Liability for a Boating Accident
The boat operator is often the person most responsible for a boating accident. The operator could be the one who navigates into a fixed object, whose impact throws passengers overboard or causes injuries onboard the vessel. Or the operator of another boat who negligently rams into your boat can cause injuries to you and your passengers. Or it could be another boat operator who creates a wake that you can’t avoid and hitting it causes passenger injury.
Under the principle of vicarious liability, individuals other than the operator may be responsible for injuries and damages. The boat owner, if not the operator at the time of the accident, could be found liable if he or she knowingly let someone operate the water vessel who was in no condition to do so, e.g., while intoxicated, or let them use a vessel that wasn’t really water-ready.
If the boating accident is caused by a mechanical defect on the boat itself — for instance, the throttle gets stuck and you can’t slow down — the manufacturer or even part supplier could be held liable.
If the owner-operator of a marina fails to post warning signs or follow recognized safety rules, that person could be held liable as well. Likewise, the owner of a dock who fails to keep it in safe and operable condition could be on the hook for any impending injuries.
Laws Regulating Boat Use
The federal government maintains several “admiralty” or “maritime” laws for vessels transporting goods and operating on the open seas, including oil rigs and supply vessels. The Jones Act specifically covers those who work at sea, such as on merchant marine vessels or oil rigs.
Texas has no requirement for a boating license, similar to a driver’s license for a car, but it does require anyone born on or after September 1, 1993, to take a Boater Education Certification Course. The state also has no boat insurance requirement, though lenders might require the purchaser to obtain such insurance as part of the purchase. On some occasions, a homeowners’ policy will cover boating accidents, but not for liability.
Texas statutes also require all persons on the vessel to wear Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (life jackets). Vessels cannot come within 50 feet of one another or of other persons or objects unless operating “at headway speed.” Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is also enforced by water patrols.
If you wish to recover compensation for any injuries or damages suffered as a result of a boating accident, you must prove the other party to have been negligent. For instance, if you’re struck recklessly by another boat, you would need to show that the operator of that boat:
- Had a duty of care to avoid colliding with you
- They breached that duty of care
- That breach resulted in your injuries and/or property damages
Texas boating laws are clear that boat operators must come no closer than 50 feet to other vessels, objects, or individuals such as water skiers, so the duty of care is a legal mandate.
Work with An Experienced Boating Accident Attorney
Accidents involving waterborne vessels can be infinitely more complex than vehicular collisions on the road. First of all, there may be no witnesses and no police to file a report. It can be your statement against the other party’s.
If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, don’t go it alone — even if the other boat operator or responsible party has insurance. Call my office immediately so that I can investigate the circumstances of your situation and outline a legal strategy that can help you pursue the compensation you need.
The insurance companies will do everything they can to pin the blame on you to avoid or reduce their liability. If necessary, we may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the losses you’ve suffered from medical expenses, lost wages, and even non-economic factors such as pain and suffering. So don’t wait. Call or reach out to my firm, Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law, today to schedule your own free case evaluation. Together, we can help you get the justice you deserve.