But what about the boats traveling on the bodies of water in and around Texas? Are boats regulated? What happens when a boat is involved in an accident? Is there a difference between recreational boats and boats used for work?
Before you think boat accidents are only a problem along the coasts of Florida and California, keep in mind that Texas ranks 3rd in the nation for maritime jobs. What’s more, Texas has more inland water than any other state and around 580,000 registered boats.
So what happens when a dreamy day on the water turns into a nightmare?
It’s not always easy to determine which laws govern a boating accident.
In general, federal laws (called “maritime” or “admiralty” laws) govern boating accidents that occur:
Some examples of federal laws that may govern Texas boating accidents include:
On the other hand, state law governs most non-navigable-water accidents. Most of these state laws can be found in the Texas Water Safety Act and include:
Is it illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated in Texas?It is illegal in Texas to operate a boat while intoxicated. Naturally, this doesn’t deter everyone. Water might hurt less than a road when you hit it, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get seriously injured during a high-speed crash.
Does this sound confusing?
It is. Lawyers who specialize in boating accidents tend to only handle boating accidents. When looking for a Texas attorney, be sure they have experience handling your specific type of case.
Most boat accidents in Texas are either going to be maritime industry accidents, or recreational accidents.
Let’s take a look at both of these types of accidents.
The Texas Maritime Transportation System (MTS) is a complex system of ports, waterways, and landside connectors. These are what allow goods and people to move over water. Commercial ports are connected by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Texas (GIWW-T), a component of the state’s petrochemical and manufacturing supply chain.
What’s imported in Texas? Crude oil, mainly. Tons of it.
Exports include gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and other petroleum products.
Nobody thinks “oil rig” and pairs it with “sailor,” but that oil rig is located smack-dab in the middle of the ocean. If the rig is at least 12 miles from shore, then it falls under federal admiralty jurisdiction.
Workers on oil rigs have to travel back and forth to get to work, so there’s a possibility that something could happen on the water as well as while they’re on the rig.
Maritime workers have a fatality rate 11 times higher than that of other U.S. workers. What type of law applies to the following? It depends on where the accident is physically located. The maritime industry includes:
Like motorists, boat drivers have responsibilities when it comes to operating their boats safely and according to the rules of the water. However, accidents are always a possibility and the damages from a boating accident can be severe.
Victims of boating accidents often have a legal right to compensation for their losses, including medical costs for injuries and property damage. These rights hold true regardless of whether the accident occurs aboard a private boat, luxury commercial vessel, or even a jetski.
Are recreational boat accidents common in Texas?According to an X report, there were 813 recreational boat accidents from 2013—2017 (that’s an average of about 163 per year). What’s more, 200 of those accidents were fatal.
The most common causes of recreational boating accidents in Texas include:
This is a frustrating answer, but “it depends.”
Just as with auto accidents, boating accident claims generally require an act of negligence in order to hold an at-fault party liable for your injuries and damages.
This means that in order to receive compensation, a boat accident victim must prove that his or her injuries were the direct result of another party's breach of their duty of reasonable care.
Parties that may be held liable for boating accidents can include:
If negligence can be proven, victims have a right to several types of compensation for their injuries and losses. These damages include:
If a wrongful death occurs because of the boating accident, other damages may be compensated for including funeral costs, lost companionship, and the deceased's lost wages.
What if I signed a waiver that disclaimed liability?If you rented a vessel from a marina, you most likely signed a waiver that disclaimed liability for the boat owner. Depending on the circumstances, this contract might not be enforceable. The contract language will need to be examined, as well as the conditions under which the contract was signed.
Boating accident cases in Texas are incredibly complex. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, whether on a small inland body of water or the ocean, it’s important to contact an experienced Texas attorney as soon as possible.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more