Bill Enacted to Require Licensure, Liability Insurance, Other Regulations
Over the past 13 years, there have been 23 serious injuries and 6 deaths resulting from parasailing accidents in Florida. As personal injury attorneys in Southwest Florida, we are encouraged by a new bill, HB 347, being enacted by the Florida Legislature that is designed to make parasailing safer, and to invoke more severe penalties for those parasail operators who are found to be negligent in the operation of their business.
Beginning October 1st of this year, commercial parasail operators in Florida will be required to carry minimum liability insurance coverage that covers bodily injury in the amount of $1 million for each occurrence, and $2 million annual aggregate. Parasail companies will be mandated to have proof of such insurance at the physical location where their service is being offered, or is being provided for consideration. That means that if you stop at a kiosk on Fort Myers Beach that is handing out parasailing brochures, they need to have verification of applicable liability insurance there.
Other newly-enacted regulations will require the vessel that tows the parasail must have a working VHF marine transceiver onboard, as well as a separate device capable of accessing weather forecasts and conditions broadcast by the National Weather Service. Additionally, the vessel operator will now be required to keep an up-to-date weather log, in which the operator will record prevailing and forecasted weather conditions every time they take a parasail customer out onto the water.
Under the new rules, operating a parasail is prohibited when:
- Wind speed is sustained at 20 or more mph
- Wind gusts are more than 15 mph above the current sustained wind speeds
- Wind gusts are more than 25 mph
- Weather conditions like fog or rain limit visibility to less than ½ mile
- Lightning is detected within 7 miles of the parasailing operation
In Florida, there are a little more than 100 commercial parasailing operators, mostly along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coasts. The Florida Legislature notes that prior to the implementation of HB 347, there were “few substantive regulations of parasailing”. This is bad news for Floridians and the millions who vacation here.
When you sign up with the beach vendor to go parasailing, you are required to sign a personal “assumption of risk” waiver form that intentionally indemnifies the operator for any liability should something go wrong, and you are injured or killed in an accident. Many people think that since they signed that form, they understand that if they are hurt, the parasail operator cannot be held accountable, and in a general sense, that has been the position of the Florida courts system. Yet there have been cases in recent years in which a parasail operator has been found to have exhibited negligence per se by violating a statute put in place to protect the well-being of the parasailer who signed the waiver, and criminal penalties are then able to be applied. This means that even though you may have signed a standard liability waiver and you end up being hurt, the operator can still be held legally and financially liable if it can be proven they have violated one or more of the applicable statutes.
Since the parasailers are in the sky, the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA), even has a hand in regulating their commercial operation. FAA regulations pertain to things like operating too close to an operating airport, and allowing a parasail to ascend more than 500 feet above the water's surface, among others.
Other Florida statutes require that there must be a “spotter” on the parasail boat in addition to the vessel's driver, and that parasailers do not operate ½ hour before sunrise or ½ hour after sunset, or operate within 100 feet of a marked channel in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Fort Myers personal injury lawyer Mike Noone, of Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone, notes that the new bill should help in reducing the risk of being seriously hurt or even losing your life in a parasailing accident. “Parasailing is a lot of fun, but as in every adventure activity where there exists a risk potential, safety regulations and adequate legal consequences must be in place and enforced in order to ensure the ultimate safety of the parasailer,” he says.
Parasailing in Florida is a great way to get a thrill, and get a bird's eye view of the shoreline. But if you end up being injured as a result of the parasail operator's negligence, your life can be turned upside down. A free, personal consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone will ensure your full legal rights are aggressively protected, and that you receive the full financial compensation to which you are entitled under the law. Contact us to see if you have a case.