What Is the First Thing You Should Do After a Boating Accident?

Florida is a boater’s paradise, from oceans to lakes and local waterways. Unfortunately, not all boaters take water safety seriously. The careless actions of another can transform a day at the beach into a nightmare.

If disaster strikes, would you know what to do? Can you navigate the challenges posed by a boating accident and its aftermath? At Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A., we want to prepare you for what to expect following a boating accident in Florida. When you understand your rights and responsibilities, you can better protect yourself and your family.

Boating accidents are similar to motor vehicle accidents in that some of the steps you take following a collision are the same. Contact the authorities, check for injuries, and exchange information with the other boaters. In the case of boating accidents, the appropriate authorities include:

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Law Enforcement
  • The local sheriff’s office
  • The police department in the municipality where the accident occurred

What else do you need to do immediately after a boating accident? Consider these steps:

Assessing the Scene: Ensuring Safety and Providing Aid

One of the first things you need to do following a boating collision is to assess the scene. Are there people in the water? Does anyone need immediate medical assistance? Your first duty should be to ensure that you and everyone around you are safe. If there are people in the water, be sure to help them out of the water and onto a vessel, especially if they aren’t wearing life jackets. Debris, boat propellers, and other watercraft can pose significant dangers to those caught in the water. If boaters are injured, attempt to offer medical assistance to the best of your ability.

Understanding the Legal Obligations: Reporting the Boating Accident

Know your legal obligations. Boaters involved in accidents must remain at the scene of the crash. It is illegal to flee the scene without aiding those involved and contacting the proper authorities.  

When Should I Contact a Lawyer After a Boating Accident?

After a significant boating accident, the question should not be “if” you contact an attorney. It should be “when.” The sooner you seek legal assistance, the more time your attorney has to gather crucial evidence before it can be lost or destroyed. An attorney can protect your rights and help you through the compensation claim process.  

Documenting the Accident: What Information Should You Gather?

Documenting the accident scene can help reveal valuable information about the crash. Take photographs of the scene, your injuries, and the damage to both vessels when possible. Ask for the contact information of witnesses to the accident and gather information from the other boaters involved. Do not talk about the accident, do not apologize, and do not lay blame. Keep your interactions with others short and factual.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our clients usually have questions when they come to us. We’ve answered some of those we hear most often for you here.

How Long Do I Have to Report a Boating Accident?

Always contact the authorities immediately after a boating accident to protect yourself and strengthen your compensation claim. The authorities can help manage the scene, keep other boaters away, and assist the injured. Florida requires boaters involved in accidents to report collisions as soon as possible and in the quickest way they can. Federal law requires boat operators and owners to report boating accidents within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

Never leave the scene of a boating accident. You must remain at the site of the crash. When involved in an accident, contact the appropriate authorities and attempt to offer aid to those in need. According to Florida law, it is a third-degree felony to flee the scene of a boating accident without first complying with all reporting requirements.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect If I’m Injured in a Boating Accident?

Generally, you can seek compensation for your financial losses after a Florida boating accident by submitting an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit. Seeking aid from a skilled Florida boating accident attorney as soon as possible is essential. An attorney can review the circumstances of your case and help direct you toward the path that offers you the best chance at recovering maximum compensation.

Remember, boat insurance is not mandatory in Florida, unlike car insurance and PIP coverage. When an individual takes out a loan and uses their boat as collateral, most lenders require that person to carry boating insurance. Additionally, some marinas in Florida require proof of boat insurance before allowing a boat on the water. Sometimes, though, your only means of pursuing compensation may be through a personal injury lawsuit against a careless boat operator.

The compensation you may recover from a personal injury lawsuit depends on the severity of your injuries and the cause of the accident. Typically, you can attempt to recover money for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering

An experienced Florida boat accident attorney can review your unique situation and estimate the value of your case.

What If the Boating Accident Was Partially My Fault? Can I Still Make a Claim?

Worried about pursuing the money you need because you were partially at fault for causing an accident? The good news is that Florida follows a modified comparative fault model for personal injury cases. Under the modified comparative fault rules, the compensation you can recover after an accident depends on the share of fault you bear for causing the crash.

If you are 20 percent to blame for causing a boating accident, modified comparative fault means your compensation diminishes by 20 percent. You can recover money for your losses even if you are partially to blame. However, if your share of fault exceeds 50 percent, you cannot recover compensation from the other party.

If you need help recovering compensation for your financial losses following a Florida boating accident, discuss your situation with an experienced boating accident attorney at Schuler, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A.. Contact our office today by calling 561.689.8180 to arrange a free consultation.



Last Updated : December 7, 2023

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