Boating Is Popular In Austin, But Can Be Dangerous When Boaters Are Careless
With more inland water than any other state, Texas is home to half a million registered boats. All year long, Austin’s water-loving community can be found fleeing the heat or taking in the beauty on Lake Travis.
Sadly, with all the boating activity in Central Texas, a number of tragic boating accidents occur in the Austin area every year. The U.S. Coast Guard reported in 2019 that Texas had the second highest number of deaths from boating accidents.
The state has slightly reduced its boating accidents from previous years. But with boating (and reckless boating) so popular in Texas, the Lone Star State still has more boating deaths than even coastal California.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a boating accident on Austin’s lakes or along the Texas coastline, you may be entitled to compensation from the person or company that caused your injury.
But boating accidents can be complex.
Boating accidents in Austin and elsewhere often involve a mixture of:
Admiralty law is also called maritime law. It includes rules and regulations that apply specifically to watercraft.
Austin boating injury lawsuits can also involve Federal laws for private watercraft, which are different from other Federal transportation laws.
- For example, under the search and seizure laws of the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, traffic enforcement officers need probable cause to search a car.
But the U.S. Coast Guard can use force to board and search a boat in coastal waters for any reason. So can the U.S. Treasury Department.
Federal Reporting Requirements For Boating Accidents
The Code Federal of Regulations requires that victims of boating accidents file a report with the nearest state boating authority.
The boating accident report must be filed within 48 hours of:
- A fatality that occurs within 24 hours of the accident
- A person’s injury that requires medical attention beyond first aid
- Damage to the vessel that results in more than $2,000, or in the vessel’s total loss
Understanding time-sensitive Federal law requirements regarding boat accidents is crucial.
Texas State Law
Anyone injured in an Austin boat accident may have legal rights to money for their property damage and bodily injuries under Texas law.
Texas State and Local Laws For Watercraft
The State of Texas, Counties (Travis) and municipalities (Austin) have rules and regulations for the operation and licensing of watercraft in their jurisdictions.
They can also impose penalties for violations.
However, local and state boating laws cannot legally conflict with Federal maritime laws.
Texas Negligence Law
The legal term for carelessness is negligence. Under Texas law, people are required to maintain a certain level of care in their behavior. Different circumstances require different levels of care.
Boat Operators or Owners may be legally responsible for a boating accident caused by their negligence:
- Unsafe operation of the boat
- Poor maintenance of the boat
- Reckless behavior by a boat passenger
- Giving the helm to an underage operator
- Lending a boat to an underage or intoxicated operator
Compensation for an Austin boating accident injury
Texas law provides relief for people injured by someone else’s negligence. The injured victim can often recover money for their damages, including:
- Property damage
- Medical Bills
- Lost Wages
- Noneconomic Damages (mental anguish and trauma)
But negotiating a settlement or litigating a lawsuit requires understanding a wide variety of Texas state law, including:
- Rules of Civil Liability (Torts)
- Rules of Evidence
- Texas Insurance Law
- Texas Court Rules and Regulations
- State and Local Boating Laws
- Nautical Engineering (in the case of mechanical failure)
- Marine Collision Expertise
- Marine Forensics
All of this can be difficult on your own.
It’s essential that you secure a boat accident lawyer to help navigate the laws and regulations surrounding boating accidents and boat accident lawsuits.
Our dedicated boating accident lawyers at Justinian & Associates know the law. We work tirelessly to protect the rights of boat accident victims in Travis County and across the State of Texas.
Most Boating Accidents Could Have Been Prevented With More Care
Boating can be a relaxing or exhilarating experience. But boats can be dangerous. Like driving and flying, boating requires an operator who is sober and careful.
A boat operator must follow admiralty laws, as well as local rules and regulations.
Boat operators must heed the warnings and instructions of law enforcement authorities such as the U.S. Coast Guard or Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Boat owners and operators must also make sure their vessels are maintained in a safe and working condition. The Texas Water Safety Act lists regulations of how
Nationally, the Coast Guard’s figures reveal that too many boat accidents in Austin and elsewhere are caused by carelessness.
The Importance Of Wearing A Life Jacket While Boating
In Texas, children younger than 13 must wear a personal flotation device (also called a PFD) while on a vessel that measures less than 26 feet. A variety of life jackets will qualify under Texas law.
But wearing a life jacket is a good idea for anyone on a smaller boat.
The Coast Guard’s 2019 boating report found that:
- 79% Boat Deaths Are Due To Drowning
- 86% Of Those Who Drowned Were Not Wearing Life Jackets
- 2/3rds Of Those Who Drowned Were Good Swimmers
In addition to wearing life jackets, there are many safety precautions that boaters should take, such as following boating rules and regulations.
Safe Boating Requires Attentive Operators And Passengers
The Coast Guard’s report and Texas Parks & Wildlife statistics also indicate that many boat injuries happen because a boat operator or passenger was careless or not paying attention.
Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)
Regrettably, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reports that half of all boating deaths involve alcohol. In many cases, an operator was intoxicated and acting carelessly in piloting the boat.
Under Texas law, boat operators can be arrested for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) if they:
- Appear to be impaired
- Have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher
The BWI law is enforced by Game Wardens and Marine Safety Enforcement Officers.
Punishment For Boating While Intoxicated Can Include:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- A fine for as much as $2000
- Suspension of the operator
Boat Accidents Can Also Be Caused By Negligent Design Or Manufacture
When an accident results from a defective product like a boat, the designer and manufacturer (and even a seller) may be legally responsible for injuries caused by that accident. That can include components like fault wires or replacement parts.
Proving that a product was defective in its design or manufacture can also be challenging. But an experienced Austin boat accident attorney can use investigators, weather data, expert testimony and visual models to explain how the defect caused the accident.
Negligent Maintenance In An Austin Boating Accident
In addition, a person or company who was negligent (careless) in maintaining or repairing the boat may be responsible.
If the negligent maintenance or repair made the boat unsafe, they may have to pay for any bodily injuries or property damage that resulted.
This might include:
- The boat’s owner (even if the owner let someone else operate it)
- A company that rents out the boats
- An employer if an employee caused the accident while on the job
Even Minor Boating Accidents Can Be Deadly
Boats can be unstable and difficult to control or stop suddenly, especially power boats. Even small boats are heavy and can cause serious bodily injury when colliding with a person in the water.
A boat operator’s minor act of carelessness or distraction can cause a major accident:
- Capsizing (turning over and plunging its passengers into the water)
- Collision with other boats and vessels
- Colliding with swimmers, jet skiers / wake boarders or personal watercraft
Hiring The Right Maritime Law Attorney Can Make Or Break Your Case
Determining fault in a boating accident case requires intensive investigation, documentation, communication with every possible eyewitness and of course, identifying each and every individual and entity accountable.
There are important questions that can determine the validity and strength of your boat accident case. Here are some of the most important factors:
- Was the operator of the boat intoxicated at the time of the accident?
- Was the boat operating at an excessive speed for the circumstances, location and water conditions at the time of the accident?
- Was the boat’s operator in compliance with applicable code regulations regarding the proper operation of a watercraft?
Your Rights Can Be Lost If You Wait
Statutes of limitation are laws that limit how much time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. Texas statutes of limitation may apply to your boating accident lawsuit. Don’t let your rights expire.
Warriors For The Injured
No matter the type of watercraft accident you and your loved one have endured, the boat accident attorneys at Justinian & Associates are here to help.
Our Austin boat accident attorneys are passionate about pursuing justice in the wake of negligence and wrongful injury. We understand that the well-being and livelihood of you and your loved ones may be at stake.
As our record demonstrates, we have the legal knowledge, the experience, the resources, experience and trained investigators to take on adversaries of any size.
All we do is fight for injured victims. Our only goal is justice for our clients, whatever that means for them. And we do not accept defeat. Unless we get you money for your injuries, you don’t pay us a dime.
Call, text or email us for a free consultation, with no obligation. Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates (not a “screener” or paralegal) to understand your rights.