Boating Passengers: Avoid Doing These Five Things While on the Water

Boating in Florida can be an enjoyable venture year-round for many outdoorsy water enthusiasts. There are opportunities to catch fish of all kinds, check out wildlife, and enjoy a wide range of activities—including overnight trips and journeys along the Intracoastal Waterway. With all that fun, however, comes a list of safety measures that must be followed to make sure everyone comes back from boating in one piece.

No matter how much experience you may have on the water as a captain or a passenger, avoiding doing these five things while out boating:

  1. Drinking alcohol – although it may be tempting to get out on the water and party, alcohol and the sun are a dangerous mix, not to mention the safety hazards that may arise after judgment is impaired. Carrying a boatful of passengers who have been drinking is a bad idea—and if you are operating the vessel, be aware that it is illegal to drink alcohol while doing so. Too many boating accidents today—and fatalities—include issues with alcohol use.
  2. Overloading the boat – a boat brimming full of passengers is often a recipe for disaster, especially in a smaller boat which may be more susceptible to capsizing due to weather or an unexpected, large wake. Know the boat’s weight capacity and aim to stay under the limit.
  3. Riding in precarious areas of the boat – passengers should be safely seated while the boat is in operation. And although it may be tempting to ride on the bow or near the gunwales, enjoying the breeze—falling overboard and even possibly drowning is not worth it. All it takes is one sudden stop for the boat to hit an obstacle—or a large wake—and passengers may find themselves injured or in the water suddenly.
  4. Going without a life jacket – if you are a weak swimmer or do not know how to swim at all, putting on a life jacket at the dock and keeping it on until you hit shore is an extremely smart idea. By Florida law, children six and under must wear life jackets while on any boat under 26 feet.
  5. Failing to listen to the captain of the boat – many passengers are inexperienced, which makes this safety rule even more important. The captain may need passengers to go to the cabin if there is a storm or may need to issue other instructions depending on the area and conditions. The captain may also need help performing routine tasks or taking safety precautions while underway.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Boating Safety: Know What to Do in the Event of Capsizing

Whether you are a continually returning visitor or a resident, you have probably enjoyed boating in Florida at least once or twice.

The beaches, bays, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean are all very alluring—and it can be hard to turn down a day of cruising, along with so many different activities that accompany boating like skiing, wake surfing, fishing, and more. With around 12 million recreational vessels registered in the US—and usually just under one million of those registered to boat owners in Florida—the waterways are busy.

Amidst all the fun to be had in the boat—and in the water—safety hazards abound. And although many issues can be easily warded off with a comprehensive checklist to be followed before each trip, some accidents occur due to conditions on the water or the captain’s error.

The most common boating accidents happen due to carelessness (for example, the boat plug—an essential item—may be left out), excessive speeds, alcohol or drug use, weather issues, and large waves or wakes that can cause a boat to capsize.

Capsizing leads to a complete loss of control for those in the boat, and usually means being tossed in the water. Because of that, it is one of the most nightmarish scenarios. To avoid capsizing, there are numerous safety measures you can take:

  • Don’t overload your boat with people.
  • Prohibit passengers from riding on the bow, sides of the boat, on tops of seats, or other areas where they would be situated precariously.
  • Make sure weight is balanced evenly in the boat.
  • Avoiding speeding when making turns.

If you find yourself in such a situation, however, there are several important steps to remember:

  • Once you come up for air, be sure to grab on to something for flotation if you are not already wearing a life vest.
  • Do a headcount and try to account for all passengers, as well as tossing them a flotation device if possible.
  • Try to climb back on board the boat if it is still floating or available enough to hold onto for safety, even if just temporarily.
  • Focus on treading water or floating if you do not have a life jacket and the boat has floated away. Look for anything possible to hold onto.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Boating Deaths Continue to Rise in Florida: Alcohol Often Plays a Factor

Whether you are a native Floridian, long-time resident, or a return visitor, if you enjoy fresh air and being on the water, boating is usually on the agenda. Travel by the ocean, bay, or Gulf of Mexico means that you can relax and take in an enchanting vista—while also spending time with loved ones and making lifetime memories. Without the proper safety measures in place, however, a quiet day on the boat can turn into a nightmare—even if just due to maintenance issues.

With a safety checklist in place, you can make sure:

  • Engine, lights, bilge, battery, and fire extinguisher are in working order
  • Proper number of life jackets are on board
  • The boat is fueled and has sufficient oil
  • Safety mechanisms such as flares, horn, whistle, and emergency beacons are on board

A head count should be taken of passengers before leaving, along with gaining a sense for who can swim—and who cannot. After checking the weather forecast, you should be ready to leave the dock and have a great day boating. Operating a vessel is a tremendous responsibility that many take for granted—leading to far too many injuries and fatalities on Florida waters; in fact, boating accidents in the Sunshine State rose by a whopping 17 percent last year.

A clear head is critical to safe boating, but alcohol consumption often plays a role in boating catastrophes—just as in traffic accidents. Once judgment is impaired, it may become hard to navigate (especially if there is a lot of boating traffic) a smooth course, as well as get home safely if waters become choppy. If you have over-imbibed, just as in driving on the pavement, you can be arrested and charged—paying large fines and enduring legal consequences that are certainly not worth having a few drinks while outdoors. The greater worry though is that someone could get seriously hurt or killed due to alcohol consumption and boating—and that goes for passengers who are overindulging too, leading to potential for the number one cause of boating deaths: falling overboard and drowning.

An alcohol-free boat is the best route. By stocking up on water, soda, and other non-alcoholic beverages, you not only promote better safety, but eliminate the potential for dehydration during a day in the sun.

If you have been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

Florida Boating: Can Your Passengers Swim?

If only life could be so easy as going out and having a great time without having to worry about a list of to-do’s and minutiae!

Unfortunately, the rewards of kicking back are usually accompanied with tasks to do both before and after—and boating is a perfect example. Not only is there the maintenance of the boat (ongoing—and we all know what they say about boats and expenses) but a safety checklist that must be referred to before leaving the dock.

Boats can be a great form of recreation, allowing vacationers and Floridians to enjoy that famous southern sunshine as well as fresh air, saltwater, glimpses of a variety of wildlife, and quality time spent with family and friends. Under some circumstances though, they can lead to accidents and catastrophe.

While defective manufacturing or products are sometimes to blame, boating accidents often occur during the best of weather, under light winds and calm water.

For a number of reasons, boats may capsize, or passengers may fall overboard, leading to serious injuries or drowning. Swimming accidents can occur during a day of boating also, whether off the beach or while anchored.

Life jackets are one of the best ways to prevent drowning and are required by Florida law. As you make sure you have enough of them on board for all your passengers, take time to inquire about the swimming experience of everyone on board too.

This is helpful especially if you are planning a day with everyone in the water—as well as gaining a heads up on who may have weaker swimming skills in the case of an emergency. If you find out that one or more of your passengers are non-swimmers, you may want to ask them to wear a life jacket during the time they are on the boat or in water that could be deep enough for drowning.

If you are well-familiarized with the area where you will be boating, alert any non-swimmers to areas that are not good for wading or ask that they stay out of the water. This could be a life or death issue, so be sure to set boundaries as the operator of the boat who is responsible for getting everyone home safely.

Were you injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of others? If so, please call Heintz & Becker today to consult with a skilled boat accident lawyer. Our attorneys have helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses.

Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help, and if you cannot come to us, we will come to you.

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Boating Accidents: The Three Main Causes in Florida

We are drawn to the water for so many reasons—and in so many different places. In Florida alone, there are a multitude of places to go swimming, water skiing, boogie boarding, surfing, fishing, and more.

So many of these activities give us a chance to enjoy saltwater and fresh air, check out wildlife, and take advantage of therapeutic relaxation and fun. Safety is always a priority though around the water, and even more so when boating.

While operating a boat may seem easy enough, there is plenty to know beforehand. You must be fourteen or over to operate such a vessel in Florida, and if you were born after the beginning of 1988, a boating education course is required.

And even if you have been driving a car for years, when you head out on to the water there is a lot to learn. Unfortunately, injuries from boating accidents are all too common in Florida, and in the past few years, fatalities have been on the rise.

With a greater emphasis on safety, it is hoped that this trend can be reversed—and especially as boaters understand the main causes of accidents today:

1. Drinking and boating

Just like drinking and driving, indulging in alcohol while out on the water can lead to tragic consequences, and it is just as illegal if you are over the allowed limit. It is easy to get very relaxed out on the water, and it may sometimes feel like normal life just doesn’t apply as you bask in the sunshine, rocked along in the waves.

However, your body can be strongly affected by alcohol after a long day in the hot and humid weather, affecting your ability to make good judgment calls and arrive home safely.

2. Speeding and ignoring basic boating safety rules

If you are operating the boat, make sure to drive at a speed comfortable for you and your passengers, and slow down at appropriate times like turning. Take extra caution when waves are choppy, or weather conditions are poor or deteriorating. Boating in less than ideal conditions could cause your boat to capsize.

Keep the required number of life jackets on board for the size of your party, with children under six keeping them on when riding in a smaller boat. Even if everyone in your boating party can swim.

3. Ignoring boat maintenance

Along with basic care like changing the engine oil and making sure fuel levels are sufficient, always check the propeller before leaving the dock. Make sure the engine and bilge are in good shape, and check all peripheral items such as the lights, horn, fire extinguisher, anchor, radio, and more.

Getting stranded out on the water can lead to catastrophic results—when issues causing such a problem could have been easily diagnosed or prevented before leaving.

Have you or a loved one been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of others? Call our office for a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. We handle all types of Florida personal injury cases, and our law firm has established an impressive record of verdicts and settlements. If you have been seriously injured, call us now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Boating Caution: Always Perform a Safety Check Before Leaving the Dock

If you live in Florida, more than once you have probably heard, “Just jump in the boat—let’s go!” without any concern for boating caution. While taking off certainly can be that easy, it is recommended that all boaters go through a safety checklist before taking off for a day or evening of fun on the water.

Whether you are planning to catch some rays on a pleasure cruise, do some serious fishing, or go water-skiing or tubing, safety should always come first. Going down a safety list before departing should also give you—and your passengers—peace of mind in knowing that you are as prepared as possible.

Following is a good safety outline:

  • Complete an approved boater safety course, and carry your State of Florida Boating Education ID card with you when you are on the water. Individuals 14 and older can take the course and then go on to operate a boat.
  • Always check the weather report. While it may look bright and sunny in the morning, conditions can change quickly. Be aware of any impending thunderstorms, and if possible, continue watching or listening to the weather report periodically while you are on the water.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you intend to be back. Leave word with family or friends remaining behind on land. This is a simple detail, but one that is often overlooked, and it could save your life should you not return and/or lose communication.
  • Do a head count before leaving the dock. This is especially important if you have a larger party on board.
  • Ask if everyone knows how to swim; be aware of those who may have little to no experience in the water.
  • Provide lifejackets or flotation devices for everyone on board.
  • Check the bilge and engine operations, as well as all running lights, to be as certain as possible that everything is in working order. Make sure the boat is free of oil and fuel leaks.
  • All safety gear should be intact such as the fire extinguisher, horn, whistle, flares, and a stocked first-aid kit.
  • Take an inventory of water and food.
  • Avoid alcohol while operating the vessel. Boating while intoxicated is a leading cause of Florida’s boat accidents.

While you and your guests may be impatient to get going, every minute spent on a pre-boating checklist is well worth the time—especially when considering that Florida leads in boating fatalities, and there were 4,463 accidents last year. Unsurprisingly, those not wearing their life jackets are more prone to drowning, as well as those riding in or operating smaller boats.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, contact us now. At Heintz & Becker our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in helping  victims claim the compensation they deserve from negligent boaters.

Our firm has also handled many claims involving catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.

Boating & Drinking: Not a Good Mix

Sunshine. Friends and family. Fun on the water. In Florida, we all know this is a great way to spend any day, whether you are out fishing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, or just pleasure cruising. The goal is to relax and spend time with people you enjoy, while still making safety a top priority.

Alcohol Use Can Ruin a Good Day on the Water

As with any recreational scenario, all too often alcohol enters the picture and a good day spirals out of control, especially after a full day of activity and exposure to the sun.

While passengers enjoying alcohol in moderation is acceptable, the ‘captain’ should consider drinking and boating to be just as dangerous as drinking and driving a car. While it may be more difficult to assess whether someone is boating under the influence, the consequences can be just as catastrophic, or worse.

Statistics released for 2015 showed that there were 4,158 accidents involving boats in the US. There were 626 deaths, and 2,603 injuries reported by the Coast Guard—along with $42 million in damage overall. Out of the deaths reported, 22 were children under 13. In 17 percent of these cases, alcohol was listed as the primary factor. Continue reading

What Constitutes Negligence in a Boating Accident

Boating accidents happen all the time. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,158 recreational boating accidents in 2015. These resulted in 2,613 injuries, 626 deaths, and roughly $42 million in property damage.

Many of these accidents were caused by operator negligence.  Negligence in a boating accident can result in spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and wrongful death.

If you’ve been in a boating accident, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries.  Contact Heintz & Becker and schedule a free consultation with one of our boat accident attorneys. Continue reading

Heintz & Becker Boating Safety Series Part 12: Anna Maria Island Sail & Power Squadron Promotes Safety and Education

There’s a wonderful non-profit community organization in northwest Bradenton that has an active social network and is dedicated to providing boating safety and educational services to local boaters.  It’s called the Anna Maria Island Sail & Power Squadron and it’s located at 1200 71st St NW, Bradenton, FL 34209.  The Anna Maria Squadron is just one of 17 other Squadrons in West Central Florida that are affiliated with the United States Powers Squadrons. If you are a Manatee County boater, you’ll definitely want to check out their page on Facebook to see all that they have to offer. Continue reading

Heintz & Becker Boating Safety Series Part 11: Boating with Kids

There are few things more exciting to many kids than getting to go on a boat.  Not only is it a great way to have fun and enjoy the outdoors, it can be a great way to teach kids about safety, teamwork and responsibility.  When kids are introduced to safe boating at an early age, they are much more likely to become safe boaters for life.

Life Jackets and Sunscreen are a MUST! Alcohol is NOT!

sailboat kids cartoonWhatever the age, all children and adults should wear age-appropriate life jackets – no exceptions.  The better the fit and comfort, the less fussing and complaining you’ll get, so invest in a good quality, comfortable life jacket.  Remember, what you do while boating with your kids teaches your kids by example.  So, put on a life jacket yourself and leave the alcohol at home.  Before strapping on the life jackets you need to slather on the sunscreen.  Getting sunscreen on a bunch of wiggling kids is real work, but make it a rule – no sunscreen – no boat.  Top it off with protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.

 

Get The Kids Involved!

Next, bring on the gear and provisions.  Assign each kid some age-appropriate tasks like counting out 2-3 bottles of water for each person, helping make sandwiches, and packing healthy snacks.  Someone also needs to be responsible for making a list of what you’re bringing with you so you don’t accidently leave things behind.  More mature kids can also help check the weather forecast, make up your Float-Plan and communicate your plan to friends and relatives.

Be prepared to spend more time preparing, packing, unpacking and cleaning up than boating itself.  The smaller the kids, the shorter the trip should be.  Take things slow and teach boating safety in increments – what things are called, what they do, etc.  Kids want to learn how to do things themselves, so encourage them: give kids short lengths of rope and begin teaching them how to tie basic knots, let them help chart your course, check your lights, first-aid kit and other safety gear, and show them how to use your GPS.

Can I Drive?

Of course, what do kids want to be allowed to do more than anything?  Drive the boat!  Letting your kid drive the boat will give them a feeling of independence, control and responsibility.  Florida has no minimum age requirements to operate a boat.  A child may be allowed to “drive” under the supervision of a qualified, responsible adult who is responsible for the safe operation of the vessel (a person who is least 18 years old who is either exempt from the educational requirements or who possesses the required Boating Safety Education Identification Card).  Use this time to teach kids how to safely operate the controls, how to read channel markers and how to operate around other boats with courtesy.

Heintz & Becker hopes that parents will find this information useful.  Remember, be a good example, teach and explain, and give kids a chance to help and be involved.  We thank all of our readers who have helped to make our boating safety series a big success.  As always, Heintz & Becker’s experienced boating accident attorneys are standing by if you are ever injured as the result of someone else’s careless boating.

Source(s): Boating Magazine, “Boating With Kids”, posted February 4, 2009; BoatUS, “Boating With Children”, posted April/May 2015