Recently in Florida Boat Accident Law Category

June 29, 2016

Florida Intracoastal Waterway Boat Accident Leaves One Dead and Others Injured

Gonzalez_Pfannkuch_Boat_Accident.jpgDylan Gonzalez of Port Charlotte, Florida died in an early morning June 19th boating accident. Gonzalez was fishing with his friend Billy Pfannkuch on a 19' Ranger flats boat. Near 4:20 AM, the two men heard another boat's engine coming towards them. That boat was a 20' Lake & Bay operated by Dalton Reas and carrying four passengers. Pfannkuck reported to law enforcement that the boat operated by Reas was on plane in a no wake zone portion of the Intracoastal Waterway near Eldred's Marina and Placida Harbor. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who is investigating the accident reports the larger Lake & Bay boat struck a channel marker before colliding into the smaller Ranger boat. As shown in the above photograph, it appears that the Lake & Bay struck the Ranger on the starboard (right) aft (rear) quadrant with significant force. Gonzalez was transported to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries. Pfannkuch, who was ejected into the water from the crash, suffered a fractured collarbone and pelvis. A GoFundMe page was created to help with Pfannkuch's medical and family expenses as he is expected to be out of work for at least three months.


Boat run-over accidents in Florida have spiked in recent weeks. Often times a contributing factor to these run-overs is one boat failing to comply with safety laws. It has been reported that the Lake & Boat may not have had its running lights one. Both Federal and Florida law requires that a boat underway at night to display a certain configuration of lights so that others make observe the speed and direction of the boat.

Photo Credit:
Boca Beacon

June 28, 2016

One Dead Two Injured in St. Lucie County Boating Accident

Cody_Troska.jpgOne man has died from injuries after a boating accident in St. Lucie County, Florida. According to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report, 20-year-old Dominic Dragan was operating a 20 foot center console Pathfinder by "running in circles, jumping waves and showing off." While running the vessel in circles, Dragan was thrown off into the water with his boat still circling around him.

Three witnesses swam out from shore to assist Dragan by attempting to board the unmanned vessel and cut off the engine. While attempting to board the Pathfinder, the vessel also ran them over. The three men were taken to the hospital where one of them, 26 year old Cody Troska, died from a head injury. The other two, 23 year old Luke Muccigrosso and 22 year old Andres Blanco, were also injured but survived. Dragan was not injured.

The FWC report indicates that Dragan may have been under the influence at the time. It seems that with each summer there is a spike of boating accidents where alcohol or drugs are involved. We recently blogged about boating under the influence of alcohol in Florida and civil liabilities associated when someone is injured by an intoxicated operator.

Photo: Cody Troska (Facebook)

June 28, 2016

A Legal Approach to Florida Boat Run-Over Injuries

Florida_Boat_Accident.jpgInjuries caused by boat run overs occur with some regularity in Florida. Just in the past week, Logan Farquhar of St. Augustine lost his leg when he and four others in a fishing boat were run over in the Tolomato River by a ski boat.

Our law firm has vast experience in handling personal injuries resulting from boats running over victims who were either in the water or on another watercraft. One of our recent cases involved a snorkeler who was run over by a speed boat in South Florida. The impact by the boat's propellers caused significant injuries to our client including a nearly severed left arm and fractured pelvis. Another case we recently handled involved a passenger who was run over by a Yamaha WaveRunner while riding as a passenger on the back of another personal watercraft. This accident resulted in our client suffering fractures to her left tibia and fibula. These cases are just examples of the various types of boat accident injury claims our attorneys handle.

Continue reading "A Legal Approach to Florida Boat Run-Over Injuries" »

June 27, 2016

St. Augustine, Florida Man Loses Leg in Boating Accident

Logan_Farquhar_vilano_bridge_boating_accident.jpgSt. Augustine, Florida Man, Logan Farquhar, was fishing with his fiancée Billie Inman and two others when a large ski boat ran them over near the Vilano Bridge on the Tolomato River on the night of June 25th. Inman told News4Jax reporter, "I woke up and I was inside the boat with another boat on top of me and water rushing in." The ski boat fled the accident scene after the collision but was apprehended by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The four victims were able to make it back to shore with their lives but Logan Farquhar lost his leg. Before first responders were able to arrive on scene, Inman placed a tourniquet on Farquhar's leg which doctors commented that could have saved him from bleeding out.

The boats involved in the accident were taken into custody by Florida law enforcement. Given the ongoing investigation, the name of the ski boat's operator has not yet been released. Farquhar's medical bills will likely be significant. Inman set up a GoFundMe page to help with these medical expenses.

Sources:

Action News Jax
News4Jax

Photo Credit:

WOKV

June 24, 2016

Florida Boating Under the Influance of Alcohol Accidents

Florida-Alcohol-Boating-Accident-Lawyer.jpgBoating accidents in Florida mostly occur during the summer months. The bays and rivers along Florida 1,197 miles of coastline has many sand bars where people congregate to enjoy the warm weather. This vast coastline brings many boaters and boating accidents. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that there were 737 boating accidents last year and nearly half involved collisions. This is 103 more accidents than in 2014. Out of the 737 accident, 55 boaters tragically lost their lives.

It is no secret that some boat operators become intoxicated. As it is often said, drinking and boating do not mix. Florida has a breath alcohol level of 0.08 for a boat operator to be intoxicated. When an alcohol related boating accident occurs, the operator typically has two legal problems. The first is criminal, the second is civil. Civil law is designed to monetarily compensate someone who was injured or family members for the loss of a loved one. Compensation for an injured person may include damages for pain and suffering, lost income and medical bills. Compensation for someone who lost a close family member may include mental pain and suffering as well as loss of financial support, companionship.

Continue reading "Florida Boating Under the Influance of Alcohol Accidents" »

June 14, 2016

Personal Watercraft Rental Release and Waiver Found Void Under Florida Public Policy

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Background

In a very tragic case, the Florida maritime lawyers of Brais Brais Rusak represent a woman who sustained life altering brain and physical injuries from a personal watercraft accident which occurred in the Florida Keys. Our client and boyfriend, who were guests at Hawk's Cay Resort, decided to participate in a sightseeing personal watercraft tour guided by Sundance Watersports who maintains a watersports concession on Hawk's Cay property. The couple paid for the tour and were given a Release and Waver to sign. The tour guide walked the couple down to an equipment shed and floating dock where the life jackets and personal watercrafts were stored. At the equipment shed, the tour guide gave the couple a Renter Orientation Checklist to initial and sign. It was revealed in deposition testimony that the tour guide did not go over the information contained in the checklist. Furthermore, it was testified the tour guide did nothing more than to provide instruction on how to turn on and off the personal watercraft. In fact, from the metadata of the photographs taken, it was shown that one minute and forty seconds at most was spent on instruction.

Continue reading "Personal Watercraft Rental Release and Waiver Found Void Under Florida Public Policy" »

June 6, 2016

Maritime Law Found to Apply to Recreational Boating Personal Injury Claim

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Background of Case

Matthew Ficarra was a guest on Bruce Germain's 38-foot motor boat, Game Day during an recreational excursion on the shore of Lake Oneida near Brewerton, New York. Mr. Ficarra, Mr. Germain and three others headed to Three Mile Bay, a shallow popular recreational swimming spot. After a day spent on the water, the decision was made to return to Brewerton. While Mr. Germain and others prepared the vessel for the return trip, Mr. Ficarra dove off the port side into the water. He climbed back on board and entered the water again, this time doing a back flip from the back of the boat. Mr. Ficarra struck his head on the lake floor and sustained severe injuries including serious spinal cord injury causing paralysis and quadriplegia.

Mr. Ficarra sued Mr. Germain in New York State Supreme Court, asserting claims of negligence under New York law. Mr. Germain, through his insurance company's appointed lawyers, removed the law suit to the United States District Court for the Northern District Court of New York and filed a Petition for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. Mr. Ficarra moved to remand the action to state court and dismiss the limitation proceedings for lack of matter jurisdiction. He argued that the claims alleged in his complaint were not within the scope of federal admiralty jurisdiction.


Trial Proceedings

The trial court judge dismissed Mr. Germain's petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "holding that a recreational injury occurring on a recreational vessel anchored in a shallow recreation bay of navigable waters could not disrupt maritime commerce and did not bear a sufficient relationship to traditional maritime activity" and remanded the case back to New York state court.

Appellate Proceedings

The remand and dismissal was appealed. The appellate court rejected the emphasis that the trial judge placed on the recreational nature of the vessel and its passengers as well as the location of the incident in shallow waters noting that "the Supreme Court has never indicated that it matters whether the navigable waters at issue were shallow or deep." Instead, the appellate court focused on the fact that the incident occurred on a vessel and in open water. The appellate court recognized that there are many instances where vessels sail along shallow waters and they may still effect maritime commerce, for example fishing boats or boats taking paying passengers to shallow, hard-to-reach bays for snorkeling, diving, and countless other situations. Applying the multi-part inquiry test for admiralty tort jurisdiction stated by the Supreme Court in Sisson v. Ruby, the appellate court held the underlying claim fell within the scope of admiralty tort jurisdiction because it met the location test, as it occurred on navigable waters.

Additionally, the claim met the connection test: 1) that the general type of incident has a potentially disruptive effect on maritime commerce; and 2) the general character of the activity giving rise to the incident bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. Based upon this legal analysis, the appellate court found that the underlying negligence claim falls within federal admiralty jurisdiction.

This opinion highlights the fact that many injuries which occur on navigable waters are considered maritime claims. It is imperative that people injured while boating are aware that their negligent claims could be governed by maritime law as opposed to state law. Often times different damages can recovered, there could be shorter time for which claims have to be filed in court, and the boat owner may seek to limit liability under federal law.

If you were injured while recreational boating and would like to learn more about your legal rights under maritime law, feel free to contact our firm. We are an established maritime and admiralty firm exclusively focused on protecting the rights of people injured by the negligence of boat owners and operators.

May 9, 2016

Carnival Cruise Ship Crashes Into Passenger Gangway

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The Carnival Pride after deporting from Baltimore

A Carnival cruise ship has crashed into a passenger gangway in Baltimore, Maryland, while attempting to dock after a 7 day Bahamas cruise. Media are reporting that the gangway was knocked over by the ship onto 3 parked cars. Luckily, no one was in any of the vehicles and no one was injured. The ship, the Carnival Pride, only sustained minor damage to the bow and is expected to depart on its next cruise as scheduled.

Although cruise ship "crashes" are a rare event, Carnival has experienced a number of various types of accidents in recent years. In 1995 the Carnival Celebration was adrift in the Bahamas for two days after losing power to an electrical fire. The Carnival Ecstasy caught fire in 1998 but was luckily still near the port of Miami and the fire was doused by rescue fire boats. The Carnival Tropicale was left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico in 1999 due to an engine room fire, leaving passengers no option but to wait out a tropical storm that occurred after the ship became disabled. A fire that broke out in the generator room left the Carnival Splendor disabled off the Western Coast of Mexico in 2010 until it was eventually towed to port in San Diego.

Continue reading "Carnival Cruise Ship Crashes Into Passenger Gangway" »

April 18, 2016

Florida Parasailing Accidents and Pre-Injury Releases

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Florida parasailing operators often use liability waivers or releases to attempt to escape responsibility when customers are injured under their care. Another common defense parasailing operators try to use to escape liability is the assumption of risk defense, meaning that the customer "assumed the risk" and is liable for his or her own injuries.

Pre-injury releases do not always provide the defense that negligent parasailing operators rely on. Courts consider pre-injury releases to be against public policy in cases where an operator ignores laws that are meant to prevent accidents.

The Florida Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Lawyers at Brais Brais & Rusak ("BBR") specialize in representing injured clients against parasailing operators and jet-ski rental companies that require their customers to sign pre-injury releases. When a tourist's parasailing adventure turns into a tragedy and he or she finds themselves in a trauma center with life altering injuries, parasailing companies and their lawyers are immediately preparing to defend themselves with pre-injury release forms, assumption of risk defenses, and even with old Maritime laws like the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act. A good Maritime attorney knows how to get around these common defenses in order to help injured clients and their families hold negligent business owners/operators liable so that they can start to heal and get their lives back on track.

Continue reading "Florida Parasailing Accidents and Pre-Injury Releases " »

March 12, 2016

Lantana Area Man Injured in Intracoastal Boat Accident

Danny-Pena.jpgNews outlets are reporting that Daniel Pena, a 33-year-old-man from the Lantana area, was knocked off his boat after making contact with a large wake cast from a passing boat in the Intracoastal Waterway. After entering the water, Pena's boat ran him over and the propeller of the outboard engine struck his head. The incident caused Pena to lose all his teeth and part of his tongue. He remains in intensive care at Delray Medical Center and his doctors opine that his injuries will require at least 20 rounds of reconstructive surgeries to his skull, mouth, nose and cheeks. He will be transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital to undergo the additional surgeries.

Pena had his nephews, Daniel and David Garza, of West Palm Beach, ages 29 and 26, respectively, and their friend aboard his 18 foot center console Mako flats boat. Daniel Garza entered the water to save his uncle and pulled him back on to the boat. While rescuing his uncle, Daniel suffered a slight injury. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident.

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October 6, 2015

Cargo Ship El Faro with 28 American Crew Members aboard Sunk Off the Bahamas

El_Faro_Sinking_Law.jpgThe United States Coast Guard confirms that the 790 foot cargo ship El Faro went down off the Bahamian coast with 28 American crew members aboard. The 41-year-old vessel was sailing from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico to deliver cargo. It is reported that the vessel lost power while trying to sail around the approaching Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island. With no power the crew took a direct hit from a weather system which had estimated 140 mile per hour winds producing waves up to fifty feet. The Coast Guard found a 225 square mile debris field from the El Faro days after communication was lost. Within it was the awful discovery of a deceased crew member in his survival suit. At the time of this blog entry, no survivors have been found. The Coast Guard is continuing its search. The El Faro's owner, Tote Maritime, has set up a website providing periodic updates.

Continue reading "Cargo Ship El Faro with 28 American Crew Members aboard Sunk Off the Bahamas" »

September 22, 2015

Operator Who Left the Scene of a Biscayne Bay Boating Accident Wanted by Law Enforcement

FWC Biscyane Bay Accident.jpgThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking for a boater who left the scene of an accident last Sunday after his boat injured a man in Miami's Biscayne Bay. According to law enforcement, the victim was helping the other person push their boat off and was badly cut by the propeller. The boat operator then left the scene. The victim was brought by fireboat to Sea Isle Marina and then transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The boat is described as white, 20 feet long with a different color Bimini top.

Continue reading "Operator Who Left the Scene of a Biscayne Bay Boating Accident Wanted by Law Enforcement" »

September 21, 2015

One Dies Four Injured in Florida Intracoastal Waterway Boating Accident

Pompano Beach Boat Accident.jpgSeveral news agencies are reporting a fatal boating accident which occurred last Saturday night in the Pompano Beach, Florida Intracoastal Waterway. Though no eye witnesses have yet to be identified, at least one person heard the accident. Tracia Latino stated that she was watching television at her home when she heard a crash which sounded like thunder. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the incident, said two boats, one carrying five people and the other carrying two collided around 8:21 p.m. Authorities were notified that one person went missing after the crash. The Coast Guard halted all boat traffic for several hours in order to conduct a search for the missing boater. After a long search by several agencies throughout the night, the body of the missing man was recovered Sunday afternoon. Law enforcement later identified the man as William Alfred Ineson, Jr.

Continue reading "One Dies Four Injured in Florida Intracoastal Waterway Boating Accident" »

September 8, 2015

Gator Park Airboat Crash Leaves Several Injured

Everglades Airboat Injury.jpgTwo airboats collided Monday injuring several people. It has been reported that the accident sent at least twenty to area hospitals for treatment. Fortunately, no fatalities have been reported. The accident occurred at Gator Park located approximately 25 miles from Miami. Miscommunication between the operators is being blamed for the crash.

Typically when such incidents occur, the tour boat company files a special proceeding in Federal Court called a petition for exoneration or limitation of liability. This legal maneuver is designed to give the company a distinct litigation advantage over the injured people seeking compensation. First, this proceeding requires the injured parties to bring their claims in Federal Court without the benefit of a jury. Second, it attempts to convince a federal judge to exonerate the company of any wrongdoing or limit the liability to the post-accident value of the airboats involved. Often times, the value of the boats are far less than the value of the personal injury claims.

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June 2, 2015

Ft. Lauderdale Intracostal Boat Accident Law

Fort Lauderdale Intracostal Waterway Boat Accident Lawyer.jpgWe have been following the tragic story of Dalton Joseph Shirley who lost his life when a center console boat he was riding on crashed into a concrete dock in the Intracoastal Waterway behind a house located on Northeast 38th Street, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We learned from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that two others aboard the boat, Justina Coronez and Austin Lail were also seriously injured.

Though the accident occurred in the highly populated intarcostal waterway within the city limits of Ft. Lauderdale, federal maritime law governs the actions of the boat operator and dock owner which lead to this most unfortunate event. Often incorrectly called a collision, when a moving boat strikes a stationary object on the water it is called an "allision". Under maritime law, the moving object, here the center console boat, is presumed at fault under what is called the "Rule of the Oregon". This presumption may be rebutted in certain situations.

After a boat accident such like this, there are many unanswered questions. Was there something wrong with the boat, was the operator impaired, was the dock properly lit, did another boat contribute to the accident? One thing is for sure, the insurance companies for the boat operator and dock owner will hire seasoned maritime investigators to interview witnesses and gather documents. Often times, the investigators lead the witnesses into making statements helpful to their client should a lawsuit be filed. The insurance companies will also hire experienced maritime attorneys to defend the boat operator and dock owner. These attorneys are very skilled in maritime law and will use the law to their clients' advantage. One possibility is that a Petition for Exoneration From or Limitation of Liability may be filed asking a federal court to exonerate the boat owner or limit his liability to the post-accident value of the vessel. This is all orchestrated to lessen the potential recovery for the victims. The insurance companies' best efforts, however, may be overcome by a skilled lawyer representing the victims.

The maritime board certified attorneys at Brais, Brais & Rusak are fully aware of the tactics employed by insurance companies and their lawyers. Each of our partners have started their practice in maritime firms routinely appointed by insurance companies in such situations. We now ONLY represent victims. Our knowledge of how insurance companies handle Florida boat accident claims, as well as experiences handling boat crash lawsuits first as defense attorneys now as plaintiff attorneys, gives us unique insight in such legal matters. If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of a Ft. Lauderdale boat accident, feel free to contact us. In such traumatic times, we are more than willing to travel to you for a face-to-face consultation where we could discuss your rights.