It’s that time of year again – boating time! Come summer, millions of Americans who are lucky enough to be located near a body of water are busting out the sunscreen, throwing on their bathing suits and hopping in a floating vessel of some sort or another. Unfortunately, all the fun and sun is sometimes accompanied by a third, less welcome party: Accidents.
Alabama’s Boating Accidents in Numbers
In 2012, there were 83 recreational boating accidents in the state of Alabama alone. As defined by the US Coast Guard, a recreational boating accident is an accident when; as a result that involves the vessel or the vessel’s equipment:
a) a person dies; or
b) a person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
c) damage to the vessel or other property totals $2000 or more or there is a complete loss of the vessel; or
d) a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury;
Of the 83 accidents…
· 10 were alcohol related
· 5 were alcohol related and resulted in death
· 15 were alcohol related and resulted in non-fatal injuries
· 15 were fatal
· 59 resulted in non-fatal injuries
Back in 1960, the recreational boating fatality rate was a whopping 33.4 deaths per every 100,000 registered boats. By 2008, this number had decreased considerably – by 83%, to 5.6 deaths per 100,000. In order to prevent minimization of these numbers, however, you should know that that would translate to 709 recreational boating fatalities in 2008 alone! Since 1960, the fatality rates have been steadily declining by an average 4.6% annually. If we continue to use 1960 as the base year that would mean that an estimated 93,000 lives have been saved on a cumulative basis – roughly the population of a mid-sized city!
However, though we can do a victory dance for the 30 years between 1960 and 1990, more recent years are showing a steady “flattening out” of fatality rates, with annual fatalities seemingly stuck at around 700. The question is WHY – what is causing these accidents that the US Coast Guard can’t regulate?
First and foremost, there is alcohol. According to statistics done by the USCG, the greatest number of boating accident fatalities in 2008 were caused by alcohol and drugs. Because of this, Operation Dry Water is one of the initiatives being employed by the Coast Guard and its partners. Their aim is to reduce the number of alcohol related accidents and fatalities by banning the use of alcohol use on the water altogether.
Other causes of boating accidents include:
· Inexperienced or careless boat operation
· Poor weather and water conditions
· Defective or missing safety equipment
· A poorly maintained boat
· Poor planning
The Negative Effects a Boating Accident Can Have on Your Life
Many individuals don’t think about the consequences of a boating accident injury or fatality until it’s too late. Hindsight reveals that maybe you shouldn’t have let your driver have “a few drinks” out on the lake; that maybe you should have worn your life-vest; that maybe you should have checked the weather in advance; that maybe you should have been paying more attention. But no matter how much regret you may feel afterward, there is no going back, and whatever injuries you or a loved one may have accrued during the incident will effect your life. If you or a loved one has suffered from injury or death due to a boating accident, the person who caused the accident can be sued for the following:
· All medical expenses – past, current and future – related to the injuries sustained in the accident
· Damage caused to your personal property, including your boat
· Lost wages
· Pain and suffering
If you or a loved one have been injured in a recreational boating accident, the first thing you will want to do is contact a personal injury lawyer in your area. If you’re located in Alabama or a nearby area, I am the lawyer for you. Having lived through a number of tough times myself, I understand that you need to get your own life back on track, instead of worrying about the aftermath of the accident. This is why I believe so strongly in handling every aspect of your legal case, while you take care of you, get back on your feet and get on with your life.
Should you find yourself injured or debilitated by a boating accident, I will be here to help with the aftermath – but, before you get out on the water, remember: Don’t drink and drive, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and above all, just be safe – Happy boating!