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Boating Accidents – Know How to Stay Safe on the Water 

Boating accidents often result in significant property damage and devastating injuries, but they can often be avoided if people abide by certain boating safety tips. Unfortunately, however, even the most careful boaters cannot avoid mishaps caused by other people’s reckless behavior, and people who cause such incidents should be held accountable. If you have suffered harm due to a boating accident, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to explore your options for seeking compensation. The Mobile boating accident lawyers of Tobias & Comer Law, LLC have experience helping people who have been injured in boating accidents caused by the negligence of others seek justice for their losses.  

Boating Safety Tips 

There are numerous safety tips people should keep in mind when they are boating in Alabama’s waterways. The first is to ensure that their boat is in good working condition before heading out and that all necessary safety equipment is on your vessel and in proper working order. It is also smart to check for any product recalls on your boat, its engine, and any other equipment you will use while out in the water. Novice boaters should attend an in-person boating safety class before going out on the water. 

  • Everyone should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD (life vest) when underway, particularly at night. Operators are responsible for everyone on board and should ensure all passengers know where PFDs are stored, how to reach them quickly, and how to use them properly. Children younger than age 8 are required to wear PFDs at all times (unless inside a permanently affixed cabin enclosure). They also should wear PFDs that are the appropriate size.

  • Holiday weekends are not the time for novice boaters to learn to operate their crafts. Operator inexperience is one of the leading contributing factors to boating crashes in Alabama. Busy weekends are not the best time to launch a new vessel, or for novice mariners to learn. New operators should consider attending an in-person boating safety class prior to going on the water.

  • Be mindful of other boaters. Avoid passing too closely to boats in motion, boats at idle, and persons in the water.

  • Boaters should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages or use the designated operator system. The sun, wind, and other weather conditions already produce an effect on boaters known as “boater fatigue,” and the consumption of alcohol only compounds and intensifies the effect.

  • Avoid boating at night unless familiar with the body of water. Then, operate at a reduced, safe speed. Make sure all navigation lights are in proper working order and displayed properly. Have a cell phone and flashlight on hand in case of emergency.

  • Under Alabama law, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are considered to be vessels and are subject to PFD requirements. There must be one U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD on board for each occupant, and children younger than age 8 on board these crafts are required to have them on at all times.

  • Make sure your boat is prepared. Many items need to be checked and rechecked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water. Every Vessel Safety Check is conducted 100 percent free of charge.
  • Always file a float plan. File a float plan before you leave shore with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment, and emergency contacts.
  • Check the weather, including the water temperature. Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out, and keep a regular check for changing conditions.
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Gasoline-powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it. Be sure to install and maintain a working CO detector, never block exhaust outlets, and always dock, beach or anchor at least 20 feet away from the nearest boat that is running a generator or engine.
  • Keep in touch. Communication devices can be the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel, especially in case of emergency. Be sure to have and know how to use at least two communication devices that work when wet, such as satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), VHF radios, and personal locator beacons (PLB).

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Seeking Damages for Harm Sustained in Boating Accidents 

Even if people follow all of the recommended boating safety tips, they may nonetheless be involved in accidents caused by the careless acts of others. Boating accidents can result in serious injuries and property damage, leaving victims with significant financial burdens. To seek compensation for their losses, many people injured in such accidents will pursue damages in civil lawsuits. The specific causes of action and defendants named in these lawsuits will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. Allegations of negligence are common, however. 

In Alabama, a plaintiff bringing a negligence claim in a boating accident case must demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care and breached that duty, resulting in actual harm. The duty imposed on the defendant is typically to act with reasonable care in light of the circumstances. While the breach of duty does not have to be the sole cause of the accident and subsequent harm, it must be a significant contributing factor for the plaintiff to establish liability.

In cases where a defective boat caused the accident, the plaintiff may be able to assert product liability claims against the entities that manufactured and sold it. This could involve claims of design defects, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings or instructions. 

Defendants in boating accident lawsuits may argue that the plaintiff bears some or all of the responsibility for their injuries, however, and therefore, they should not be entitled to damages. Under Alabama’s strict contributory negligence laws, if the fact finder determines that the plaintiff is even partially at fault for their losses, they will be barred from recovering any damages. By working with a knowledgeable lawyer, though, an injured party can increase their chances of obtaining fair and just compensation for their losses. 

Talk to an Experienced Mobile Attorney Today  

Given the complexity of boating accident cases and the challenges plaintiffs face in proving liability, it is essential for anyone injured in such an accident to seek the assistance of an experienced maritime attorney. At Tobias & Comer Law, LLC, our skilled Mobile maritime lawyers can investigate the circumstances of your accident and build a compelling case on your behalf to help you fight to protect your interests.  We represent people in personal injury cases in Mobile and throughout Alabama. You can reach us through our form online or at (251) 432-5001 to set up a meeting.   

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