Propeller Strike Injuries

Many people choose to reside in or visit our area because of our location on Florida's Emerald Coast, a stretch of nearly 100 miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Boating can be a hobby or a career, with both recreational and commercial opportunities available in our community. As a result, boating safety is essential. We work with people who have been involved in a wide range of boating-related accidents, including victims of propeller strike injuries.

Two Propeller Strike Incidents Injure Boaters Near Okaloosa

The summer season has seen at least two people injured in propeller-related boating accidents. Last Thursday, as Okaloosa Island firefighters told Northwest Florida Daily News, a woman from Louisiana fell from a moving boat and suffered a severe cut to her abdomen from the vessel's propeller. The accident happened near Crab Island at approximately 6 P.M. and the 52 year-old woman was taken by airlift to Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital.

Notably, the Okaloosa fire department and Sacred Heart Hospital were also involved in another propeller accident back in June. On Wednesday June 5, as detailed in another Northwest Florida Daily News report, a woman suffered cuts to her right foot and left arm from a boat's propeller. She was treated by firefighters at Adventure Marina before being taken to the hospital for further medical care.

Coast Guard Statistics on Propeller Strikes

Each year, the National Recreational Boating Safety Program issues a report of annual statistics based on information from the United States Coast Guard. In 2010, per the report available via the North American Safe Boating Campaign, a total of 4,604 recreational boating accidents resulted in 672 deaths and 3,153 injuries.

Data in Table 16 shows a total of 49 accidents where a propeller strike was the primary accident type, resulting in 51 injuries and a single death. Importantly, this statistic only includes cases in which the propeller strike was the first occurrence, so it would not include an accident where the victim fell off the boat first and then was struck by the propeller second. When expanded to include cases where a propeller strike was the first, second, or third event (Table 17), there were 179 propeller strike incidents in 2010. Investigators attributed 27 deaths and 178 injuries with these propeller strikes.

Causes & Liability in Propeller Strike Accidents

Across the range of recreational boating accidents, the top five contributing factors are:

  1. Operator inattention
  2. Inadequate lookout (ex. failing to pay attention to surrounding boats or other objects/conditions)
  3. Lack of operator experience
  4. Traveling too fast
  5. Alcohol use.

This list makes it clear that inexperienced and inattentive vessel operation leads to accidents, injuries, and deaths. The trend likely holds for propeller strike accidents. In fact, these incidents may involve multiple operator errors with one error causing the victim to fall overboard and a subsequent error lying in the operator's response to the initial fall, with the latter error causing the propeller to strike the fallen rider.

Victims of propeller strike accidents may have personal injury claims against those responsible for the incident. This may include a boat's operator, either as an individual or as a representative of a company such as a tour operator. As we discussed in a prior post, propeller strikes may also be tied to the failure to install a propeller guard. This failure may give rise to additional claims against the boat's owner and/or manufacturer.

Victims injured by propeller strikes in the waters off the Florida Panhandle should call to discuss their unique case. We can help you recover compensation from those at fault,

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