Boating Accidents Attorney in Austin, Texas
If you love being on the water, Texas can be a great place to live. The lakes and waterways are filled with boaters, fishing, and personal watercraft. They can also be dangerous places when someone fails to exercise their duty of care to others on the water. Boating fatalities were up by 40% in the first four months of 2021. That was after boating accidents in 2020 were the highest they had been in three decades.
Since 1993, Greenway Law Firm has been helping clients in Austin, Georgetown, Marble Falls, and Bastrop, Texas, navigate the choppy waters of boating-related personal injury claims.
Common Boating Accidents
Accidents involving boats and personal watercraft, such as jet skis, often occur when crafts collide or hit a fixed object, such as buoys, pilings, rocks, or docks, or when hitting a wake or wave. Injuries may also occur by grounding, flooding, or capsizing. A sudden stop or reckless operation may cause someone to fall overboard. Additionally, skiers and tubers can suffer injuries caused by the person operating the boat pulling them.
In Texas, inattention by the operator, operator inexperience, improper lookout, alcohol, and excessive speed are the top five causes of boating accidents.
Who Could Be Liable for Boating Accidents?
Operating a watercraft is just as serious as getting behind the wheel of a car, as is evidenced by the state’s Water Safety Act. Vessels and outboard motors must be titled, just like vehicles. They are numbered, just as vehicles have license plates. Operators born on or after September 1, 1993, operating a boat on public waterways must complete a boater education course and carry a valid boater identification card, like a driver’s license. Boating is fun, but it’s also a serious activity, just like driving a motor vehicle.
Anyone who fails to exercise their duty of care could be assigned fault in a boating accident. This would include:
The operator of the boat the injured person was on if the operator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drove recklessly, or failed to be attentive;
The operator of another watercraft;
The owner of a boat who is responsible for ensuring the person operating their boat is qualified and for ensuring the boat is equipped with safety devices, including fire extinguishers, life vests, and proper lights;
The boat manufacturer responsible for selling a safe product;
The owner of a dock who rents watercraft; and,
The injured person if they failed to exercise a duty of care.
What Does It Take to Prove Negligence?
Everyone has a duty of care to everyone else on the water. Every person is responsible for taking actions or not taking actions that help keep others safe. Merely being injured while boating is not enough to assert a personal injury claim. You must prove the negligence of a party. Doing so requires three findings:
The negligent person owed a duty of care to the injured person;
The negligent person breached that duty of care; and,
The breach resulted in the victim’s injuries which resulted in damages to the victim.
Although operating a boat on Texas waterways is much like operating a vehicle on its roadways, proving negligence is often far more challenging. For example, if hitting the wake of another boat causes you to fall and injure yourself, a finding of negligence would depend on numerous factors, including the boat’s size and speed, whether the operator shouted a warning, visibility, or the number of boats in the area at the time.