With the United States Coast Guard reporting over half a million registered watercraft in the state of Texas alone, recreational boating is a popular pastime here, and the number of people enjoying the water continues to grow annually. Unfortunately, as the number of people enjoying the water increases, the number of boating-related injuries and deaths increases, too.
Here’s what you need to know about negligent boating accidents and your legal rights, liability, and what to do if you’ve been hurt.
Texas Boating Accident Facts
The United States Coat Guard’s annual Recreational Boating Statistics shows that there were 4,463 boating accidents in 2016, leading to 2,903 injuries and deaths. Of those who died of drowning, as many as 83 percent were not wearing life jackets. Boating accidents also caused as much as $49 million in property damage in 2016.
Some of the leading causes of boating accidents include the following:
- Operating under the influence. Drinking and safe boat operation simply don’t mix. Alcohol was the leading factor in all boating accidents, and was the leading factor in 15 percent of all boating accident deaths.
- Improper lookout. Often coupled with operator inattention, failure to spot a potential hazard—such as rocks or a shoal, a hidden sand bar, pylon, or other obstruction—can quickly lead to dangerous accidents.
- Lack of experience. Depending on the size of the vessel and number of passenger, even the operator of a relatively small watercraft may be required to pass a boater education course. Party boat operators must carry a Party Boat Operator’s License from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or other USCG licenses appropriate to the class of vessel.
- Excessive speed. Just as on land, operating a watercraft faster than is safe for prevailing weather or traffic conditions or ignoring posted signage indicating appropriate speed (including no-wake zones) is a major factor in many accidents on the water.
- Navigational errors. When an operator doesn’t know or understand the “rules of the water,” including interpreting buoys or sign markers, understanding navigational lights, and when to yield or “stand-on” to another vessel, serious accidents can occur.
Mechanical failure may be a factor in boat accidents, as well. All boat owners should be performing regular maintenance to ensure that their vessels are in good condition and safe to operate.
Liability and Negligence in a Boating Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a boating accident, it’s important to realize that not all injuries are the result of negligence. But when someone on the water doesn’t act with reasonable care and an injury or death is the result, that person may said to be negligent, and you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent person or parties by filing a lawsuit.
Depending on the specifics of your boating accident, the operator of the vessel you were on, the owner of the vessel (if different than the operator), or the operator of the other vessel involved in the accident may all share fault. If a mechanical or equipment failure was involved, then liability may even fall to a manufacturer or distributor, if the accident happened due to a bad design or manufacturing defect.
Your attorney will be able to help you seek out who is responsible for your injuries so that you can get the compensation you may be owed for your medical bills, rehabilitation or long-term care, lost time and wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Get Legal Help After a Boating Accident Today
If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one after a boating accident, Wayne Wright LLP is here for you. As a leading Texas law firm, we’ve dedicated our lives to seeking justice for the victims and their families who have suffered as a result of the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of others while on the water.
To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced legal professionals today, call us by phone, use the contact link to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page.