Over 560,000 boats are registered in Texas. Boating is great recreation for many. For others, it’s work. Either way, if you are injured while boating in Texas waters because another person was careless, you’ll need to be advised and represented by a Houston personal injury lawyer.
Who can be held liable for a boating accident? What is your recourse if you become injured while boating because someone else was negligent? Can you be compensated for the injuries you sustain in a boating accident? Will you need a personal injury attorney’s help?
If you’ll continue reading this brief introduction to boating accidents in Texas, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn more about your rights as an injured victim of negligence in this state.
Can You Recover Compensation After a Boat Accident?
In most cases, if you’re injured on a sailboat or a motorboat because that vessel’s operator or another boat operator acted negligently, you’re entitled by Texas law to full compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and other injury-related damages and losses.
But being “entitled” does not mean that you are automatically compensated. To recover damages if you’ve been injured in a boating accident, you and your Houston boating accident attorney must prove that you were injured as the direct result of another person’s negligence.
And just because you’ve been injured in a boating accident, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone acted negligently. Negligence happens only when someone fails to act responsibly and with reasonable care.
What Are the Different Types of Boat Accidents?
In order to understand more about personal injury cases that arise from boat accidents and how those cases are handled in Texas, it helps to identify the different types of accidents that can happen while boating:
- The boat you are on strikes a submerged rock or object or hits land.
- The boat you are on is hit by a wave or by another vessel’s wake.
- The boat you are on strikes or is struck by another vessel.
When motorboats collide, both operators are usually partly at fault. In such cases, victims may bring legal action against both boat operators. In a motorboat-sailboat collision, the motorboat’s operator is usually liable, as safe boating requires motorboats to stay out of a sailboat’s path.
How Is Liability for a Boat Accident Determined?
When a large wake or wave strikes a boat, you could be knocked over or even thrown overboard. The liability for such an accident may not be clear. The law requires a boat’s operator to stay alert for hazards, but liability for injuries caused by a wave or wake also depends on details such as:
- the make and model of the vessel
- the speed at the time of the accident
- the size of the wake or wave
- visibility at the time of the accident
- other nearby boat traffic at the time of the accident
- whether the operator alerted passengers that a wake or wave accident was imminent
When another boat creates a wake that results in an accident, that boat’s operator may have liability, but it depends on the details. In single-boat wave accidents, whether a boat operator is liable also hinges on the details, particularly the speed, visibility, and weather conditions.
But even with good weather and no boat traffic nearby, a boat may strike something that is submerged. If you’re boating cautiously, following nautical charts, and moving at an appropriate speed, if you strike a submerged object, you probably will not be found negligent.
However, if you hit something and injure someone while you’re speeding through fog without charts or a GPS device, you will almost certainly be deemed negligent for injuring that person.
What About Alcohol-Related Boat Accidents?
In Texas, you can be charged with boating while intoxicated (BWI) if you operate a watercraft while your blood alcohol content level is at or above 0.08 percent. The U.S. Coast Guard tells us that alcohol is involved in approximately fifteen percent of all fatal boating accidents.
If you are injured by a boat operator who was intoxicated, and if that person receives a conviction on the criminal charge of boating while intoxicated, that conviction will be powerful evidence on your behalf in a personal injury case.
Federal and state laws require even the smallest boat to carry equipment that includes flares, fire extinguishers, and life jackets. If a boat has been disabled or someone falls overboard, failure to carry the proper equipment could trigger a negligence claim against the boat’s owner or operator.
What Compensation Is Available to Injured Victims of Negligence?
If you’re injured by negligence in a boat accident, it’s legally comparable to being injured by a negligent driver in a vehicle accident. If you and your attorney can prove that a boat’s operator was negligent in a way that directly caused you to be injured, you may recover damages for:
- current and projected future costs for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and/or therapy
- current and projected future lost earnings and lost earning capacity
- personal suffering and pain
- amputation, disfigurement, and/or disability
- the loss of your “enjoyment of life”
In some very rare cases, an injured victim of negligence in a boating accident may never recover damages. If a boat’s operator doesn’t have insurance or assets, that person has no way to pay. Car insurance doesn’t cover boats, and homeowner’s insurance may or may not offer coverage.
How Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Help You?
Those cases are extremely rare. There are almost always options for compensation if you’ve been injured by negligence in a boating accident, and in most cases, a Texas boat accident lawyer will find a way to recover the damages that you are entitled to. For example:
- If a boat or a boat part was flawed or defective, and if that flaw or defect was a direct cause of your accident and personal injury, the manufacturer may have liability.
- If the accident happened while you were employed and at work on a boat, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
If you are injured by negligence in a boat accident, the right Houston personal injury lawyer can offer you sound legal advice, will suggest the best way to proceed legally, and will fight aggressively and effectively for the compensation – and for the justice – you deserve and need.