Your chances of being attacked by a shark are about 1 in 11.5 million, but shark attacks can and do happen – especially in Florida. Florida is the location with the highest rate of shark attacks in both the United States and worldwide. If you or a loved one suffer a shark attack while swimming at a public beach, you may be able to hold the city or town that operates the beach accountable for your injuries and losses. Similarly, private property owners and tour guides that behave negligently can also be liable for shark attacks on boats, tours, and private beaches.
Shark Attacks and Premises Liability
Just like other premises liability cases, shark attack claims are based on negligence. If a city or town fails to warn beachgoers of reported shark sightings or a known shark in the water, they may be liable for any resulting attacks or injuries. In these unique cases, however, liability will not only come down to negligence but also to the city or town’s local rules.
In places like Cape Cod, for instance, warning signs are a courtesy, and beach officials are protected under the state liability exemption law. Additionally, swimming in the ocean may fall under the assumption of risk doctrine – another law that varies by state.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence in Shark Attacks
Although swimming in the ocean is inherently risky because there is always a possibility of sharks and other wild animals in the ocean, some behaviors may make the situation more dangerous. For example, a photographer once sued a tour guide in San Diego after diving with sharks because the tour guide was under the influence of alcohol and held shark bait directly next to her, which allegedly caused an attack.
According to the lawsuit, the guide behaved differently because he was under the influence and “negligently directed the divers … to an unsafe area... and then held the bait ‘so that it led a shark directly toward [the photographer].’”
Similar situations may arise if you get on a boat with someone who decides to chum the water or swim on a private beach where the property owner is trying to attract sharks.
Shark Attacks Are Unique Situations
Because shark attacks are so rare, there are few legal precedents for shark attack lawsuits. If you sustain an injury or lose a loved one to a shark attack, you will need to speak to an attorney to find out whether or not you have a case.
If you saw a “shark warning sign” before you went swimming, you may not have many legal options, but if you didn’t see any warnings and later heard about multiple sightings nearby, your case may be worth looking into.
At Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC, we offer all our clients free consultations, so they can get the case-specific legal advice they need.
If you want to discuss what happened to you with our experienced, results-oriented legal team, please call us at (866) 675-4427 or contact us online today – we are available 24/7 to take your call.