by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
From the dreadful day that your boat is winterized each fall, boat and jet ski owners long for warm weather to return to drop their pride and joy back in the water for great summer fun with family and friends. Just as kids count down the end of school, by early spring boat and jet ski owners are overcome with visions of long days on the water tubing, wake boarding, skiing, cruising, or fishing. What is clear in Alabama is that each year there are more boaters having fun and probably acting a little childish with high speed boats and water toys. Why just ride a tube behind a boat when you can get a trampoline sized raft to pull 12 of your best friends at high speeds, high bumps and with the inevitable hope you hit enough wakes to flip a couple off the raft? Summer is supposed to be fun. No one sits around all winter reminiscing about tubing at 5 mph or riding going in a straight line on a jet-ski with no speed. Fun is adventure and thrills. Water sports are about experiencing new thrills and fun that cannot be found elsewhere. Boat and jet ski companies market their products as the ultimate family adventure where memories are made for life.
Pushing the envelope of fun and adventure also pushes the limits of safety. When hitting the water this summer, you must still be safe. Each year the early part of summer brings news of swimmers and boaters in accidents or dying from drowning. Maybe it is the excitement of getting out of the water for the first time of the year causes people to forget basic safety and do things on the water that are not remotely safe. Couple the excitement of going faster, pushing the envelope of fun with some adult beverages creates an even greater recipe for danger.
One piece of advice I was always told when hitting the water was do not do something stupid. Maybe not a legal term but who is worried about being “legally negligent” when on the water. Rather, simply do not be stupid and use common sense!
Water related injuries arise from a wide range of circumstances. Boats can capsize, sink, or flood. Operating a boat or jet ski at high speeds limits reaction and viewing time. Our lakes have trees and other debris. The risk always exists that an unexpected log could hinder your fun. Jet ski racing is fun but at high speeds cutting off each other is a recipe for danger. Pay attention to your surroundings. Watch for other boats and swimmers. It is often hard to tell the speed at which another boat or jet ski is approaching. Take all precautions you can to avoid a collision.
Under the category of “being stupid and not using common sense” is drinking and boating. There is no difference in driving under the influence and boating under the influence. Just like driving a car while under the influence is illegal, operating a boat or jet ski while intoxicated, on alcohol or drugs, is illegal. The effects of alcohol are magnified when on the water due to the sun causing a boater or jet ski operator to likely become impaired quicker on the water.
Properly maintain your water device. Check any engine issues. Do not leave the dock without the proper number of floatation devices for every passenger. Although state law does not require boaters to be wearing life jackets the entire time, it is always a good idea to wear your life jacket. Boating deaths caused by drowning are due to victims not wearing life jackets. A life jacket could save your life. There is no reason to not wear a life jacket, no matter how good of a swimmer you think you are when jet skiing or on a float raft. You never know when wearing the floatation device could be the difference between life and death.
When you are having fun on the water, be aware of the risk that danger that can occur. Spending time on the lake makes for great summer fun. Do not spoil your fun by doing something stupid. Have a great summer on the water!
If you have any questions or concerns about this issue or other issues on the law, please call the Nomberg Law Firm at 205-417-4825. Our website is www.NombergLaw.com. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Bernard D. Nomberg has been a lawyer for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Lawyer by B-Metro Magazine. Bernard is the immediate past Chair of the Alabama State Bar’s Workers’ Compensation Section.