Boating 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.
Our firm specializes in civil maritime personal injury and death law. Though our office began as a defense firm, we now exclusively represent people and families who were the victims of the negligence of others. Two of our named partners, Keith Brais and Richard Rusak, are Board Certified in the area of maritime law by the Florida Bar. The asset of having two maritime law specialists who have firsthand knowledge of the defense perspective provides insight on how the opposing lawyers likely analyze the case. This is a very useful asset in a BUI personal injury or death case.
An intoxicated boat operator is presumed to have caused the accident. Moreover, under maritime law, the drunk operator bears the burden of showing that his intoxication not only was not the cause of the accident, but could not have contributed to the accident. This is a very hard burden to overcome. Lawyers defending a boat accident involving alcohol will often times try to show that their client was not over the legal limit by calling into question into law enforcement’s handling of the case. This tactic is designed to create doubt that their client was over the legal limit and should not be presumed at fault. The defense lawyer will then attempt to blame the accident on other factors such as weather or another boats.
In bringing a Florida boating personal injury or death claim involving an intoxicated operator, obtaining and preserving evidence is key. We take a very aggressive approach in our representation of boating accident victims. Our team gathers all relevant documents, obtains scientific data for the time and location, take witness statements, visit the accident scene and boat or boats involved and retain the necessary experts to present a very accurate case. This helps prove the responsible party is legally at fault and liable for our client’s damages.
This article is meant to provide a brief overview of how we handle a BUI injury or death claim. If you or a family member was a victim of boating under the influence and have questions as to your legal rights, please feel free to contact our firm. We are happy to spend time listening to your concerns and answering your questions.