to release the boat operator or owner from liability in case of an accident. However, liability waivers may be unenforceable if the waiver’s rights involved are unclear or ambiguous, or if the terms of the waiver are written in a way that the average person would not be able to understand them.

If you signed a liability waiver and are unsure whether you can pursue financial compensation, bring the document to a St. Petersburg boat accident attorney at Salter, Healy, Rivera & Heptner. Our lawyers can help you understand whether the document is enforceable and identify your optimal path to compensation.

What is Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Boating Accident Claims?

If you are planning to file a boat accident lawsuit in Florida civil court, it is important to act as quickly as possible. These lawsuits are subject to a rule known as the statute of limitations, which establishes a filing deadline for certain claims. If you do not file your lawsuit by the time the statute of limitations passes, the court will likely dismiss your claim—preventing you from recovering the compensation you deserve. You have four years from the date of your boating accident to file your lawsuit in civil court.

There are certain exceptions to this rule; for example, if you did not discover your injuries until a later date, the filing deadline will be based on the date of discovery. However, this situation is not common in boating cases and your deadline will likely fall on the date of your accident. Your attorney from Salter, Healy, Rivera & Heptner can help you identify the appropriate filing deadline and protect your right to maximum recovery.

Hire an Experienced St. Petersburg Boat Accident Lawyer

Boating accidents can be devastating to you on a number of levels, but excellent legal representation can grant you relief. The board-certified trial lawyers of Salter, Healy, Rivera & Heptner understand that your accident was not your fault, and we want to give you the representation you deserve at a rate you can afford.

Call our office immediately if you’ve been the victim of a boating or jet ski accident. We offer free consultations and will come to you if you cannot make it to our office. We do whatever it takes to ensure a great working relationship with our clients.

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