Recreational boating is a pastime enjoyed by many Texans, both in coastal waters and in the many inland lakes and rivers that our state boasts. Lakes Calaveras and Medina near San Antonio, Lake Austin and Lake Travis near Austin, Lake Corpus Christi, and countless other locations all provide ample opportunity to boat, swim, fish, or partake in many other forms of water-based recreation. However, it’s easy to forget that boating can be dangerous, too. A careless or wrongful act on the water can result in severe and life-altering injuries or a tragic end that may have been preventable.
Here is what you should know about what happens when a boating accident causes a wrongful death, including statistics, common causes of accidents, and how a wrongful death lawsuit can help survivors begin the recovery process afterward.
Boating Accident Statistics
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) keeps nationwide statistics on recreational boating accidents so that the public can stay informed about the dangers of unsafe boating. The latest data from the USCG shows that 658 people were killed in 2017 due to recreational boating accidents across the United States and over 2,600 people were injured. Over three-quarters (76 percent) of all recreational boating deaths were by drowning, and nearly 85 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life vests.
How Boating Accidents Happen
There are many causes behind recreational boating accidents, but some of the most commonly cited reasons for serious accidents include:
- Alcohol use. Boating while intoxicated, or BWI, is not only a crime carrying serious penalties, it is extremely unsafe to mix alcohol and boat operation. The USCG reports that as many as 19 percent of fatal boating accidents involved alcohol as a primary cause.
- Operator inattention or improper lookout. When the pilot of a vessel simply isn’t paying attention to the task of operating the vessel safely, severe accidents happen. All boats need to maintain an appropriate lookout to make sure that there are no hazards in the surrounding waters.
- Inexperienced operators. Untrained or poorly trained boat operators cause many dangerous accidents, as well. USCG data shows that as many as 81 percent of all deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was not adequately trained in boating safety, whereas only 14 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator received a nationally-approved safety certification.
- Equipment failure. Just like an automobile, owners and operators of boats have a responsibility to maintain their vehicles. A failure on the water can lead to disaster—and if the boat isn’t being maintained correctly, the chance that good safety procedures are being followed isn’t very high, either.
Negligence, carelessness, or recklessness are the three key components behind many boat accidents that result in injury or death.
How Wrongful Death Lawsuits Help Families
There may or may not be criminal charges in a boating accident that results in death, depending on the specific situation and circumstances surrounding the incident. Regardless of whether a criminal case is pursued, though, survivors who have lost a loved one may be entitled to pursue an action in civil court in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Criminal cases punish wrongdoers, but they do not compensate victims or families. A wrongful death lawsuit allows the family of someone who has lost their life due to negligence seek financial compensation from the person who caused the death. A personal injury attorney can help start an investigation into the situation and provide legal options to help the family move forward.
Though money cannot replace a loved one, payment in the form of damage awards or a settlement can help a family move forward and start the healing process without worrying about how funeral expenses will be paid, or how the family will survive after a devastating loss of income.
Get Legal Help Today
The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP know how difficult it is for families who have lost loved ones in preventable boating accidents. We are here to stand up for the legal rights of survivors and help families get the justice that they deserve in a court of law, and we would like to help your family, too. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation about your wrongful death lawsuit with an experienced legal professional, call us by phone, use our online contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.