Boating Accident Attorneys in Montgomery, AL
Alabama has plentiful bodies of water to enjoy boating. From 170 miles bordering the Chattahoochee River with Georgia; sharing the Perdido River with Florida; the Tennessee River with Mississippi; 50 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline and beaches; and one million acres of lakes; there are plenty of opportunities to take to the water for a stress-free day in the sun.
But don’t let your guard down. There is a flip side to boating that happens when negligent operators are not using their common sense. These accidents can result in life-altering injuries and even death. Unfortunately, with an increasing number of boats on the water, the number of deaths on Alabama waters is increasing.
Some of the more recent deaths include:
- A mother and her five-year-old daughter who died in a Wilson Lake crash
- A Georgia man colliding with his teenage daughter on jet skis. He died; she lost her right leg
- A mother was killed when she was struck by an overhanging tree in the Alabama River
Operator error causes the majority of boating accidents. It is illegal to operate a vessel in a manner that endangers the public. Whether a collision, or a single boat accident, all of these were avoidable deaths.
Causes of Boating Accidents
With more than 200,000 registered boaters in Alabama, you cannot assume everyone takes boating safety seriously. Drinking and boating, a popular pastime, makes boating less safe, especially when everyone is doing it.
At the same time there has been a decline in the presence of Marine Patrol on rivers and lakes in Alabama. This is an obvious cost saving measure that has cost lives.
Alabama Boating Safety
Know the rules of boating before you embark:
- Mandatory Licensing – Before a mandatory operator license was put into effect, the state saw even higher numbers of crashes and deaths on the water. The license requires a boat operator to be 12 or 13 to obtain an Alabama boater safety certification and they can operate a boat only if supervised by someone onboard at least 21 years of age. A 14-year-old can operate a motorized vessel for up to 45 days without an operator license. It may not sound like much but Marine Patrol says it has reduced the number of deaths from crashes on the water. If you are involved in a collision on the water and the damage is $50 or more, it must be reported.
- Avoid Drinking and Boating – Just like driving a motorized vehicle, alcohol and boating do not mix. When both boat operators are intoxicated, we see boats colliding in the open water. Alabama’s open container law does not apply to a vessel on the water, other than the individual must be 21 years of age or older and remain under the level of intoxication. Nationally, at least half of all boating accidents involve alcohol, estimates the U.S. Coast Guard.
Legally, like drunk driving, the DUI level is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or BAC. In Alabama, fines include $2,100 if you are found Boating Under the Influence or BUI. You also face the possibility of jail time. A third violation means you lose your boat operating license for up to three years and face a fine up to $10,000. Refuse a sobriety test and you lose your license automatically. If there is a child under the age of 14 on board, punishments are doubled.
Designate someone a designated driver who is not intoxicated if you want to have alcohol on board.
- Distracted Boating – Pay attention to the task of driving the boat and not finding your cellphone, texting, and turning to talk to your passengers.
- Alabama PDF Requirements – Every person on board your vessel must have a wearable personal flotation device (PDF). It doesn’t matter whether the vessel is a boat, a personal watercraft (a Jet ski), kayak, canoe, or inflatable raft. This includes children, even those under the age of 8, while they are onboard. The exception might be if they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
- The Rules of Boating – It is against the law to allow anyone to ride on the bow or the deck over the bow while underway unless there are adequate guards or railing to prevent the person from falling overboard. Some of the boating deaths resulted from individuals being thrown from the boat when it hit a tree or another vessel. You are required to follow the speed limits, avoid boating too close to another vessel, avoid areas where people may be diving and avoid creating a wake. Avoid the water if a storm is approaching and remember that a sailboat can conduct lightening through the mast. You must keep a first aid kit onboard in case of emergencies on the water. At night, navigation lights must be in good working order and you are required to operate at a slower speed.
Your Alabama Boating Accident Lawyer
It is understandable that boater fatigue can affect everyone on the boat. The gentle rocking on the water, sun, wind, and some beer, and you may not realize the effects of alcohol. The same holds true for water skiing, wakeboarding, or tubing while intoxicated. You will be asked to take a field sobriety test including reciting the alphabet, counting backward, a breath test, and others.
That is why it is so important to learn the tough lessons so many have faced on the water.
If you have been injured in a boating accident in Alabama, Chip Nix offers a complimentary consultation to discuss your injuries and the factors that will point to the at-fault party. He will seek compensation for your losses including pain and suffering, medical bills, the cost of rehabilitation, and lost wages. He will document your claim and investigate and gather the necessary evidence to make your claim.
Please do not have a conversation with the insurance company for the other side until you speak with an experienced attorney. The initial offer is generally for far too low, and it is geared toward making you go away. Call Chip Nix at 334-203-6669 to begin the conversation.