What Are Your Obligations After a Florida Boating Accident?
Florida has more registered boats than any other US state and, unfortunately, also leads the nation in the number of boat accidents reported yearly. Although most boat operators are careful and conscientious while on the water, accidents can still occur due to poor weather, excessive speed, lapses in concentration, or other factors. If you are involved in a boating accident, you are required by Florida law to remain at the scene, render reasonable aid to any victims, and inform local authorities or the Coast Guard of the incident.
You must also provide your name, address, and identification for your vessel to anyone who was injured in the accident or suffered property damage. If you strike an unattended vessel or property, you must make every attempt to find and notify the owner. Additionally, you may need to file a written report detailing the accident with the appropriate authorities. Failing to take these actions can potentially result in criminal charges, jail time, and fines. It is highly recommended to consult a knowledgeable Florida boat accident attorney to ensure you fully understand the state’s reporting requirements and the next steps you should take to recover compensation for the losses you suffered in the accident.
When Are You Required to File a Boating Accident Report?
In Florida, the following types of boating accidents must be reported:
- Incidents resulting in death
- Disappearance of a person under circumstances that may indicate death or injury.
- An injury causing a person to require medical attention beyond first aid.
- Damage to the vessel(s), nearby property or structures, and/or personal property totaling $2,000 or more.
If the accident involves more than one vessel, the operator or owner of each vessel must submit their own written report.
Where Should Your Report Be Filed?
A report of the boating accident must be made to one of the following entities:
- Division of Law Enforcement of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
- The sheriff of the county where the accident occurred
- The police department of the municipality in which the accident occurred
Your initial accident report can be made by phone by calling the FWC at 1-888-404-3922 or contacting the local police department. However, you will likely need to complete a full written report using this short Florida Boating Accident Self Report form and mail it to the Boating & Waterways Section of the FWC. The only time this written report is not required is if an Accident Investigation Report has already been submitted to the FWC by a law enforcement officer. If local police investigated your accident, you or your lawyer should seek further information from the authorities to confirm whether you need to file a separate report.
How Soon Should Your Report Be Submitted?
The initial notification call to the relevant authorities should happen as soon as possible after the incident. This prompt action ensures the well-being of everyone involved and allows law enforcement to investigate the accident as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence if emergency medical care or search and rescue operations need to be mobilized.
The deadlines for filing a written report depend upon the circumstances of the boating accident. The standard timelines for submitting all necessary paperwork are:
- Twenty-four hours: If anyone died as a result of the accident.
- Forty-eight hours: If anyone involved in the accident required medical care beyond basic first aid or an individual has gone missing following the incident.
- Ten days: If the accident only resulted in property damage.
What Types of Accidents Must Be Reported?
As noted above, boat operators or owners are responsible for reporting any boating accidents that cause over $2,000 in damage, result in injuries that require medical treatment, or lead to the death or disappearance of a victim. Some of the most common causes for these types of reportable accidents include:
- Collisions between two or more boats
- Sinking or capsizing of a boat
- Running aground
- Striking a stationary object, such as a dock, buoy, or signal marker
- Incidents which occur when moving a vessel into or out of the water
- Passengers falling overboard, leading to injury, disappearance, or death
- Watersport accidents, such as injuries caused by water skiing
What Information Must Your Accident Report Include?
When submitting a written report, filling in each applicable section and providing as much detail as possible to ensure a comprehensive report is vital. The FWC compiles this information into yearly boating accident reports, which play a key role when establishing state regulations and setting safety standards. Additionally, this information can prove crucial when filing an insurance claim. Required topics include:
- Vessel Information: This includes the vessel registration or documentation number, the name of the vessel, and the Hull Identification Number (HIN). The make of the boat should also be listed.
- Accident Information: Details about the accident, such as the location, the conditions at the time, the operator’s experience and training levels, and a brief description of what happened.
- Damage Information: Information about the extent of the damage to the vessel(s) involved and any other property, if applicable.
- Personal Information: Names and contact information of the vessel operator, owners, and any passengers. It should also include information about any injuries or fatalities that occurred as a result of the accident.
- Reporting Agency Case Number: If law enforcement was involved and a case number was assigned, this should be included in the report.
However, state law notes that you are not required to provide information to law enforcement or the FWC that would violate your privilege to not incriminate yourself. If you are uncertain how to properly handle the reporting of your crash, you should contact a trusted Florida boat accident lawyer as soon as possible for guidance.
How Can Our Law Firm Assist You?
If you’ve experienced an accident while operating a vessel on Florida’s waters, our experienced attorneys at Galimidi Law can help you understand and meet your reporting obligations. We can also explain your legal rights for recovering compensation from the liable party or parties. Seeking damages for boating accidents can often be more complex than car accidents because boat insurance is not required in Florida, and many private vessels are uninsured. However, our skilled lawyers can guide you every step of the way. Contact our office today at 305-692-0125 to schedule a free case evaluation.