Two firefighters, one from Broward County and another from Palm Beach, suffered serious injuries in an airboat collision in the Everglades with a vessel operated by an employee of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Now, both are suing the agency, alleging vicarious liability for the negligence of the operator and also direct liability for failing to train employee to know, understand and operate the agency’s airboat safely.
According to a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the two firefighters were on a leisure trip in the Everglades, traveling by airboat down a narrow channel along Alligator Alley. It was then they both spotted another airboat traveling in the opposite direction, straight toward them.
One of the firefighters said he tried to signal to the other airboat operator. In an attempt to avoid a crash, he shifted the vehicle to his right. The FWC vessel operator would later tell investigators she moved her boat to her left. In the end, both boats ended up facing each other head-on. They collided.
The impact of that crash caused the firefighter passenger to fly out of her airboat, strike the front of the FWC vessel and fall into the water. Meanwhile, the firefighter operator fell forward and slammed his head against one of the seats. In the other boat, a student with the University of Florida fell off the boat and into the water, sustaining back injuries.
The firefighter who fell out of the boat would later explain she could feel her knee had been “blown open.” She actually started looking for her kneecap in the water, when she realized it had moved to the back of her leg. She popped the kneecap back into place while still in the water.
But the FWC operator didn’t stop her boat. In fact, she drove her boat over the injured firefighter, who was still in the water.
The firefighter said the pain was excruciating, and recovery has been long and arduous. She was confined to a wheelchair for more than four months. She then was only able to walk with the aid of a walker, and then a brace. She used a cane for several months. She hasn’t been able to return to work, and still suffers back and neck pain, nausea and severe headaches. With her benefits running out, the firefighter has had to pay for her daily physical therapy out-of-pocket. She called the entire experience, “a nightmare.”
Now, they are seeking more than $500,000 in damages from the government agency.
As our boat injury lawyers can explain, lawsuits against government employees and entities can be complex. There are often stringent deadlines and filing requirements, and there are numerous legal hurdles to clear in order to overcome defense assertions such as sovereign immunity and damage caps.
An injury attorney with experience can help victims successfully navigate the process.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Broward, Palm Beach firefighters sue FWC after airboat crash, Oct. 1, 2015, By Rebeca Piccardo, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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Logan v. Miss. Dept. of Transp. – Injury Lawsuit for Dangerous Bridge, Sept. 20, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer Blog