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The Different Statute of Limitations in Florida Boating Accident Cases

boatThe beautiful Florida weather lends itself to many outdoor activities including many water sports like boating, jet skiing, and tubing. Due to the lakes, rivers and coastline in Florida, people can be seen outside enjoying the open air. Unfortunately, these outdoor activities also mean that boating accidents are quite common. In 2008, Florida ranked #1 among all states for boating accidents according to the Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Committee. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a boating accident, the Law Offices of Robert Dixon can help.

Boating accidents can be just as traumatizing as any other accident. Often, victims are left to deal with devastating, lifelong injuries. In the worst accidents, victims lose their lives. The applicable statute of limitations for boating accidents can be complicated, which is why it is best to consult an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about the specific laws that apply to these types of accidents.

Boating accidents can occur for a number of reasons, some of which include:

  • Driver inattention
  • Ineffective or poor steering
  • Driver inexperience
  • Excessive speeding
  • Operating the boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Slip and fall accidents

Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for suing the reckless driver of a boat is four years from the date of the accident. Under maritime law, however, a torts claim must be brought within three years from the date of the accident. It is important to file the lawsuit in the correct court within the applicable statute of limitations or else the court may refuse to hear the case.

Since Florida has many bodies of water, the statute of limitations depends on whether the water is “navigable.” In Briggs v. Jupiter Hills Lighthouse Marina, the court explained that maritime law governs a personal injury lawsuit if the accident occurs on navigable waters and bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. According to the Court, the test for determining whether a body of water is considered “navigable” is whether that “waterway is presently used, or is presently capable of being used, as an interstate highway for commercial trade or travel in the customary modes of travel on water.”

Therefore, the navigability test takes into account not only if the water is currently being used for commerce and trade but also if it could potentially be used for commercial purposes. In fact, a strictly recreational waterway can be deemed navigable for purposes of federal admiralty jurisdiction.

It is important to note that operating a boat is inherently considered a traditional maritime activity, and thus the only deciding factor of whether the Florida statute of limitations or maritime statute of limitations will apply is simply where the accident took place.

After a boating accident, it is crucial to seek an experienced attorney to represent you. Since state and maritime law differ, your attorney will need to help you figure out which law applies. This can make all the difference in your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled boating accident attorneys will provide you with a free consultation and help you assess the merits of your case. We handle cases in Miami and throughout South Florida. Contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.