Boating and Personal Watercraft Accidents

Due to the abundance and natural beauty of our waterways, boating is an enjoyable and relaxing pastime in the State of Alabama. In the summer months and during our warm weather off seasons, it is common to encounter heavy boating traffic on the water. However, many boaters do not take the risks associated with boating seriously enough. Unsafe boating practices are rampant and can, unfortunately, turn a beautiful day out on the water into a tragic event.

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in recreational boating accidents, which includes boats as well as personal watercrafts such as jet skis.According to United States Coast Guard (USCG) statistics, over 4,062 boating accidents were reported to the USCG in 2013 alone. Of those reported accidents, 2,620 resulted in injury and 560 resulted in death.


Boating Accidents Have Many Causes and Can Result in Serious or Fatal Injuries

Various events can lead to a boating accident. Many boating accidents are caused by a boat operator’s failure to heed weather advisories or by the inexperienced operation of a boat under bad weather conditions. Many accidents occur because of the boat operator’s negligent boating practices or simply operator inexperience. Another very common cause of boating accidents is alcohol consumption while boating, also known as “boating under the influence” or BUI. Boaters can prevent many injuries that stem from boating accidents by wearing life jackets or other recommended safety devices. According to United States Coast Guard Data, the odds of drowning from a boating accident go from 1 in 11 for people not wearing a life jacket to 1 in 11 for those with a life jacket on.

When a boating accident happens, the injuries can be severe or even fatal. They are as serious and potentially life-altering as the injuries one can receive in an automobile accident. If the accident involves a boat and a passenger on a personal watercraft, an inner tube, or a swimmer, the injuries can be particularly severe. Common injuries reported from boating accidents range from lacerations, burns, and concussions to broken bones, paralysis, internal injuries or death.


Obtain the Proper Certifications Required By Law

Alabama is one of the first states to require boat operators to obtain certification. The state passed a law requiring certification in response to a slew of boating accidents that occurred in the 1990’s. Under Alabama law, anyone over the age of 12 operating a motorized boat or personal watercraft in the State of Alabama must have proper certification. It is called the Alabama Boater Safety Certification, and there are several ways to take the test to obtain it. Once you obtain your certification, you will receive a card that you must carry whenever operating a boat or personal watercraft. You must produce your certification card when asked by any Alabama law enforcement agent that routinely patrols our waterways. If you get injured or have injured someone else in a boating accident and do not have the proper certification, you could be found civilly and criminally responsible.


Defective Equipment Can Lead to Injuries

Oftentimes, boating injuries occur whena boat or personal watercraft is defective or malfunctions. If a defective boat or defective or malfunctioning equipment on a boat injures you, you may have a cause of action against the manufacturer of the boat or personal watercraft. This type of lawsuit is commonly referred to as a product liability lawsuit. Product liability is a legal cause of action that arises against the manufacturer of a product that is defective and has caused injuries because of that design or manufacturing defect. A product is defective or unreasonably dangerous if it fails to perform in a way that one can reasonably expect it to perform if used properly. If your boat or personal watercraft or any boat or personal watercraft that has injured you fails to perform in a reasonably safe manner, there is probably a cause of action based on product liability.


Follow Recommended Boating Precautions

There are many precautions and safety rules you can follow to make your boating experience a safer one. The United States Coast Guard and the American Red Cross are both excellent resources for boating safety tips.

When you are out on the water, please remember to put safety first and to travel with care. Here are a few tips to help you have a fun and safe boating experience:

  • Stay tuned to weather reports. Always check weather reports prior to a boating excursion and during boating trips if it appears that the weather is rapidly changing.

  • Check your equipment prior to departure. Come up with a checklist of things on your boat or personal watercraft that can malfunction and run through it prior to every excursion. Your list should include an engine check, ensuring life safety equipment is on board, and making sure you have an adequate fuel supply.

  • Tell someone where you are going. Make sure someone who is not in your boating party knows where you are going and how long you plan to be out.

  • Boat with good swimmers. You and the passengers on your boat should all be capable swimmers. Swimmers are at much less risk of drowning in a boating accident than people who do not know how to swim.

  • Don’t drink and boat. Alcohol and boats or personal watercraft is often a deadly combination. A large percentage of boating accidents are alcohol-related. You should never drink while operating a boat.

  • Wear life jackets. As stated before, the use of life jackets greatly increases your odds of surviving a boating accident. Make sure you have enough life jackets for every passenger on board your boat.


Statute of Limitations

If you have been injured in a boating accident, consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. There could be a limit on the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Every state, including the State of Alabama, has what is called the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations controls the amount of time someone has with which to file a lawsuit. It usually varies based on the type of lawsuit and the specific facts of the case. For personal injury claims, the time periods are often relatively short. If you have been injured in a boating accident and you plan to file a lawsuit for damages, you should consult a lawyer with experience in boating accidents as soon as possible after the accident. You don’t want to file a lawsuit only to discover that you took too long and exceeded the time allowable under the Statute of Limitations. The lawyers at Farris, Riley & Pitt will guide you through the Alabama Statute of Limitations and help you to avoid problems with time limits on filing your lawsuit. Our extensive experience with this issue and all legal issues regarding boating accidents can help you through this terrible event.


Contact Us for Help

Since opening our doors in 1996, the legal experts at Farris, Riley & Pitt have been successfully handling personal injury cases, including those occurring as a result of boating accidents. The knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers at Farris, Riley & Pitt know too well how much an accident can impact someone’s life. Hospital bills, medical expenses, and lost wages can be financially and emotionally devastating. Life changing injuries or even death affects not only the injured party, but that person’s family members and loved ones.

Let Alabama lawyers Farris, Riley and Pitt help you pursue justice and receive compensations for your injuries. For an always free evaluation and to review your potential claim for injuries stemming from 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. Our knowledgeable legal staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached through our toll-free lawyer assistance line at 1-888-937-7534.



United States Coast Guard, Boating Safety Resource Center,