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Understanding Maritime Law in Boating Accidents


Florida is the boating capital of the United States. With over 1 million boats registered to Florida residents, our state has more boating accidents than any other. When a boating accident does occur, it often does not fall under state law. Instead, it is governed by maritime or admiralty law. Understanding the complexities of litigation that fall under maritime law takes decades of experience. That’s why you would never want a car accident attorney to file a boating accident lawsuit on your behalf. In this article, the Miami boat accident attorneys at Michael F. Guilford will discuss the basics of maritime law and how it applies to Florida boat accident lawsuits.

What is maritime law? 

Maritime law is a body of laws that govern private maritime business and nautical issues. It covers a wide range of legal issues including shipping, cargo, injuries, and boating accidents. Maritime law falls under the jurisdiction of the federal (and not state) government.

Understanding maritime jurisdiction 

Jurisdiction is a critical and complex aspect of maritime law. State law governs what happens on landlocked bodies of water. Maritime law governs what happens on coastal waters and rivers that connect with the coast. It includes any waters navigable within the U.S. for interstate or foreign commerce. This includes recreational boating.

Determining jurisdiction is a complex matter. You need to file your lawsuit with the proper court. Much time can be wasted by failing to bring a cause of action under the proper jurisdiction. You would never want an auto accident attorney to file your boat accident lawsuit. Maritime lawyers are well-versed in issues related to admiralty jurisdiction. We alone are qualified to file such lawsuits. If your accident occurred in coastal waters or a body of water that extends to the coast, then your lawsuit would fall under maritime jurisdiction and not state jurisdiction.

Differing rules regarding negligence 

Maritime rules and state rules differ on the matter of negligence. Under maritime law, you have a pure comparative fault system meaning you can file a lawsuit even if you are partly to blame for your accident. Under Florida’s state law, you can only file a lawsuit if you are less than 50% responsible for your own injuries.

As with all personal injury lawsuits, the role of negligence is important in a boat accident lawsuit. All boaters owe other boaters a duty of care to operate their boats in a responsible manner and avoid injuries to other boaters. When they fail in that duty of care, they can be sued for damages.

Additionally, maritime law allows for unique limitations and remedies. A boat owner may limit their liability to the value of their boat. This can significantly diminish the value of a personal injury claim if not handled correctly by your attorney.

Talk to a Miami Boat Accident Injury Attorney Today 

Michael F. Guilford, P.A. represents the interests of boaters who have been injured in boating accidents caused by negligence. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation and we can begin discussing your injuries right away.

  • American Association for Justice
  • Florida Justice Association
  • Bar Register Preeminent Lawyers
  • American Association for Justice

It's Your Time To Win

Contact the Law Offices of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. for a free initial consultation with Michael Guilford. Flexible appointment times are available. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. Call toll free 866-473-2636 or describe your injuries in an email.

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Michael F. Guilford, P.A.

Courthouse Tower, Suite 750
44 West Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33130

Toll Free: 866-473-2636
Phone: 305-539-1999
Fax: 305-539-1998