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Florida Boat Accident Lawyer / Blog / Boat Crash / BOAT PROPELLER INJURY CASES IN FLORIDA



Boat propeller cases are way more common than one might think. Boat propellers are almost always not protected by any caging or safety barrier in case a person comes into contact with the propeller blades. At one time this maritime law firm ( was handling 5 propeller-strike cases at the same, just to give an idea of the prevalence of these types of injuries.  Yes, it is the type of cases handled by this maritime specialty law firm but to have that many prop-strike cases at one time demonstrates their prevalence.  Perhaps that number is more understandable when one considers that Florida passed 1 million registered recreational vessels in the year 2023 according the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (“FWC”), and that is the most of any state in the country by far.  Florida also has a large tourism-based boat rental industry and a large base of boat club boaters. Many of these boat renters are first-time boat operators—or very close to first timers—and the same is true for many new boat club members. What that means is: boat handling is not something the rookies have handled for very long, if ever.

Boat propeller-strike cases are almost always have two things in common: they result in severe injuries, and there is almost always operator error when they occur. Consider the following. In the context of a “man overboard” or as the USCG refers to it as a “MOB” there is almost no reason to have the engine on and especially not in gear. But that is frequently the case where the negligent operator of the vessel has the vessel engine both turned on and in gear. Such cases are almost always the fault of the operator of the vessel when the propeller strikes the man overboard—even when the operator must maneuver the vessel into position to get closer to the “MOB”, there is no reason for the vessel to be in gear at the point and time of extraction of the MOB from the water.

Part of the problem is that the point of entry onto a vessel for a man overboard is at the stern (the rear) of the vessel and the swim platform or swim ladder is within as little as one foot or so to the MOB when the MOB is attempting to enter the vessel. At that point the operator of the vessel should do 3 things: 1. Place the vessel in neutral. 2. Kill the engines. 3.  Turn the foot of the motor away from the swim ladder in order to keep the sharp propeller blades away from the MOB.  The blades themselves can be sharp and cause injury—even when the blades are not turning–just by the MOB coming into contact with the propeller when the vessel is being affected by the rise and fall in the waves.

Some of the cases we see involve just contact with the propeller where the engine is not engaged in gear.  But again, that still points to  negligence on the part of the captain to control the vessel, guide the man overboard back on the vessel, and control the vessel and equipment used to keep the man overboard away from the propellers. And the operator should turn the motor away from the MOB’s point of entry to the vessel.


Because the recreational boat manufacturers do not want safety cages on propellers. There was a push to add some type of safety cage or other type of excluder device around boat propellers to keep persons in the water from being directly struck by the boat propeller. This was effectively killed off by the boat manufacturers for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it would affect performance of the vessel as to speed. No doubt a propeller cage could bring down top speed and hole-shot (i.e., the boat’s initial thrust from a start) speed but that is little comfort to families who lost loved ones struck by boat propellers.  The second, even more ludicrous reason put forth by the boating manufacturing industry is that the skeg—that lower tip of outboard motors which helps steer the motor—would cause just as much injury when it strikes a man overboard as a propeller would.  That seems ridiculous on its face, but more importantly ignores the fact that many propeller-strike cases are not at high speed, or and some prop-strike cases occur at the time of re-entry of the man overboard when the operator has failed to disengage the propeller.

Boating injury cases are not auto accident cases and they are not dogbite cases. In Florida they are almost always governed by maritime law and that is why you should trust your prop-strike case, or other boating injury case, to specialists that handle this type of case every day. This is not our sideline. We handle boating injury cases, JetSki cases, and cruise ship cases every day of the week.  You can trust our 25 years of experience handling boating injury cases.

Our Florida boat crash lawyer can help by determining who is liable and hold them accountable for paying the full and fair settlement that is rightfully yours. If you have been hurt, call us at 888-B-O-A-T-L-A-W (888-262-8529) the Law Offices of Frank D. Butler or chat with us online to schedule a free consultation with our experienced attorney.

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