There are many opportunities for boating enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby in Alabama, from the Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to the Yellowhammer State’s hundreds of lakes and rivers. However, with so many places to enjoy boating activities, there is also an increased possibility of boating accidents.
Like cars and motorbikes, injuries from boating accidents range from minor to life-threatening, and some can be fatal. However, determining fault on a waterway is different from a road accident. Learn more about water traffic laws in Alabama and find out how fault is determined when two boats or watercraft collide.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is Alabama’s law enforcement arm of the state’s Department of Public Safety. The ALEA’s Marine Patrol is the state entity responsible for enforcing boating rules and regulations in Alabama, succeeding the now-defunct Alabama Marine Patrol in this role.
Although many water traffic rules are similar to those found on the road, these rules include prohibiting boating under the influence of controlled substances and requiring a boating license to operate a vessel. However, many laws are unique to boating.
For example, a vessel can overtake another from either side, unlike cars on highways, but must grant the right-of-way to the craft they overtake.
Boating rules and regulations are not as well-known as the traffic laws for cars and motorbikes. The full extent of the law can be challenging to understand, even for Alabama boating license holders.
According to 2020 U.S. Coast Guard statistics, boating accidents are rising nationwide, increasing from 4,168 in 2019 to 5,265 in 2020.
In 2020, 96 boating incidents were reported in the Yellowhammer State, accounting for 1.82% of all boating accidents in the United States. Of these 96 incidents, 12 (12.5%) resulted in fatalities, causing 19 deaths.
If an accident involving two vessels occurs on an Alabama waterway, the basic principle for determining fault is similar to road accidents.
The court will evaluate the facts and verify whether either party has broken the state’s boating rules or federal maritime regulations. For example, if the other boat driver operated under the influence of drugs or alcohol or without a license, they can be held liable. Also, if an underage driver was piloting the boat, you can pursue compensation from their parents or legal guardians. They will also determine if either boat driver acted negligently on the water.
Alabama uses contributory negligence to determine damages in personal injury cases. Contributory negligence means that if the court determines that you held any responsibility for the boating accident, you cannot receive compensation for your injuries.
It is critical that you work with an experienced boating accident attorney who can examine the circumstances of the incident and gather evidence to prove you were not at fault for your injuries.
Even if no party has broken any laws or regulations, a vessel operator may still be considered at fault if their actions are deemed negligent. For example, a boat operator not taking the necessary steps to avoid an imminent collision with another vessel or watercraft can be considered at fault due to negligence, even if the rules suggest the operator had the right-of-way.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident while navigating or boarding watercraft, you must report the incident per federal law if it resulted in:
According to the USCG, you must report an incident within 48 hours if someone dies and within 24 hours if a person disappears or requires professional medical treatment. If these circumstances don’t apply, you must still report the accident within 10 days.
ALEA requires you to submit a marine accident report to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division within ten days of your boating accident.
If you are involved in a boating accident in Alabama, contact a boat accident lawyer as soon as possible. The boat accident attorneys at The Vance Law Firm can help you navigate the state’s boating requirements and review the circumstances of your case to determine who is at fault for the accident.
Our knowledge and expertise mean that we fight to protect your rights and will work to help you get maximum compensation for any injuries you suffer as a result of another boat driver’s negligence.
Contact The Vance Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation case review.