Recently in Florida Boat Accident Law Category

August 24, 2016

Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals

Miami-Dade Canal Boat Accident Law.jpgThe Federal Eleventh Circuit recently found that a Miami-Dade County canal popular for boating and fishing is not navigable thereby precluding claims based upon Federal admiralty jurisdiction. Since Federal admiralty jurisdiction does not exist, Florida state law, not Federal maritime law applies to boating accidents that occur in many South Florida canals.

The Accident

A privately owned pleasure boat was operating in a waterway known as the Coral Park Canal. While the boat was traveling south, it encountered a bridge with low clearance at the intersection of SW 94th Avenue and SW 8th Street. The operator and four passengers lowered their heads while the vessel passed under the bridge. As the boat emerged from the other side of the bridge, one passenger raised his head and hit a water pipe owned by Miami-Dade County that extended over the canal. The force of the impact ejected the passenger from the boat and into the canal causing a significant personal injury.

Continue reading "Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals" »

August 4, 2016

Teen Injured After Jet Ski Collides With Channel Marker


A 16 year-old teenager was airlifted yesterday after he was thrown off a jet ski when it struck a channel marker. The teenager was jet skiing near Fred Howard Park in the Intracoastal Waterway. His condition is not known at this time.

According to reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a nearby boater assisted in getting the young man help. The FWC is currently investigating the accident. We sincerely wish the young man a speedy recovery.

This is the second accident of this type this week alone. On Sunday, a Miami man was killed when he was involved in a nearly identical accident near the Julia Tuttle causeway.

It is important to remember that personal watercrafts are not equipped with brakes and thus operators have to be extremely wary of objects on the water, such as channel markers, other PWCs and boats.

Additionally, the likely first instinct when encountering an object is to let go of the throttle and turn the handlebars in another direction to avoid the object. However, to turn the PWC you have to advance the throttle to provide the thrust necessary for it to turn. Thus, if a person lets go of the throttle, the PWC will continue to move in the direction it was going when the person released the throttle, regardless of the direction the person moves the handle bars.

We strongly recommend anyone engaged in recreational boating or watersport activities to obtain training prior to such activities. It can really mean the difference between life and death.


Good Samaritan Pulls Injured Jet Skier Out of Water, Teen Airlifted to Hospital, ABC Action News, August 2, 2016.

August 1, 2016

Man Killed in Personal Watercraft Accident

0-417-green-marker.jpgA man was killed Sunday, July 31, 2016 when the personal watercraft he was operating slammed into a channel marker causing him to be thrown off the vessel and to hit the marker. Two women riding with him were also thrown off the watercraft. The accident occurred near Picnic Island, south of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. All three persons involved were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital where the man was pronounced dead. One of the women sustained serious injuries to one of her legs. The other woman suffered bruises and has already been released from the hospital.

According to reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the man was going in circles at a high rate of speed and he lost control of the Jet Ski hitting the channel marker. FWC officials continue to investigate the crash.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and a speedy recovery to the two women injured.

Florida boating safety laws differ as to the requirements for operating a personal watercraft making a distinction based upon age, residency, and whether the person owns the watercraft or is renting it from a livery. However, we strongly urge anyone operating a personal watercraft to participate in a boating safety course to learn about navigation rules, reckless operation, environmental concerns, propulsion, steering, etc.


Personal Watercraft Accident in Picnic Island Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured, Miami Herald , July 31, 2016.

1 Killed, 2 Injured in Personal Watercraft Accident Off Miami, WSVN 7 News, July 31, 2016.

July 14, 2016

Law Enforcement Investigating Florida Boating Accident Wherein Child Died from Injuries

Florida Law Enforcement Boat Accident.jpgLaw enforcement is conducting an investigation into a boating accident that killed a 7-year-old child in Charlotte County, Florida. The incident occurred about 9 a.m. on the morning of July 9th near the Stump Pass area of Placida. The boy was in a 20-foot boat with his father and 11-year-old brother. Reports indicate that the boy was sitting at the back of the boat when his father turned on the engine. Unfortunately, the father applied too much throttle which caused the boy to fall off the back of the boat and into water. The boy made contact with the engine's propeller severely injuring him. The child was transported to the Englewood Emergency room where he later died from his injures.

Officer Stuart Spode of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission stated "at this time we believe it was just an unfortunate accident.". No charges are pending against the father.

July 12, 2016

Two Women Injured in Jet Ski Accident

Two women sustained injuries as a result of a personal watercraft accident, Monday, July 11, 2016 about a mile and half south of Bill Baggs State Park, near Key Biscayne. WSVN reports that both women were on the same Jet Ski when it ran aground, throwing them into the water.

One of the women sustained neck and head injuries and was airlifted to Ryder Trauma at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The second woman was taken to Mercy Hospital with facial injuries.

Perez of a party boat nearby found the two women and rendered assistance to them. According to Capt. Perez the more seriously hurt woman "couldn't move and was floating in the water."

The names of the two women and their condition have not been released. The cause of the accident is under investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials.

Our firm has seen an increase in personal watercraft accidents in large part due to the failure of liveries to provide adequate pre-rental instruction to their customers. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §327.54(1) the pre-rental instructions should include and need not be limited to instructions regarding 1) the operational characteristics of the vessel to be rented, 2) safe vessel operation and vessel right-of-way, 3) the responsibility of the vessel operator for the safe and proper operation of the vessel, and 4) local characteristics of the waterway where the vessel will be operated.

Our lawyers have handled multiple personal watercraft injury cases and have been successful in establishing the negligence of liveries involving the failure to provide adequate instructions before the renting of a personal watercraft. If you were injured during a personal watercraft rental and would like to know more about your legal rights, feel free to contact our offices.


2 injured in personal watercraft accident near Key Biscayne, WSVN, July 11, 2016.
2 injured in personal watercraft accident near Key Biscayne, Sun Sentinel, July 11, 2016

Photo Credit:

WSVN, 2016 Sunbeam Television Corp.

July 11, 2016

7-Year-Old Boy Killed in Boating Accident


A seven year old was killed while boating on Saturday July 9, 2016.

The boy, his father and 11 year old brother were on their boat, in the water, near Stump Pass Marina in Charlotte County, Florida just before 9 a.m. According to news sources, the boy was seated at the back of the boat when his dad turned on the engine and switched it into gear.

It appears the throttle bounced and the movement caused the boy to be thrown from the 20 foot boat into the propellers.

The child suffered heavy trauma to his abdomen and was taken to Englewood Community Hospital where he later passed away.

We are saddened by this tragic incident and our thoughts are with the boy's family.


Child dies in Charlotte county boating accident, NBC2, July 9, 2016.

7-year-old killed, thrown from boat in Charlotte County, Winknews, July 9, 2016.

Boy, 7, dies after Charlotte County boating accident, ABC7, July 9, 2016.

Photo Credit:

ABC7 news.

July 1, 2016

Coast Guard Orders July 4th Slow Speed Zone in Biscayne Bay for Second Year

For a second consecutive year the Coast Guard has ordered an expanded 15-knot (17mph) speed limit for large areas of Biscayne Bay on July 4th. The temporary slow speed zone includes the areas between Turkey Point and the Julia Tuttle Causeway. This safety measure is a direct result from multiple July 4th boat accidents including the deadly accident in 2014 where four people died in a collision near Dinner Key in Coconut Grove. The slow speed zone will be in effect from 7 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. The Coast Guard along with Florida and local law enforcement agencies will have an increased presence during the period to ensure boater safety while transiting the bay during night hours. Below is a chart showing the expanded slow speed zone.


Source & Photo Credit: Coast Guard News

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.


Action News Jax

Photo Credit:


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

Florida Waverunner Injury Law.jpg


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


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

Carnival Pride.jpg
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" »