Boating is a favored activity in Alabama. It allows friends and family to spend time together fishing, sight-seeing, and of course, partying. Still, there is much more to boating than simply hopping on and hitting the water.
Safely and lawfully operating a boat is vital in preventing injury.
Boating Injuries & the Law
If you or another person happen to be injured in a boating accident, common laws may not apply. Instead, you may be subject to regulations and statutes under admiralty law.
Legal term to know: Admiralty Law
What it means:
Admiralty law sets the standard for boating, shipping, navigating, selling, and other activities that occur on domestic or international waters.
Courts look at two factors to determine whether claims for boating injuries will be controlled by Alabama common law or admiralty law:
- If the incident was on a navigable waterway (i.e., a body of water that a boat can travel to from a connecting body of water)
- Whether the incident occurred as the result of traditional water activity such as boating
Who Can Legally Operate a Boat in Alabama?
The laws for operating a boat are not as restrictive when compared to operating an automobile.
- Boating liability insurance is not required to operate a boat.
- A person as young as 12 can obtain a boating license. They can operate a boat if they are supervised by an adult 21 years or older.
- A 14-year-old with a license can operate a boat unsupervised.
Regardless of age and experience, adhering to boating regulations and attention to surroundings while operating a watercraft is vital to maintaining safety.
How Does the Law Determine Who is At Fault in a Boating Accident?
Should an accident occur in the water, comparative negligence will be used to determine how much both parties contributed to the damages.
Legal term to know: Comparative negligence
What it means:
Comparative negligence says that during an accident, each party is held responsible based on how much they each added to the accident.
That means that if one person is 10% at-fault, they can still recover 90% of the damages they suffered.
If an Accident Does Occur, How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
Admiralty laws provide a three-year statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim.
Common law provides only two years.
Alabama Boating Accidents by the Numbers
Liability for an accident can be reduced if boat owners follow all safety precautions including wearing life jackets, using lights for better navigation, observing boat traffic, and adhering to other safety measures.
According to the US Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics report, there were 101 boating accidents in Alabama and 28 deaths. In 2019, Alabama was ranked 4th out of the 50 states for boating accidents and injuries.
There were 2,508 accidents across the United States while operating a recreational watercraft. Alcohol use attributed to 282 of those accidents. Operator distraction accounted for 546 accidents.
Careless operation of a watercraft can produce a lifetime of pain and sorrow.
Whether in a kayak, jet ski, sailboat, speedboat, yacht, or other watercraft, it is critical that boat operators use sensible handling and care to protect those enjoying the water.
Want to win a FREE Boating Safety Kit?
The attorneys at Siniard, Timberlake & League are dedicated to helping residents of Huntsville, North Alabama and the surrounding areas stay safe and avoid accidents. That’s why we are giving away FREE boating safety kits to two lucky people.