Florida is a welcome respite for visitors from around the world, and the widespread availability of watersports is a major draw. Unfortunately, those who offer excursions such as wakeboarding, parasailing or scuba diving sometimes put profits before people.
That is what was alleged in a horrific July 2013 parasailing accident in which two teen girls, both 17, were left in critical condition after their parasail snapped from the boat while they were in mid-air. The girls continued to soar through the air on 35-mile-an-hour winds that caused them to be thrown against the 13th floor of a condominium complex before they were sent crashing down into the parking lot below, slamming onto the top of a vehicle.
The friends were vacationing from Indiana at the time of the incident.
Now, a “sizable” settlement has been reached with the resort, the parasailing company, the rental company, the tow rope manufacturer and the wholesaler of the tow rope. Although there have been a number of prior settlements, this is expected to be the largest.
Although attorneys for the women characterize the settlement as one that will allow them to have “reasonable futures,” they were quick to note this was no windfall. The medical bills alone are estimated to be multi-millions, as medical care and rehabilitation continues.
The victims both suffered permanent brain damage and other injuries. In the weeks and months after the accident, they endured extensive hospitalization, surgeries and therapies. Chronic pain is a constant for both. They suffered back and spinal injuries that nearly robbed them of the ability to walk. Although both worked hard to earn their high school diplomas, the reality is both only read at an elementary-school level. Their brain injuries are believed to be permanent.
One of the victims, enrolled in cosmetology school, has tunnel vision that her doctor described as “extremely narrow.” Adding to that is the complication of double vision that’s offset. That means she views one image that is dropped below the other. Numerous surgeries have failed to correct the problem, and it’s possible she may live with the condition the rest of her life.
The settlement agreement is expected to help provide for their basic needs.
Our Fort Lauderdale tourist injury attorneys see this as a warning to other providers of similar beachfront, thrill-seeking operations. Florida law now requires (largely as a result of this case) parasailing companies to have a basic level of insurance and also high wind restrictions.
But such restrictions aren’t always followed, as this case showed. There was already a shore restriction requiring the boat to maintain a certain distance from the shore. The operators of the boat reportedly skirted that restriction, and allowed the girls to be sent into the air, despite the dangerous high-wind conditions. The rope snapped when the boat was suddenly anchored due to the wind.
A report prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board accused operators of not having enough experience or proper training and of exercising poor judgment.
As of right now, there aren’t any federal guidelines to regulate parasail operators. The NTSB has issued a recommendation that all operators have licensing issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Settlement reached in Florida parasailing accident that injured Indiana teens, March 9, 2015, By Anne Marie Tiernon, WTHR.com
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