With warmer spring temperatures hinting at the summer weather that's ahead, it's no surprise that people are thinking about getting boats ready for the season. If you have just purchased your first boat, you may be anxious for the warm weather so you can get out on the water with your friends and family. Before you do, though, it's important to recognize the risks it can pose. The United States Coast Guard reported over 4,000 boating accidents in 2014 alone. Here are a few things you can do to protect your friends and family from injuries and you from the potential of a personal injury lawsuit.
Insist On Life Jackets
You have to carry enough life jackets for everyone on board before you take your boat out, even if people claim to be great swimmers. In most states, there are even regulations requiring all people under a certain age to wear a life jacket at all times when out on the water. Make sure you're familiar with these laws and that you abide by them. In addition to having a life jacket for each passenger, you also need to be sure that the jackets are the right sizes. Life jackets don't have universal fits, so you need to be sure that everyone has one that fits properly.
Avoid Alcohol Consumption
Just as you shouldn't drink and drive a car, you also shouldn't drink if you're going to be on the boat. Boats are unstable in the water, and a single wave could send you overboard if you're already a little bit tipsy. Furthermore, alcohol slows your reaction time, and that's the last thing you'd want for yourself or anyone in your party if you're out on the water and there's an emergency.
Always Be Attentive of Where You Swim
Make sure that you evaluate your swimming areas carefully so that you only swim in places where it's safe to do so. If you're going to leave the boat to swim, always appoint someone to stay aboard and act as a lookout. He or she will monitor the swimmers and also be watching for any other hazards, such as passing boaters or fish. Try to maintain a consistent buddy system for your swimmers so that nobody is ever left by themselves.
Stash a Charged Cell Phone and Marine Radio Aboard
You never know what's ahead for you when you're on the water. While you'll always want to hope for the best, you should be prepared for the worst. The last thing you want is to face a personal injury suit because you failed to take timely action when someone got hurt. Be prepared with a cell phone and a marine radio on hand just in case you need to get some help for someone in your party. Marine radios are important because the Coast Guard monitors them at all times, making contacting them an easy solution for getting help if you need it.
Be Realistic about Your Swimming Skills
Don't overestimate your swimming ability, and encourage the rest of your party to be practical as well. While you might be able to swim in a regular pool, you'll face a different environment in ice-cold water or in heavy currents. Make sure that you're honest about your skills so that you don't get into a situation that's beyond your or your party members' abilities to swim. That way, you won't be considered negligent by putting people in harm's way where they weren't able to handle the conditions.
As a new boat owner, some of these things can be challenging. Make sure that you understand all of these tips as well as the basic boater's safety regulations before you take that boat out on the water. The more you understand about being safe with your party on the boat, the less chances there are of someone getting hurt and you being liable for it. If you are accused of negligence after a boating trip that injures one of your friends, contact a personal injury attorney for advice.