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Articles Posted in Florida Boat Accident Law

boatrunsoverscull-300x22916-year-old Dominic Pagan of West Palm Beach was injured late Friday when a 32-Foot motor boat operated by Jay Vass ran over the scull which Pagan and his racing partner were rowing.  Pagan is a skilled rower recently placing seventh in a state rowing competition.

Vass admitted he did not see the dark-hulled scull and had no idea he had hit anything until he saw the scull’s hull sticking out of the water against his boat.  Vass immediately cut the engines and pulled Pagan onto his boat.

The impact of the collision trapped Pagan in the shell beneath the 32-foot boat and sent Pagan’s racing partner, Jonathan Blecher 16, about eight feet into the water.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dr. Thomas Connelly, a 68-year-old man and resident of Stuart, Florida in Martin County was windsurfing and heading south on the east side of the Stuart Causeway.  Bobby Ray Hall Jr., a 50-year-old man of Little River, South Carolina, was driving a 21-foot Sea King center console boat heading southwest toward the causeway from the eastside of the water way and was accompanied by a 12-year-old boy.

While traveling about a half-mile north of the causeway, the windsurfer and the vessel collided.  The operator of the vessel, Mr. Hall stopped and pulled Dr. Connelly out of the water and began administering CRP while returning to the Indian River Plantation dock.   Thereafter, Dr. Connelly was transported to Martin Memorial North Hospital, where he died.

Per news sources, Dr. Connelly was a dermatologist practicing skin cancer surgery and he reportedly treated over 75,000 cases of skin cancer.  Dr. Connelly is also described as a pillar of the Stuart community.

A 26-foot boat sank with six men on board during a night fishing trip two miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale Wednesday night.   A man on a charter fishing boat spotted something in the water and heard a man call out for help.  The man called the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale via an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast.  The U.S. Coast Guard arrived on the scene with Broward County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 10:00 p.m.  By the time rescuers arrived four men had already been pulled from the water.

With the help of the BSO’s helicopter, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to rescue the other two men in the water.  One of the men was found unresponsive when he was pulled out of the water and CPR efforts were started immediately.  Unfortunately, the man was later pronounced dead at Broward Health Medical Center upon arrival.  The other five men who were rescued were also taken to Broward Health and are expected to make a full recovery.

It is unknown what caused the boat to sink but according to news sources the vessel vanished quickly beneath the waves, leaving the men adrift and treading water for about half an hour in waters approximately 70 feet deep.

14-Year-Old-Boy-Airlifted-Jet-Ski-Accident-300x17014-year-old Brendan Gil along with his father, Alan Gil and his older brother Ethan Gil were participating on a guided jet ski tour near the Caladesi Island State Park on March 30 while on visiting from Lafayette, Colorado.  According to investigators of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Alan Gil made several rapid turns while operating his watercraft and turned into the path of his elder’s son watercraft colliding with the jet ski operated by his older son and on which Brendan was riding.   The collision resulted in all three individuals being thrown from the jet skis.  Brendan sustained serious, but not life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to Bayfront Health Hospital.  The accident is still under investigation and alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

Florida law regulates liveries and provides in part that “a livery may not knowingly lease, hire, or rent a personal watercraft to any person who has not received instructions in the safe handling of personal watercraft, in compliance with rules established by the commission pursuant to chapter 120.”  Those rules require instruction about the local characteristics of the waterway where the vessel will be operated” and/or “awareness of changes in weather or water conditions and proper responses to those changes” to name a few.

It is our experience that many accidents involving jet skis are the result of a lack of instructions and/or improper instructions being given by rental companies and tour guides to inexperienced operators.  In cases where we can prove that the statute regulating liveries and the rules promulgated thereunder have been violated we may be successful in establishing that the livery was negligent per se.

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Bodies-of-Men-Missing-Found-in-Florida-waters-300x169Jie Luo, a 21-year-old Colorado State student went missing March 14 after he and four others decided to go swimming jumping off a chartered yacht.  Luo and the four other swimmers were part of a group of 16 college students sailing on a charter boat in the Pass-A-Grille channel near the Gulf of Mexico while on spring break.  Due to a strong current and strong winds, Luo could not get back on the boat and the boat’s first mate, Andrew Dillman, 27-years-old, jumped in the water attempting to rescue Luo while the charter captain assisted the four other swimmers.

Unfortunately, both men were swept away by the current and went missing.  Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office searched for the missing men for days until calling off the search on March 19.  Shortly after, boaters found the men’s bodies south of where they originally went missing. Dillman’s body was found March 20 and Luo’s March 22.  We extend our sincere condolences to their families and loved ones.

Boat-Collision-Accident-300x177An interesting decision involving the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act was recently handed down in a ferryboat / speed boat collision case.  The accident occurred on February 16, 2013.  The ferryboat, carrying approximately five hundred passengers, was ten minutes into its thirty-minute voyage when it collided with the speed boat.  One man aboard the speed boat died from injuries and another was hospitalized.  No one aboard the ferryboat was hurt.   The captains of both the ferryboat and privately owned speed boat (pictured to the right) claim they did not see each other until it was too late to take corrective action to avoid the collision.  Evidence established that the ferryboat captain was using his mobile phone immediately prior to the accident.  The decedent’s estate and the injured victim claim that the ferryboat captain was distracted by using his phone and was therefore negligent in causing the fatal collision.

A favor tactic of defendants (and their insurance company appointed attorneys) in serious boating accidents is to file what is known as a petition for exoneration from or limitation of liability.  Under a century and a half old federal law, a defendant shipowner is allowed to file a lawsuit asking a federal judge to determine liability and to even limit an injured plaintiff’s recovery to the post lost value of the vessel.  This means that the damages available for plaintiff who is seriously injured could be capped at the value of a severally damaged vessel.  This federal law has been widely criticized by the courts some going as far as stating its, “a holdover from the days when encouraging commerce by sea was considered more important than providing full redress to victims of maritime accidents.”  Though generally not liked by the courts, the Limitation Act is still the law of the land and will be applied under the right circumstances.

In order to limit one’s liability under the federal law, the shipowner must provide that any negligence causing the accident was not within its “privity or knowledge.”  In order words, the shipowner was unaware and could not become aware of the negligent act where a reasonable investigation would have led to the request knowledge.  In this case, the owner of the ferryboat filed a limitation case in federal court arguing that it should be able to limit its liability to the value of the ferryboat at it was unaware the captain’s negligence of using his mobile phone.  The federal court rejected the ferryboat owner’s argument.  It found that there was no company policy that its captain could not use their phones when operating the ferryboats and that it knew that captains carried personal mobile phones while operated the ferries and permitted their use.  Based upon these factual finding, the court denied the ferryboat owner’s petition to limit liability to the vessel’s post loss value.

Christmas-Miami-Boat-Accident-300x171A boating accident occurred in Miami’s Biscayne Bay between Northeast 87th Street and Northeast Bayshore Drive Christmas night.  Witnesses state that a boat carrying fourteen people flipped over after hitting a wave while trying to enter a canal at the western edge of the bay.  An area resident who witnessed the incident stated that everyone was at the front of the boat.  Other witnesses stated that they did not see any of the boater wearing life jackets.  Another resident, Ron Stamey, attempted to help the group from his kayak.  He was able to get four of the fourteen out of the water.  Ultimately, Miami Fire Rescue responded to the scene.  Unfortunately, a woman was trapped under the boat.  By the time the woman was freed, she did not have a pulse and was not breathing.  The victim, identified as 80-year-old Lidia Tapanes, was transported to North Shore Medical Center.  Her condition is currently unknown.



sEARCH-FOR-MISSING-BODY-300x169Monday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., a man disappeared while jet skiing in the waters of Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida in the area off the Dolphin expressway east of 57th avenue. It is unknown how the accident occurred but 32-year-old Manuel Aponte was heading back to shore with other riders when his jet ski came to a sudden stop and he flew head first into the water and vanished.  According to witnesses, it was as if he had hit something with his jet ski because the jet ski stopped short and Mr. Aponte flew over it landing head first into the water. Fellow jet ski riders attempted to find Mr. Aponte without success.  Monday evening and Tuesday Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission continued the search for Mr. Aponte’s body until it was recovered at 7:00 a.m. this morning.  The investigation into how the accident occurred is ongoing and will likely continue for weeks.

Mr. Aponte was a husband and father of a 1-year-old boy. He was born in Cuba and had immigrated to the United States 9 years ago.  We extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

Alma_Lee_Loy_Bridge-300x225Jimmy Graves, a 15-year-old boy who attended Vero Beach High School, died after being thrown off his friend’s boat into the Indian River Lagoon.  The incident is being investigated by Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who stated the operator, a 14-year-old boy, have a boating license.

The boating accident occurred around 11 a.m. on December 4th.  It is being reported that Graves was thrown into the river when the boat hit a wave while towing another person on either a wake board or skis.  He was not wearing a personal flotation device and did not come to the surface.  Authorities are investigating whether Graves hit the propeller of the outboard motor when he fell into the water.  Shortly after the incident, a search began and tragically concluded hours later when Graves’ body was found by a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office dive team near the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.  A candlelight vigil was held on December 5th at Memorial Island Park in Riverside Park.

Boat Crash Black Creek Florida.jpgA woman was seriously injured when the Boston Whaler boat she was a passenger in hit an overhanging tree branch at approximately 30 mph while traveling around a bend in Black Creek, a 13-mile-long tributary of the St. Johns River in Clay County, Florida. Three other passengers of the boat also sustained injuries, one of them requiring hospitalization. The two passengers that were hospitalized were in the back of the boat at the time of the crash. According to the operator of the boat, Charles Spiegel, upon coming around the bend he encountered an overhanging tree branch and he “cut it hard and broadsided the tree branch.” Both passengers transported to the hospital were alert when they were being taken to Orange Park Medical Center. However, they were reportedly in a lot of pain. The Clay County Sheriff’s Department is assisting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in investigating this accident.

Black Creek is a winding creek known by locals as a difficult area to navigate with many sharp turns. In 2011, Black Creek was the site of a fatal boat crash that resulted in the death of two teenagers. Reportedly, the operator of the boat left control of the boat to pump the fuel bulb when the boat veered into the north bank and crashed into a tree three feet off the water. The operator of the boat and father of one of the deceased passengers was charged with reckless boating.