Boating is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Alabama’s waterways. It is a recreational pastime enjoyed by many families, particularly in the summer months. Unfortunately, in the blink of an eye, a picture-perfect day out on the water can turn to tragedy.
Recreational boat accidents are an increasingly common occurrence in our country. According to United States Coast Guard (USCG) statistics, over 4,062 boating accidents were reported to the USCG in 2013 alone. Of those 4,062 reported accidents, 2,620 resulted in injury and 560 resulted in death. Many of these accidents were found to be caused by the failure to wear life jackets, as well as the consumption of alcohol while boating, also known as “boating under the influence” or BUI.
In general, there are many factors that can cause boating accidents. Common ones are weather conditions, speeding, equipment trouble, alcohol, and operator inexperience. When a boating accident happens, the injuries can be severe or even fatal—particularly when the accident involves a boat and a passenger on a personal watercraft, an inner tube, or a swimmer. Injuries from a boating accident can be very similar to those caused by an automobile accident. They can include lacerations, burns, broken bones, concussions, paralysis, internal injuries or death.
Children Vulnerable in the Water
Children are particularly vulnerable in boating accidents for many reasons. First of all, oftentimes children are passengers on boats before they have learned to swim. Many children get on boats in the summer without life jackets, never thinking that they may get into an accident and end up in the water. Boat owners should make sure every child is wearing a life jacket that is in proper working order. If a child isn’t wearing a life jacket and gets injured in a boating accident, you can sue the boat owner and/or boat operator for damages for your child’s injuries.
Another reason boating can be particularly dangerous for children is that children are often allowed to pilot boats or personal watercraft at a very early age. Allowing children to helm powerful equipment such as motorboats or personal watercraft without adult supervision is a common recipe for disaster in the water. In the State of Alabama, this is not only prudent advice, it’s the law. Due to a rash of boating related fatalities back in the 1990’s, Alabama became one of the first states to require boat operators to obtain certification. Under Alabama law, if your child is under twelve years of age, he or she may not operate a vessel under any circumstances. If your child is twelve or thirteen, he or she may operate a vessel with valid certification. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds must also be supervised by someone who is at least 21 years of age with a valid certification to operate a vehicle.Boaters in Alabama, who are fourteen years of age or older,and certified,can operate a vessel without adult supervision. If your child was injured due to operating a boat or personal watercraft in violation of Alabama law, you might be able to collect damages from the boat owner or operator who let your child do so.
Boating is also dangerous for children because of the way children act in certain situations. Children have slower reflexes than adults. They often can’t get out of the way of a speeding boat as fast as adults can. Children often get injured by boats when they are passengers in rafts or inner tubes—a common way for children to enjoy the water with their families. Drowning deaths occur more often when children are victims of boating accidents. Children tend to panic when under the water and are less likely to survive when submerged.Children are also more likely to engage in “horse-play” on boats and often lose their balance and fall and injure themselves on board or fall overboard. Boat owners and operators who are aware that children are present need to take extra care to make sure children are safe in the presence of these elevated risk factors. Failure to do so can result in legal liability.
A boat owner or operator has a legal duty to avoid injuring children when operating a boat in the State of Alabama. A boat owner or operator can be sued for damages if a child is injured in a boating accident in Alabama for many reasons. A boat owner may injure a child as a result of reckless driving or driving while intoxicated. A boat owner may injure a child by failing to see a child in the water and colliding with the child. A child can also get injured if a boat owner allows a child who is underage or uncertified to operate a vessel or personal watercraft. If your child is injured in any such incident, or in another way, you can sue for damages.
Defective Equipment Can Lead to Injuries
Children may also get injured in a boating accident where the boat or personal watercraft is defective or malfunctions. In that case, you may have a cause of action for damages against the manufacturer of the boat or personal watercraft. That type of lawsuit is commonly referred to as a product liability lawsuit. Product liability is a legal cause of action you may have when a product you have used causes injuries because of adesign or manufacturing defect. A product is considered defective or unreasonably dangerous if it fails to perform in a way that one can reasonably expect it to perform if used properly. If a boat or personal watercraft fails to perform in a reasonably safe manner and causes injuries, there is probably a cause of action based on product liability.
Parents Can Receive Compensation for Their Child’s Injuries
As a parent or legal guardian of a victim of a boating accident, you are eligible to receive compensation for your child’s injuries. Compensation can be in the form of medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other expenses you incur such as lost wages, when caring for your injured child. Boat operators are held to a high standard of care to prevent devastating injuries from occurring, and when a boat operator neglects to take the proper precautions, he or she should be liable for any resulting injuries.
Statute of Limitations in Alabama
Every state, including the State of Alabama, has what’s called a Statute of Limitations. A Statute of Limitations governs the amount of time a person has with which to file a lawsuit. It can vary depending on the type of lawsuit and particular facts of the case. However, the time periods with which to bring certain lawsuits are often relatively short. If your child has been injured in a boating accident and you plan to file a lawsuit for damages, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. You don’t want to file a lawsuit only to learn that you took too long and exceeded the time allowable under the Statute of Limitations. Swift action and meeting with an attorney as soon as possible will help you to avoid these problems.
Contact Us for Help
Since the firm opened its doors in 1996, the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have been expertly handling personal injury cases, including those occurring as a result of child boating accidents. The caring and compassionate attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt know too well how much an accident can impact someone’s life. Hospital bill, medical expenses, and lost wages can be financially devastating to a family. And life altering injuries affect not only the injured party, but that person’s family members and loved ones.
Let Alabama lawyers Farris, Riley and Pitt help you to pursue justice. For a free evaluation and to learn more about whether you have a claim in the event your child has been injured in a boating accident contact the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt today. You can call us at 205-324-1212 or toll-free at 1-888-580-5176. You can reach our knowledgeable legal staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling our toll-free lawyer assistance line at 1-888-937-7534.