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Among the vastly different terrains that Texas is home to, there are significant bodies of inland freshwater rivers and lakes, as well as an entire southern gulf coastline. With water comes boats and the recreational opportunities of water skiing, fishing, sailboat racing, swimming, and just enjoying the scenery and serenity of being on the water. Texas ranks sixth in the nation for most registered and owned watercrafts, which rounds out to about 600,000 registered boats.
Unfortunately, with so many boats, accidents are bound to happen for a variety of reasons. In many cases, boaters fail to have sufficient life jackets or to make young children (younger than 13 under Texas law) on board wear one. As a result, nearly 85 percent of fatalities occur because the victim was not wearing a life jacket. Also, almost half of all boating accidents have some alcohol involvement.
There are thousands of boating accidents each year involving sailboats, speedboats, cigar boats and yachts, and personal watercraft accidents while water skiing, wake boarding or Jet Skiing. Many of these operators are inexperienced, drive recklessly or negligently and have little knowledge of boating laws, resulting in collisions and other incidents. In some cases, equipment failure or design flaws can lead to tragic boating accidents and injuries. If you have been involved in an accident, contact our boat accident attorney in Austin, Texas. We offer consultations.
A boat is considered a motor vehicle. You can be arrested and convicted of BUI or boating while under the influence. Like any other motor vehicle driver, your blood alcohol content must be under .08 percent or you face loss of your driving privileges and possible incarceration. Boaters also have a duty to exercise reasonable care while operating a boat, which includes keeping a safe speed, being alert for other boats and swimmers and objects in the water, and maintaining a safe distance while adhering to all boating laws and safety regulations. It is also recommended that you have a fire extinguisher onboard, even if your class or type of boat does not require it.
If you are involved in a boating collision, Texas law requires you to render aid and assistance as well as give your name, address and boat identification to any injured people. Notice of the accident must be given to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department within 30 days unless there was an injury or extensive damage of at least $2,000, in which case immediate notification is required.
Most boat accidents are caused by inexperienced and inattentive operators. Operating a boat is a lot different from driving a car or a truck. Maneuvering a boat is a lot more difficult than driving on a road. This is because driving in water is a lot more fluid and it can be quite hard for you to stop, slow down or change the direction of the boat immediately. This is why the operator should be proficient in boat driving.
The ocean is a lot more dangerous when it is stormy or just rainy. This is why it is important that you assess the weather conditions before you set out to sail. You should also gain an understanding of the quality of waves in the area where you will be boating. When you are on the road, there is less chance of getting in an accident because the road is properly maintained. There is no way, of course, to maintain the waves in the sea.
The major factor that would greatly affect the severity of injury and the boating accident is the condition of the boat itself. For one, the size of the boat would matter. A large motorboat is a lot safer than a smaller one. The speed of the boat will play a great role in the accident, too.
Other factors that contribute to boating accidents include:
Also, boat operators must have a whistle, bell or horn onboard and must refrain from operating at night if proper lighting is unavailable.
Passengers can be thrown overboard if they are allowed to ride on the bow, gunwale or transom, especially at high speeds. Falling overboard can result in head trauma or spine injuries or even making contact with the propeller blades.
Being thrown overboard can lead to hypothermia as well as panic from disorientation. The effects are heightened if you are intoxicated. Other injuries include:
Before going on a boat trip, research boating laws in the state where you will be going. Keep in mind that each state has its own boating laws. By familiarizing yourself with the boating laws, you can help avoid committing violations that will put your life at risk.
Second, you should never operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. Boating is no easy feat. You need to be fully alert and aware of what is happening around you. If you have been drinking, you will find it difficult to do this.
Before going on a boat trip, make sure that the proper safety equipment is onboard. Such equipment includes life jackets and fire extinguishers. Also ensure that the boat’s fuel system is properly maintained.
Capsizing is the most common cause of personal injuries during a boat ride. Lucky for you, there are many steps you can take to prevent the boat from capsizing. First, you must ensure that the boat is secured on the dock before you load it. It is also recommended that passengers never enter a boat while they are carrying things. Passengers should also stay in the center of the boat to prevent it from tipping. Everyone should stay away from the sides of the boat. There have been cases where people fell overboard while sitting or leaning against the side of the boat.
By following these simple rules, you can prevent boat accidents that may lead to minor or major injuries.
Operating a boat takes more training and awareness than driving a motor vehicle. The pilot or captain is also responsible for the passengers, including ensuring that enough life jackets are onboard and that children under 13 are wearing them in accordance with Texas law. The pilot or operator is also obligated to see that passengers do not overindulge in alcohol so that their condition or behavior does not pose a serious safety risk to themselves and others.
A pilot must be on the constant lookout for objects in the water, be aware of the water depth, weather and potential storms, and maintain appropriate speed when other boats are nearby or if entering or near the coast or swimming areas. If the boat drops anchor in the water, the pilot must take care that no guests are in danger from the motor propeller and that they safely return to the boat before the boat pulls anchor and leaves the area.
The principles of negligence apply to a boat operator’s conduct and if that conduct falls below what is expected of a reasonable boat pilot under similar conditions.
When it comes to proving who is at fault, you should have a good understanding of the rules of the road. When we say rules of the road, we are referring to regulations that govern the etiquette of boats with each other while they are on the sea. The main purpose of these rules is to prevent collisions.
With this in mind, you should understand that two types of rules govern boating. The first one is international navigation rules, which are standardized all over the world. Boats from different countries must all follow these rules when they come across each other. The second type, inland navigational rules, vary from one region to another. Both sets of rules play an important part in determining who is at fault in a boat accident.
You should also know about COLREGS, or collision regulations, when determining who is at fault in a boat collision. By understanding the simple policies that come with this, you can determine which vessel is the stand-on boat and which is the give-way boat. By looking at this simple factor, you can determine which boat caused the accident.
When it comes to special situations, other rules you should consider include: Look Out (Rule 5), Safe Speed (Rule 6), Risk of Collision (Rule 7), Action to Avoid Collision (Rule 8), Narrow Channels (Rule 9), Head-On Situation (Rule 14) and the Crossing Situation (Rule 15).
In a boat accident, attend to your medical needs first. Seek help from a medical professional. You must secure a medical certificate as proof that the accident took place.
This is important if you think the other party is responsible for the accident. Aside from this, you also should talk with an Austin personal injury attorney who can help with your claim.
As Austin personal injury attorneys, we are experienced in negligence law as it applies to boating accidents and Texas boating regulations. When an accident occurs, we will investigate the scene, interview witnesses, obtain relevant documentation, determine if any state boating regulations have been violated and have the boat examined for equipment failure; collision, explosion or fire damage; design flaws; or other circumstances. In many cases, multiple parties are liable for the accident and resulting injuries.
For more than 50 years, Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, has brought justice to victims of all types of car accidents, including those involving boats and personal watercrafts. In 2010, our firm achieved the first and only verdict in the country against a boat manufacturer for propeller injuries that could have been prevented if the manufacturer had used the simple protection of a guard around the spinning propeller.
Our lawyers are committed to helping you recover the maximum compensation to which you are entitled under the law. When someone else’s negligence has caused personal injury or death, call our law office at 512-593-7650 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation and confidential consultation to discuss your case.
The unguarded propeller of a SeaRay runabout chewed through our client’s leg, requiring amputation of the remainder of his leg up to the hip. The firm had industry experts construct and demonstrate a propeller guard that would have prevented this horrible injury while not affecting the functional operation of the boat.