Injured in a Recreational Boating or Water Sports Accident?
Get Advice From an Experienced Miami Boating Accident Lawyer
A boating or watersport accident can happen just about anywhere on or near the water. These types of incidents can result in serious injuries that leave victims with large medical bills, financial struggles, physical pain, and emotional suffering. The laws governing accidents involving personal watercraft, yachts, and other recreational vessels can be extraordinarily challenging to navigate on your own. At Brais Law Firm, we have vast experience representing individuals and families that have suffered losses and damages in water-related accidents. Our firm handles all types of recreational boating and watersport cases, including claims involving:
- Personal watercraft accidents. Accidents involving Jet Skis, WaveRunners, and other personal watercraft can be caused by many different factors. Some of the most common causes include speeding, reckless operation, distractions, alcohol use, and failure to follow navigational rules. Individuals who are injured because of operator negligence may be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries.
- Defective watercraft cases. Defective Jet Skis, WaveRunners, and other personal watercraft products can be extraordinarily dangerous. Not only can operators and passengers suffer serious injuries when a watercraft malfunctions or goes out of control, but people who are swimming in surrounding areas can also be hurt or even killed. These types of claims involve complicated facts and there may be multiple parties who are legally responsible for the injuries. Our firm knows how to thoroughly investigate defective watercraft cases and we pursue all available legal avenues on behalf of our clients.
- Boating accidents. Boating accidents are more common than we would like to think. In fact, according to U.S Coast Guard reports, nearly 4,500 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2016 alone. Whether the accident involved a motorboat, pontoon, canoe, kayak, or other recreational vessels, a boating accident lawyer has the knowledge and resources to help injury victims get fair and full compensation for their losses and damages.
- Yacht accidents. Yacht owners and operators are required to comply with a host of boating rules and safety laws. When these rules and laws are violated and an accident occurs, operators and owners can be held liable for ensuing injuries and damages. At Brais Law Firm, we understand navigational rules and safety laws. When a yacht accident occurs, we undertake a complete examination so that we can help our clients recover the compensation to which they are entitled.
- Ferry, tour boat, and charter vessel guest accidents. Our firm has vast experience representing individuals who have been injured on ferries, tour boats, and charter vessels. We handle all types of claims, ranging from slip and fall accidents on wet decks and passengers overboard to physical and sexual assaults. Because the attorneys with our firm have years of prior experience representing these operators, we have an inside understanding of what is required to bring a successful claim.
- Sightseeing and dinner cruise accidents. Whether it’s a snorkeling adventure, sunset sail, or a private party on the water, sightseeing and dinner cruises are popular activities for vacationers and residents alike. Unfortunately, passengers and crew members can suffer serious injuries when the operators of these voyages are negligent. At Brais Law Firm, we understand the complex body of laws (known as maritime law) governing accidents and injuries that occur on the water. If you have been injured on a sightseeing or dinner cruise, our team will examine your case from every angle so that we can build a powerful case on your behalf.
Determining Liability for a Recreational Boating Accident
If you need to file a claim for any type of recreational boating or watersport accident, you must first determine what type of claim to file. Boating accidents can occur under a wide range of circumstances and involve a wide range of issues, and this means that a wide range of parties can potentially be responsible.
When you hire a boat accident lawyer to represent you, he will go through a three-step process to determine how he or she can seek just compensation on your behalf. The steps in this process are:
- Determining the cause of the accident
- Determining who (or what company) is responsible
- Determining what insurance coverage is available
Step #1: Determining the Cause of the Accident
Determining liability for a recreational boating accident starts with determining the accident’s cause. This involves conducting an investigation, and it is extremely important that this investigation take place as soon as possible. You will want to hire a boat accident lawyer promptly. Once hired, your attorney will need to send an experienced marine accident investigator to examine the scene and each of the boats or personal watercraft involved.
Your legal counsel can also contact the U.S. Coast Guard to find out more information and seek to collect evidence through various other means as well. Based on the evidence gathered, your attorney will then work to identify the factors that led to the accident.
Common causes of recreational boating and watercraft accidents include:
- Boating in dangerous water conditions or bad weather
- Boating under the influence (BUI)
- Collisions with other vessels or stationary objects
- Distracted boating (including talking on the phone, taking pictures and talking to passengers)
- Improper anchoring or mooring
- Inexperienced boating or watercraft operation
- Poor boat or watercraft maintenance
- Prop strikes
- Running aground
While these are among the most common causes of recreational boating and watercraft accidents, they are by no means the only potential factors. To protect your legal rights, you need to work with an experienced boat accident lawyer who can evaluate all potential causes based on his or her knowledge of boat and watercraft design, safe boat operation, weather and water conditions, and maritime liability laws.
Step #2: Determining Who (or What Company) is Responsible
Based on the factor (or factors) that caused your accident, your boat accident attorney will be able to determine who (or what company) is responsible. As expanded upon in the list below, this could be someone onboard the vessel on which you were riding, someone onboard another vessel, or some other third party.
To pursue a claim for a boating or watercraft accident, you need to know where to file your claim. Which insurance company do you need to contact? If you need to file a lawsuit, which court has jurisdiction? These are critical questions—if you don’t file the right claim, you won’t have any chance of recovering the financial compensation you deserve.
Depending on the cause of a recreational boating or watercraft accident, the parties that may be liable include:
- The captain of the boat that hit your boat
- The owner of the boat that hit your boat (whether an individual or business)
- The captain, a crewmember or another passenger of the boat in which you were riding
- A boat manufacturer, marina, or maintenance company
- A charter, sunset cruise or expedition company
Similar to the list of possible causes above, these are just examples. From marinas to commercial ports, and from cargo ship operators to cruise lines, various other entities could be responsible for your accident as well. To assert your legal rights effectively, it is imperative that you hire an experienced boat accident lawyer who can conclusively determine and prove responsibility for your injuries.
Step #3: Determining What Insurance Coverage is Available
After your attorney determines legal responsibility for your injuries, he can then focus on determining what insurance coverage is available. In the vast majority of cases, boat accident claims are resolved through insurance settlement negotiations. If the party that is responsible for your recreational boating or watercraft accident has liability insurance, recovering just compensation will most likely involve dealing with that party’s insurance company.
There are several ways to determine what insurance coverage is available following a recreational boating or watercraft accident. The easiest way is to collect the other party’s insurance information at the scene. But, if this wasn’t an option in your case, your attorney can pursue other methods of identifying the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Insurance Claims for Recreational Boating Accidents
Let’s focus for a moment on the most common scenario: You were injured in a recreational boating accident, and you have a claim against either a vessel operator or a vessel owner.
All recreational boat and watercraft owners and operators should have liability insurance. While boat insurance is not required in Florida, responsible boaters will carry insurance to protect themselves (and others) in the event of an accident. So, let’s say you have an insurance claim. What happens now?
Once your boat accident lawyer investigates and determines liability, he or she will file a claim with the operator’s or owner’s insurance company. At this point, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation. But, while your attorney’s investigation will focus on uncovering the facts, the insurance company’s investigation will focus on finding any possible way to deny your claim for coverage.
After conducting its investigation, the insurance company will make a determination of liability. If it accepts liability, your lawyer’s efforts will focus on negotiating a favorable settlement (or preparing to go to trial on damages if necessary). If it denies liability, your attorney will need to use the evidence gathered from his or her investigation to prove that the denial is unjustified.
Once your insurance claim gets past the liability stage, the next major task is proving how much you are entitled to recover. This involves calculating the costs of your present and future medical treatment, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses. It is essential that you work closely with your attorney during this stage of the process. The more you can do to help prove your losses, the more you will be able to recover.
If the insurance company makes a settlement offer, your Miami boat accident attorney will help you decide whether to accept. If you accept, you will receive a settlement check, and your claim will be over. If you reject the offer and the insurance company refuses to offer more, your claim will need to proceed to court.
FAQs: Seeking Financial Compensation for a Recreational Boating Accident
What Should You Do if Someone Hits Your Boat?
If someone hits your boat, there are some important steps you should try to take right away. This is true whether the incident happens at a marina, boat landing, dock or on the open water.
You should call the U.S. Coast Guard or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement from the scene. You should exchange insurance information with the other boater, and you should take lots of photos. If you were injured in the accident, you should seek medical treatment promptly, and you should talk to a boat accident lawyer as soon as possible. Reporting the accident is required, and taking these additional steps will help maximize your chances of obtaining just compensation.
How Can You Prove that Another Boat Hit Yours?
Proving that another boat hit yours requires evidence. While you can’t use skid marks like you could after a car accident, there are still plenty of ways to prove which boater is responsible for a collision. The location of impact on each vessel, the extent of the damage to each vessel, eyewitness reports, and video footage can all be used to prove liability for a recreational boating or watercraft accident.
Is It Worth Getting a Boat Accident Lawyer?
If you’ve been injured in a recreational boating or watercraft accident, it is absolutely worth talking to a boat accident lawyer about your legal rights. Boat accidents can be incredibly expensive, and the cost to repair or replace your boat could be just a fraction of your total accident-related losses. An experienced attorney will be able to determine who (or what company) is responsible, accurately calculate your losses, and fight to recover just compensation on your behalf.
What are the Costs Involved in Pursuing a Boat Accident Claim?
Pursuing a boat accident claim can entail various costs. For example, your lawyer will need to hire an investigator, and it may be necessary to hire divers, boat engineers and other marine experts as well. At Brais Law Firm, we take care of these costs while our clients’ claims are pending, and we only recover them if we help our clients recover just compensation. As a result, you are guaranteed to pay nothing out-of-pocket when you hire our firm to represent you.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Miami Boating Accident Lawyer at Brais Law Firm Today
When you are hurt in a recreational boating or water sports accident, it can be difficult to figure out who you can turn to for help. The attorneys at Brais Law Firm have decades of combined experience helping people who have been injured in all types of boating accidents. Call us today to schedule an appointment with our boating injury lawyers.
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Awesome team of legal professionals!! I can't thank Mr. Brais and his team enough for helping me through the worst experience of my life. Had it not been for their dedication to seeing things through. I would be in a very bad place. I highly recommend Brais Law firm.