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The lures of offshore fishing in South Florida can be intriguing. Boaters who gain experience fishing inshore decide to get braver and don’t heed the dangers of exploring further offshore for better fishing. Flat, calm seas can trick even the most experienced boaters into pushing the limits of safely navigating their boat and passengers further offshore. However, the seas can turn rough and weather can change in an instant, especially in South Florida. Suddenly rough weather can be standing between the boat and shore leaving boaters and their passengers to rely on only their seamanship skills and the capability of their boat to get them back to shore safely. Most times it will be just a hairy, slightly alarming trip back to shore. But what happens when the consequences of a boat captain’s poor judgment leads to serious injuries or even death?
Florida law defines Boating Negligence in Florida Statute 327.33. The Statute states “any person operating a vessel upon the waters of this state shall operate the vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner, … and all other attendant circumstances so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. The failure to operate a vessel in a manner described in this subsection constitutes careless operation.”
While rough sea conditions are out of most skippers control especially as South Florida’s weather can change in an instant. It is important to note that boat captains are responsible to operate their vessel in a prudent manner. Failing to heed severe weather warnings, acting in total disregard of passenger safety, and otherwise ignoring any obvious signs of danger is a form of negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or even loss of life due to boater negligence, contact that attorneys at Zimmerman & Frachtman. Our boating accident lawyers are experts in Maritime Law and proving boating negligence.
When rough seas are present any boat can be in danger of capsizing and/or swamping. Some common factors that can contribute to dangerous waters include:
- Strong winds and wind direction
- Choppy or otherwise rough sea conditions
- Potential for waterspouts
- Hard rain
Florida does not mandate boaters to carry a “boating license.” In fact, not all boaters are even required to undergo a boating safety course. Florida law requires that only persons born on or after January 1, 1988 need to complete an approved boating safety course. Therefore inexperienced boaters may not recognize or have the experience to deal with varying dangerous weather conditions. Boaters should be prepared to recognize and be able to act in a responsible manner to deal with what’s going on around him. Additionally, they should know if their boat is prepared to face dangerous water conditions.
Navigating dangerous waters and rough seas puts unusual strain on boats, no matter what size. Mechanical, structural and even electrical systems that are critical to a boat can fail in dangerous waters. Tips for keeping a well-maintained boat to deal with any conditions include:
- Maintaining fuel lines as they are notorious for failing
- Poorly maintained gears may fail when you need them the most
- Keeping fresh fuel in the boat
- Continually inspect and change fuel filters and water separators
- Stow gear and tie down objects such as coolers of dive equipment
Contact Zimmerman & Frachtman Today
If you or a loved one has been injured or died due to a boating accident or a personal watercraft accident and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please contact Zimmerman & Frachtman online or call (954) 504-6577.
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