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What are my rights if I fall overboard?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Boating Accidents

Falling overboard is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation. If you are in such an unfortunate event in Florida, it’s important to understand your rights and the legal protections available.

While this can be a scary situation, being informed can help. Your rights if you fall overboard while on a boat are highlighted here.

Immediate rescue and assistance

Under federal and Florida state law, the operator of a vessel must render immediate assistance to anyone who falls overboard. This includes stopping the vessel, throwing a flotation device and trying to rescue the person. Failure to provide such assistance can result in significant legal consequences for the operator, including criminal charges and civil liability.

Reporting the incident

Boating accidents, including incidents where someone falls overboard, should be reported to the local sheriff’s office or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) if they result in someone disappearing or injuries that require medical treatment. The report must be made as soon as possible but no later than 48 hours after the incident. If you do not report the incident, it may lead to consequences like fines and more.

Liability and compensation

If you fall overboard due to someone else’s negligence, such as the boat operator’s reckless behavior or failure to maintain safe conditions, you may have the right to seek compensation. This can cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other related costs.

Rights under maritime law

Maritime law (also known as admiralty law) protects individuals who suffer injuries on navigable waters, including the waters around Florida. The Jones Act, for example, allows seamen to claim compensation from their employers for injuries resulting from negligence. While the Jones Act does not cover recreational boaters, similar negligence and duty of care principles apply.

It is important that you know your rights, which can help you understand what to do in the aftermath of a fall-overboard incident in Florida.