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New Florida Law Aims to Make Boating Safer

Spending a day on the water should be enjoyable and relaxing. Unfortunately, boating crashes resulting in injury or fatality happen all too frequently in Florida. Many of these accidents occur due to failure to take proper safety precautions and could have been prevented. Given the high number of boating crashes, a new bill aimed at enhancing boating safety was recently introduced to the Florida legislature.

Named for a ten year old boy who tragically passed away in a boating accident in November 2020, “Ethan’s Law” would require boat operators to use an engine cut-off switch. If the proposed legislation is passed, it will apply to all waters in Florida. A similar federal law applying to vessels under 26 feet long also recently went into effect on April 1, 2021.

An engine cut-off switch works by attaching one end of a lanyard to the boat operator’s body, and the other to the throttle of the boat. There are also wireless kill switches that work without the use of a cable. In the event the operator falls overboard when one of these devices is in use, the engine would shut off and the boat would stop, rather than continue to make its way through the water without anyone in control of the vessel. Without someone at the helm of a moving boat, it can ultimately crash into other vessels — or run over the individual who fell into the water.

Boat operators who fail to use the safety device would be charged with a noncriminal infraction and subject to a $50 fine. Failure to respond to a citation for violation of the law could result in a misdemeanor charge in the second degree. Criminal charges could also be brought under the following circumstances:

  • Property damage or injury occurs — If the failure to use an engine cut-off switch results in damage to another’s property or causes a minor injury, an individual may be charged with a misdemeanor in the second degree.
  • Serious bodily injury is sustained — In situations where a person suffers serious bodily injury due to a boat operator’s failure to use an engine cut-off switch, the operator may be charged with a misdemeanor in the first degree.
  • Someone is fatally wounded — Any violation of the law that results in the death of another person can be charged as vessel homicide.

Boating crashes can be serious and result in life-altering injuries. If you were injured in a boating accident caused by the negligence of another, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to recover your damages. The trial attorneys at Frank Charles Miranda, P.A. provide aggressive representation and skilled counsel for victims of boating crashes and a wide variety of personal injury matters in the Tampa area. Call 813-254-2637 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Tampa office.

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