Boats and Personal Injuries: What You Need to Know
While the rest of the country prepares for fall, Florida residents are still getting the most out of summer. With the kids back at school, some of us may even be able to enjoy the weather more than we did in the warmer months, particularly if you own watercraft. Regardless of whether boating is a family, personal, or simply recreational affair, it has its associated dangers. Warm weather often lends itself to boating, and boating often leads to social gatherings that inevitably lead to drinking. This is evidenced by an increase in drunk boating accidents around the warmer month holidays. As of the beginning of September, seven individuals lost their lives due to drinking-related boating accidents in Miami.
Drinking, Driving, and Florida Law
Operating a boat requires the same attention as driving a car; thus, it is unlawful in Florida to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol. Florida’s standard in determining chemical intoxication is a .08% blood alcohol content in adults over 21, or .02% for those under 21. A first-time offender will receive a minimum fine of $500 and imprisonment for up to six months. The fine increases to $1000 for a second-time offender, and imprisonment of up to nine months. A third offense is a felony in the third degree, punishable by an extremely long prison sentence.
In addition to punishing those who drink and drive a boat, Florida has many other laws designed to protect others enjoying the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is one of many agencies responsible for the carrying out and enforcement of boating policies. From boat registration, life jacket, and lights at night requirements to limits on speed, the state is serious about monitoring the vessels on the waterways. Additionally, a new law passed in 2010 requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 to obtain a FWC-issued identification card to legally operate many types of boats.
Not all boating accidents involve alcohol. A fatal boating crash in August 2014 did not lead to drunk driving charges, as the police did not have probable cause to believe the operator of the boat that crashed into the victim had been drinking. Probable cause is the standard an officer must satisfy before making an arrest or requiring certain actions such as a blood alcohol test. Without heightened suspicion of drinking, officers cannot require a driver to conduct such tests under state or federal law.
What if I get Hurt in a Boating Accident?
Boating is a fun recreational activity that many Florida residents and visitors enjoy. Even if you are complying with the law, it is important to have heightened awareness for those around you that may not be. If you or anyone you know has been involved in any type of boating accident, regardless of whether alcohol was involved, our experienced Miami boat accident attorneys can help you navigate your legal rights. If someone you know lost their life due to a boating accident, we can also help with a possible wrongful death claim. If you were injured, we may be able to help you recover medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering damages. Regardless of the circumstances, contact Alan Goldfarb, P.A. today to learn more about your rights after a boating accident.