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Florida Boat Accident Lawyer / Blog / Boating Accidents / Maritime Law in Boating Accidents

Maritime Law in Boating Accidents


With over a million registered vessels in Florida, boating accidents are, unfortunately, a common occurrence. When such accidents happen, it’s crucial to understand how maritime law may be involved.

Unlike car accidents that fall under state jurisdiction, boating accidents often fall under maritime law, a specialized area of law that governs navigable waters. When accidents happen at sea, the legal landscape shifts dramatically, and having the representation of an experienced Florida boat accident lawyer well versed in maritime law can give you an important advantage.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is a body of laws, conventions, and treaties that govern private maritime business and other nautical matters. It covers a wide range of issues, including shipping, cargo, maritime injuries, and, yes, boating accidents. Maritime law is federal law, meaning it supersedes state laws where applicable.

Jurisdiction Matters

One of the most critical aspects of maritime law is jurisdiction. While state laws govern accidents that happen within a state’s inner waters, maritime law typically applies to accidents that occur in “any waters navigable within the United States for interstate or foreign commerce. In such waters admiralty jurisdiction includes maritime matters not involving interstate commerce, including recreational boating.” However, the “navigable waters” term can extend to rivers and lakes that are used for interstate commerce. Therefore, determining jurisdiction can be complex and requires a deep understanding of maritime law. Don’t allow an auto accident attorney to advise you that automobile law applies to your boating accident case. If your accident occurred along the coast of Florida or on a body of water that extends to the Florida coast (i.e., a river or inter-coastal waterway) then maritime law and not Florida law is almost always going to apply. Your attorney, the one you choose to handle your important boating accident case, has to know maritime law and how it applies to your case. That is why you can count on our 25 years of experience at (Frank D. Butler, PA) covering all of Florida.

The Role of Negligence

As with other personal injury cases, negligence plays a significant role in boating accidents. Under maritime law, boat operators have a “duty of care” to operate their vessels safely. Failure to do so can result in liability for any accidents and injuries that occur.

However, maritime law has its own set of negligence standards that, in many instances, differ from Florida state laws, including the concept of “comparative fault,” which allows a damaged party to recover even if they are partially at fault. In contrast, since March 24, 2023, Florida has become a modified comparative negligence state, which means that if an injured party is deemed to be more than 50% at fault, they could not recover any damages in an auto accident case for instance.

Unique Remedies and Limitations

Maritime law offers unique remedies and limitations that you won’t find in Florida’s personal injury laws. For example, the “Limitation of Liability Act” allows a vessel owner to limit their liability to the value of the vessel after the accident. This can significantly impact and significantly diminish the amount of compensation you can recover if your claim is not handled correctly. On the flip side, maritime law also provides for “maintenance and cure,” which obliges an employer to pay for an injured crewperson’s medical care and daily living expenses, irrespective of who was at fault.

Statute of Limitations

Maritime law comes with its own set of deadlines for filing claims, ranging from one to three years, depending on the specific statute. These time limits are strictly enforced, making timely legal action crucial.  Your attorney needs to know what deadlines apply to your case. Do not leave this to an auto accident attorney who only handles a boating injury case once every five years. You would never trust a surgeon who performs only one surgery once every five years. Trust the maritime attorneys at who are handling boating accident cases every day throughout all of Florida.

Why You Need a Specialized Attorney

Given the complexities and unique aspects of maritime law, it’s crucial to consult an attorney who specializes in this field if you’re involved in a boating accident. A general personal injury attorney may not have the expertise to navigate the intricacies of maritime law effectively. At 888BoatLaw, our Florida boat accident attorneys are well-versed in maritime and admiralty law, ensuring that you get the specialized help you need to recover to the fullest extent.

Contact us at the Law Offices of Frank D. Butler, PA

Boating accidents are complex events that require specialized knowledge in maritime law for appropriate legal action. At www.888BoatLaw,com the Law Offices of Frank D. Butler, PA, we offer just that. With our extensive understanding of maritime statutes and a proven track record, we are your best bet for navigating the complex legal waters successfully.


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