Legal remedies for injured victims of Alabama boating accidents

Boat operators need to use caution and common sense.

Alabama residents and visitors love the state's boating and fishing culture. USA Today cites the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the statistic that we have 256,000 registered boat owners. Popular spots include Lewis Smith Lake, Wheeler Lake, Lake Guntersville, Weiss Lake, Wilson Lake, the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the Spanish River, the Gulf Coast and many others.

When passengers, boat operators, swimmers, skiers and personal watercraft operators or passengers are involved in boating accidents, severe injuries and death can result. In Alabama, if a boat or watercraft operator cause a collision through his or her negligence, recklessness or aggression, that person would be liable in a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

In such a suit, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages for past and future medical costs, lost wages, decreased earning capacity, pain and suffering, property damage and more, depending on the circumstances and injuries.

Take precautions

An August 2018 AL.com article blames the increase in state boating deaths on boating under the influence of alcohol and inadequate lifejacket use. The author says that we could have the highest number of boating fatalities in two decades this year. He emphasizes the need for understanding and engaging the kill switch on a boat. The driver should attach him or herself to the switch with a lanyard so that if he or she falls in a mishap, the switch will engage and turn off the engine.

The article also recommends inspecting safety equipment like navigation lights and flares, understanding boating rules, paying close attention to other vessels, watching the weather and slowing down.

Negligent or illegal behavior on the part of boat operators can include driving while drunk, speeding, driving while distracted such as while using a mobile phone, overloading vessels, failure to provide lifejackets, racing or engaging in unsafe maneuvers, insufficient operator training or experience, improper watercraft maintenance, boating in severe weather or high winds, failure to follow laws and regulations, unsafe seating or standing, unsafe turning, youth boat operation, night operation and others.

Types of boating accidents

Boat accidents come in many forms:

  • Collisions
  • Single boats striking objects or persons
  • Water-skiing accidents
  • Jet Ski accidents
  • Personal watercraft mishaps
  • Drunk or drugged boating accidents
  • Tourist passenger boat accidents
  • Sailboat collisions
  • Canoeing or kayaking incidents
  • Commercial boating crashes
  • Yacht or pontoon collisions
  • Docking accidents
  • Capsizing or swamping

Injuries in boating accidents can be very serious because of the heavy equipment involved and propellers, motors and appendages hidden under the water's surface.

Anyone injured in a boating accident or who has lost a loved one in this way should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to understand potential legal options for recovery.

Personal injury attorney Jonathan Sapp of The Sapp Law Firm, L.L.C., in Jasper, represents people injured in boating accidents on Lewis Smith Lake and other lakes and waterways throughout Alabama.