Have you ever gotten in a boating accident before? If you have been a boat accident victim, you know how severe they can be. They can cause mental or emotional distress and physical injury. Sometimes, they could even be fatal. It is worse when you realize that someone's negligence or recklessness caused the accident.
Below, we explore who is liable for boating accidents on Texas lakes. We also examine the causes of these accidents and what laws apply to a boat accident claim in Texas. If you have been in a watercraft accident, contact a Texas boat accident lawyer as soon as possible to get started on claiming financial compensation for injuries and damages.
Who Can Be Held Liable in Texas Boating Accidents?
One can hold one or more of the following parties liable in a boating accident.
- The Operator of the Boat
The operator of the boat should ensure that the passengers are safe. They should not be intoxicated while operating the vehicle or recklessly operate the boat. If they do any of these or disregard boating laws, you can hold them liable if a boating accident occurs.
As operator inattention is one of the top causes of fatal boating accidents. You, along with your boating accident attorney, can ensure that they are held liable.
If you are on a recreational boat, then the operator or owners should provide an approved life jacket in excellent condition. It must be the wearer's size, not a size smaller or larger. The lifejacket must also be enough for all the passengers on board. If they do not have enough life jackets or do not require their passengers to wear them, they might also be held liable.
Life jackets are essential because federal laws require that all types of vessels have a Type I, II, or III U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for everyone on the vessel. If your boat is a personal watercraft or vessel longer than 16 feet, the laws require a Type IV Coast Guard-approved throwable device.
When there are children under 13 years, they must wear a life jacket at all times on boats that are less than 26 feet high. The only exceptions are when they are below the deck or in an enclosed cabin.
- The Passenger
If a boat passenger acts recklessly, thereby causing an accident, you can hold them liable for a boating accident. Also, if they prevented the boat operator from fulfilling their duty, one can hold them responsible. When a passenger acts recklessly, and the operator can stop such behavior, but they do not, one can hold such operator liable for the accident.
- The Owner of the Boat
One can hold the boat owner liable if they allow inexperienced boaters to operate the vessel.
- The Manufacturer
If the boat has a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer would be the person responsible for the accident. You can also hold manufacturers of other safety equipment in the vessel, such as life jackets, liable if these things malfunction. Your boating accident lawyer can advise in such cases.
- The Rental Company
You can hold the rental company liable for a boating accident if routine maintenance was due and they failed to carry it out. If the rental company is also aware of any fault in the boat and fails to fix it, one can hold them liable.
The legal team of rental companies usually tries to protect them from this liability. They make you sign a waiver that disclaims their liability for anything that happens to you on the boat. If you have signed this contract, all hope is not lost. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the signing, such a contract might not be enforceable. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review the contact and find loopholes.
What Laws Apply to Boating Accidents?
Federal laws and state laws apply to a boat crash. Below, we outline what rules apply to Texas boating accidents.
Federal Boating Laws
Federal maritime laws apply to boating accidents that occur in the following places:
- On Navigable Waters: These are bodies of water used to transport goods and people.
- Involve Traditional Maritime Activities: These are focused on commercial activities rather than recreational or leisure boat rides.
The following are some of the federal laws that guide boating accidents:
- The Oil Pollution Act (OPA): This enforces the removal of oil spillage and implements processes for determining damages.
- The Death on the High Seas Act: This ensures that families of deceased sailors can create a wrongful death claim if negligence on international waters caused their death.
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act: This act covers the outer Continental Shelf of the United States.
- The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act: The law ensures that injured maritime workers can get compensation for their injuries. This includes vocational rehabilitation to injured workers and compensation to the families of the deceased.
- The Jones Act: This protects American workers at sea.
Texas Boating Laws
Texas state laws likely govern bodies of water that are non-navigable or used mainly for recreational purposes. One of such laws is the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code with the following provisions:
- Section 31.045 speaks to ownership of vessels and outboard motors.
- Section 31.109 addresses required boater education courses.
- Section 31.105 speaks to required accident reports.
- Section 31.104 addresses the duties of boat operators.
Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code addresses boating under the influence and ensures that you can hold the boater liable for the damages caused.
Both federal and state laws agree on some of the same rules. Under both laws, it is illegal to operate a vessel while intoxicated. If your BAC is 0.08% or above when using a boat, you can be held liable by the authorities.
Causes of Boat Accidents in Texas
The causes of boat accidents are similar all over the US. However, in Texas, they are slightly different. This is because there are two major ways people get involved in Texas boat accidents.
Maritime Industry Accidents
The Maritime Transportation System in Texas is a ports and waterways system that allows commercial goods and people to transport themselves across the water in Texas. Think of it as a complex railroad system that ensures that every train arrives at the right time and the right place.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connects all commercial ports. This ensures that the export of crude oil products runs smoothly and that the import of petroleum products runs unhitched.
Every time rig workers travel back and forth, tons of cargo containing petroleum products are imported and exported. If there is one mistake, it could be a recipe for disaster or a fatal accident.
The following are common types of accidents are accidents that occur in the Maritime Industry:
- Transit collisions
- Accidents caused by transporting cargo
- Crane accidents
- Malfunctioning forklifts
- Exposure to harmful substances
- Unsupervised contact with dangerous equipment
These accidents are hazardous and end up as boating fatalities because of all the petroleum products and heavy equipment involved.
Recreational Boating Accidents
Recreational boating accidents are pretty different from maritime accidents and less fatal. This does not mean that they are not severe.
A negligent action is usually one of the top causes of these accidents. The following are some other causes:
- Inattentive operation
- Operator inexperience
- Alcohol consumption
- Improper lookout
- Excessive speed
- Engine failure
- Inclement weather
- Disregard boating safety laws
Contact Glenn Law Today!
You need to contact a professional maritime lawyer if you or anyone you know gets involved in a boating accident. Our experienced boat accident attorneys will ensure that you can claim compensation from whoever is liable for your accident.
We will also ensure that you get financial compensation from the insurance companies for any property damage or medical bills incurred. If you incur any other losses from the accident, such as loss of enjoyment and loss of income, we have also got you covered. Contact us today to commence the legal process.