Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Ricardo V. Alsina

Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Michael A. Winkleman

Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes.Read More »

Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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Boating safety checklist for springSpring is just around the corner. Soon, it will be time to put away those coats and hats, and take out your shorts, your cooler, and get your boat or jet ski ready for the season. Yet, before you go out on the water this spring, there are some important things you should consider to make sure that your boat and jet skis are safe.

Our boating accident attorneys here at LMAW see more accidents in the spring due to increased traffic. Poor maintenance and lack of proper safety equipment sometimes contributes to these accidents and, in some cases, a lack of proper safety equipment exacerbates emergencies. If you’ve kept your boat in storage over winter, it may need some patching up, and your equipment might need to be double-checked. Cold weather can damage your equipment, so it’s best to make sure everything is working before you head out onto the water.

First off, it’s important to note that every boat is different, and the kinds of checks you’ll perform for a motorboat will be a little different than the kinds of checks you’d perform for a sailboat. Always read your owner’s manual and perform any safety checks recommended by the manufacturer. Continue reading

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boating accidentAny boating accident attorney at our firm can tell you that though there are several maritime laws across the United States that were enacted with the purpose of regulating safety on open waters, tragic accidents continue to occur. Sometimes, the laws in place are not strict enough and do not sufficiently protect the safety of boaters. Other times, boaters ignore these laws and engage in reckless actions, such as drinking while boating or speeding, which can lead to serious – if not fatal – outcomes.

Unfortunately, many boating accident victims are unaware of their rights – especially rights concerning their safety and rights to take action following injury or loss of a loved one. However, the parents of two young women who were killed in unrelated boat accidents in Lake Marion last year in South Carolina took a stand, hoping that their tragic experiences can call attention to the dangers of boating, as well as lead lawmakers to improve maritime safety regulations in the state.

And, it appears as though their efforts have proved successful. A recent news report explains that two state senators have already proposed safety regulations they believe will allow boaters to enjoy their time in open waters, while also (and most importantly) allowing them to remain safe.

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boating accidentsAccording to the U.S. Coast Guard, drunken boating is responsible for more fatal accidents that any other factor. More states are enacting harsher penalties for drunken boating. For instance, boaters who are caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher in Florida are subject to penalties similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol. A first offense carries with it a fine up to $1,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months. A second offense brings with it a fine up to $2,000 and imprisonment up to 9 months. If a person’s blood alcohol level is found to be much higher than the legal limit, offenders face more serious charges including required substance abuse treatment courses and mandatory community service.

These harsh penalties are put in place because drunk boaters pose a very real and serious risk to other people out on the water. On January 20th, a drunken boater received a jail sentence of 5 to 15 years for causing an accident that left two people dead. Brandon Verfaillie who was responsible for the deadly accident expressed his regret. His speedboat slammed into a cabin cruiser on the St. Clair river. He was found to be drunk at the time.

Thanks to Boaters Against Drunk Driving, more states have enacted harsher penalties for boaters who choose to drive while under the influence. Boaters Against Drunk Boating has also been monitoring drunk boating cases throughout the U.S. to ensure that boaters who are accused of drinking and boating are convicted and sentenced for their offense.

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Boaters these days have access to more technology than ever to keep themselves safe when they hit the high seas. Modern technology has allowed boaters to accomplish extraordinary feats safely that would otherwise have been unimaginable in times past. While Magellan might have sailed around the world in 1522, his crew did this without GPS or other key devices that made for a safer crossing. These days, devices like satellite phones and positioning systems have made it possible for youths like Laura Dekker to sail alone around the world, safely.

So, with the spring boating season just a few months away, it’s time to consider what new gear you’ll be buying to make your boat safer and your boating experience more enjoyable. Here’s a list of the top five high-tech boating devices our boating accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. believe will help keep you safe out at sea:

  1. GPS. Modern GPS systems have made it possible for novice and experienced boaters alike to know exactly where they are in the ocean. Modern GPS devices rely on satellites to locate the position of a boat on the water. GPS devices also have the added benefit of helping boaters identify underwater terrain. This can prevent boaters from getting stranded in shallow water. Some GPS devices even help fishermen identify the location of schools. When deciding which GPS device to purchase, boaters should consider the number of satellites the device uses, the size of the screen, and what kind of additional alarms and safety features the device includes.
  2. Wireless Radars. These days, boaters can have their very own radar station on board the ship. Some of the more high-tech devices link up to an iPhone or iPad, allowing boaters to get up-to-the-minute weather reports. Boaters can avoid patches of severe weather using the device, or navigate around storm cells. These devices essentially provide boaters with their very own on-board weather station.
  3. Night Vision. Many boaters who choose to boat at night have been investing in night vision equipment. Thermal imaging cameras allow boaters to identify potential obstacles. Furthermore, this equipment allows boaters to successfully navigate in foggy, smoky, or particularly stormy conditions.
  4. Satellite Hotspots and Cell Service. If your phone isn’t a satellite phone, it can be difficult to maintain communication with loved ones if you leave areas where there is no cell phone service. If you’re traveling out into the sea, having cell phone service can mean the difference between a quick rescue and long days at sea without contact with land. For individuals who don’t want to invest in a satellite phone, there are devices that can turn your existing phone into a satellite device. Many of the services cost about $40.00 per month, plus the cost of the device. The system works anywhere in the world.
  5. Electronic Charts. Gone are the days where boaters have to carry around heavy and cumbersome nautical charts that could get wet, torn, or stained. Now, electronic charts offer up-to-date navigation information for boaters. Because these charts are more readily updated, boaters don’t have to worry about hitting new underwater obstacles.

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In the wake of the holiday season, our boating accident lawyers have seen numerous reports of accidents and injuries that could have easily been prevented. Last month, a three year old girl had to be airlifted to the hospital in Santa Cruz when the boat she was riding aboard flipped and hit rocks. San Jose Mercury News reported that the vessel was attempting to reach the shore, despite high swells, when the accident occurred. The boat was a rental and the business had warned its patrons about how to approach the shore safely. In this case, negligence and recklessness led to needless injuries suffered by a child.

This incident highlights the inherent risks of navigating in shallow waters. Fortunately, there are many things responsible boaters can do to prevent these types of boating accidents. Here are some important tips you can follow: Continue reading

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boating accidentsRob Konrad’s recent – and miraculous – story of survival, where he explains he swam 9 miles to shore after falling from his vessel while fishing, offers a terrifying reminder of the inherent risks of an accident at sea. Konrad explained that he had several opportunities to be rescued while he was swimming toward shore. On one occasion, he noticed a vessel about 50 yards away. Despite his attempts to flag the vessel for help, the boat passed him by. On another occasion, the Coast Guard, despite using lights and other spotting equipment, failed to see him in the water. Konrad explains that when the Coast Guard left him, he knew for sure that he was on his own.

Though Konrad survived, his experience is not one that is typical for boating accident victims, and highlights the dangers solo boaters face when they go out to sea alone, especially of falling overboard. Fortunately, there are several measures boaters sailing alone can take to protect themselves when they head out for a day of fishing or exploring. Here are a few safety tips that the boating accident lawyers at our firm have outlined, which can help increase a victim’s chances of survival:

 

1) Wear a life jacket

This one goes without saying. Life Jackets are often the only line of defense that a boating accident victim has to survive. They are extremely critical because they will keep a victim afloat, even if the victim is injured or unconscious – which is especially important for solo boaters. Continue reading

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Rob Konrad, boating accidentWe recently wrote about Miami Dolphins Fullback, Rob Konrad’s harrowing nine mile swim to safety following a boating accident in South Florida waters. However, the exact circumstances surrounding the cause of the actual accident remained unclear, until now. In the past several days, Konrad has opened up about his perilous journey to shore. He addressed a press conference on Monday to speak about his traumatic adventure.

Konrad explained that “an unusually large wave” struck his vessel last Wednesday evening. He wasn’t sure whether the wave was due to the natural tide or due to a passing boat’s wake, but explained that the wave hit his boat while a fish was pulling on his line. Konrad went on to say that the combination of forces, the wave and the fish’s pull on his line, caused him to be ejected from the boat. The former NFL player also noted that he realized he was in trouble when he hit the water. After briefly panicking—as anyone would—he made the difficult decision to swim toward shore.

Word of Konrad’s impressive feat has awed audiences far and wide, including Diana Nyad, the famed long-distance swimmer. Continue reading

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What to do in man overboard situationsWe recently written about former Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad who swam nine miles to shore after he fell off his boat. Boating accidents of this type are actually more common than we’d like to think and they can be particularly dangerous if boaters become separated from their boats while solo-boating.

Falling overboard on a sailboat is actually particularly dangerous. With all the moving sails, it is possible for a passenger or sailor to get knocked overboard by a boom. Man overboard scenarios are actually among the most reported boating emergencies. People fall overboard for many reasons. Bad weather or strong waves can knock a person into the water. Slippery decks can also create a situation where a boater falls from their vessel, as can leaning over the edge of a vessel or getting hit by a part of the boat.

In the event of an overboard accident, there are several things people can do to assist the victim. First, immediately stop the vessel’s engine or drop the sails to remain in the area where the victim fell overboard. Do not back the vessel up, because this can lead the victim to sustain an injury from contact with the boat’s propellers. Propeller accidents are very common and can lead to life-threatening – if not fatal – injuries.

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Former Miami Dolphins Fullback Swims 9 Miles to Shore Following Boating AccidentWe’ve heard stories that reach national news about individuals falling off of cruise ships. At the end of December, our maritime lawyers wrote about a Holland America crew member whose body was found on a Florida beach after he fell overboard.

Yet, while there have been over 200 cruise ship overboard accidents in the past 15 years alone, there is another, equally – if not more dangerous – risk of falling overboard from a personal water craft. Sailors train to avoid man overboard situations, as these situations can be deadly, especially in solo-sailing scenarios. Recovering victims from the water in cases where there are other people on board can also be a challenge if there are rough seas. Sailors are at greater risk of falling overboard because sailboats experience more pitch and yaw than other watercraft, though the risk of falling overboard on any personal watercraft, such as a jet ski, is always present.

Solo watercraft users are more likely to suffer fatal injuries if they fall overboard. Rough water can make it impossible for individuals to swim back to their vessel. If waters are frigid, hypothermia can quickly set in. And, if a victim isn’t wearing a life jacket, especially if they suffer a debilitating injury, there is a huge risk of drowning. While rescue personnel can fairly easily spot a boat on the ocean, it can be much more difficult to spot a person in the water, especially if the victim isn’t wearing a life jacket with rescue features. Currents can sweep a person far from their boat in unpredictable directions.

However, there are rare times when a boating accident victim survives, even under seemingly impossible circumstances. On Wednesday, January 7th, the real risk of what can happen when a person falls overboard from a personal watercraft became evident. The harrowing story is both inspiring and sobering.

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Canine maritime survival storiesOver the past several weeks, our maritime lawyers have blogged about countless stories of tragedy at sea. Boating accidents, near drownings, and other tragedies occur frequently. Sadly, as we’ve discovered, many of these accidents could have been easily prevented with proper precaution or safety measures.

Today, we’ll take a little break from these tragedies to recount two heartwarming stories of canine maritime survival.

The first story is about a resourceful canine named Sophie Tucker, who fell overboard from a yacht near Queensland in 2008 and survived despite all odds. Sophie Tucker swam through shark-infested waters, eventually finding her way to remote, St. Bees Island. Reports claim that she swam five miles over a barrier reef notorious for dangerous marine life. Numerous boaters claim that dogs don’t often survive long when they swim in the ocean where Sophie Tucker fell overboard, and captains won’t even let their animals swim in the area.

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