Thomas McCutcheon

With the 4th of July upon us and the recent boating fatality in mind, let’s talk about boating safety. There has been much speculation about the facts of the accident of 8 June 2019. I wasn’t there and don’t know the facts but I certainly have heard a lot of rumors about how the boats in question were being operated.

Boats, like vehicles, have rules that govern their operation as well as regulations that require specific safety equipment on each vessel.

There are rules for boats that are different than that of cars. An example is Alabama statute 33-5-25 which imposes a legal duty on the operator of any boat involved in an accident to render to render assistance as necessary to save others affected by the accident from the danger caused by the accident and to give his or her name and the identification of their boat to any person injured.

The operator of an automobile is not under a legal duty to render aid to someone injured in an accident. Obviously, moral obligations exist and should never be ignored. There are Good Samaritan laws that shield people from liability who attempt to render aid but if you don’t know first aid you may cause more harm than good. That’s different than saving someone in the water because the very “first aid” may be that of getting them where first aid may be performed safely.

Other than sailboats, rowboats or canoes, a boater’s safety course and a test are required to be certified to operate a boat. The boat has to be registered in the name of the person who owns the boat. The rules and regulations for the safe operation of a boat deal with right of way among other issues. Drivers of automobiles have red lights, green lights, stop signs and markings on the road to indicate the right of way.

In a boat, the right of way changes based on the type of boat being operated and the type of boat that is either yielding or has the right of way. Commercial barges have the right of way. They can’t stop in half a mile. Sailboats typically have the right of way because they are limited in the direction they can travel given the wind conditions existing at the time. Power boats in overtaking or passing other power boats have rules that dictate the correct side to pass or overtake as well as certain horn signals which can or must be given.

As someone who loves boating, the best advice that I can give is to keep a proper look out. That’s a duty imposed by law but it’s also common sense when you are on the water.

Buckle up, drive safely and as always your referrals are appreciated! 256-764-0112


Ask the Attorney is sponsored by local attorneys, McCutcheon & Hamner, PC, as a service to the residents of NW Alabama.

Please send the questions to:

“Ask the Attorney,”

P. O. Box 38,

Florence, Alabama 35631

or visit our website at: www.mhatty.com

facebook: McCutcheon and Hamner, P.C.

We will not print your full name in the article. We will not be able to return any written or preprinted items which are submitted.

No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality legal services performed by other lawyers.