Austin Boating Accident Lawyers

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Year after year, Central Texas ranks among the fastest growing regions in the nation. Among its many draws is the host of recreational activities it offers, including boating on the local lakes and waterways. Of course, the more people bring out their boats to enjoy the summer on area lakes, such as Lake Travis, the more boating accidents are likely to occur.

Unfortunately, boating accidents are often some of the most serious and traumatic personal injury cases. At Zinda Law Group, we believe no boating accident victim should face the process of seeking compensation alone. Our attorneys are here to help.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a boating accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with an experienced Austin boat accident attorney. Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case.

boating Accident statistics

According to the Coast Guard’s annual statistical report for 2019, there were 4,168 recreational boating accidents nationwide; of these, 613 resulted in deaths and 2,559 in injuries. In total, these accidents resulted in approximately $55 million dollars of damage to property. The top five primary contributing factors in these accidents were operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use.

The Coast Guard further reported the following statistics:

  • Where the boat operator’s level of instruction was known, 70% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.
  • Where boat length was known, 80% of boaters who drowned were in vessels less than 21 feet in length.
  • Where cause of death was known, 79% of fatal boating accident victims died by drowning.
  • Of those victims where life-jacket usage was known, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.

The stream of harrowing statistics has not abated since then. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, accidents on Texas waters were up 67% in 2020 relative to the previous year. Non-fatal injuries were similarly up by 64%, and just in the brief window from January to April of 2021, there was a 40% increase in boating fatalities from the same time last year.

In short, these statistics reveal that safety remains important as ever as we move out of the pandemic and through the summer months, during which recreational boating accidents are historically concentrated. The safety of everyone on the lake can be enhanced by knowing what unsafe boating practices to avoid as well as which safe boating practices we should follow.

examples of Unsafe boating practices

Boating accident causes are as diverse as the accidents themselves; however, a few things remain clear: conditions on the water are often unpredictable, and the risks posed are often exacerbated by irresponsible boat operation. Though boating accidents can result in enumerable ways, the following list non-exhaustively illustrates the wide range of possible causes:

  • Operating the boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Hitting a large wave or wake at an unsafe speed or angle
  • Ejections from the boat due to improper operation
  • Deciding to navigate in adverse and heavy weather conditions
  • Contact with propellers
  • Operating at a high speed
  • Failing to keep a lookout for individuals who are skiing, wake boarding or tubing
  • Collisions with other watercraft
  • Defective boat maintenance or repair
  • Impacting a fixed object, such as a dock, pier, or bridge
  • Overcrowding and overloading the boat

Laws Governing boating

Boat operators are entrusted with managing their vessels responsibly. Accordingly, operators should be aware of at least two levels of regulation.

Duty to Render Aid and Report Accidents

In recognition of the significant risks and responsibilities that come with operating a boat, the Texas Water Safety Act requires that boat operators involved in a collision, accident, or casualty render aid to “other persons affected.” The operator must do so to the extent “practicable and necessary” to save the affected persons or minimize the danger they may face. This affirmative duty is limited only insofar as rendering aid may lead to “serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers.”

Further, the operator of a vessel involved in an accident must give “his name, address, and identification of his vessel in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the collision, accident, or other casualty.” Operators are also required to file a report within 30 days if it resulted in injuries to a person requiring medical treatment beyond first aid or caused damage to a vessel or property in excess of $2000. Any accident resulting in death must be reported within 48 hours; a report can be made to a local game warden, a local law enforcement agency, or to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The Water Safety Act applies to all public waters in Texas. Its full text is available here.

Local Regulations

In addition to state law, more localized political subdivisions can also pass rules relating to restricted areas and the operation and equipment of boats they deem necessary for public safety. Boat operators in these areas should be mindful of these regulations. Texas Parks and Wildlife maintains this database of all the freshwater lakes in Texas, including the lakes of Central Texas; the alphabetized list provides useful information for each lake, including the local governing body.

the route to compensation

If you have been involved in a boating accident, you should consult with an experienced attorney near you who will help ensure that you know your rights and help you chart a path toward compensation. Here are a few points to bear in mind.

Alleging Negligence

First, negligence is the most common cause of action in boating accident case. This cause of action is predicated on the idea that we each owe each other a general duty to exercise “reasonable care” to ensure that we do not cause each other harm. For example, we each have a duty to exercise caution when operating a boat. Showing negligence requires proving:

1. the existence of a legal duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff,

2. that the defendant breached that duty,

3. that the plaintiff suffered an injury, and

4. that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.

Proving negligence often requires a close look at the facts. Wherever possible, you should try to gather and preserve as much evidence as possible. The scene of the accident is an especially good source of evidence; however, certain key evidentiary details are likely to be lost if not recorded as soon as possible—for example, changeable weather conditions and operator impairment from drugs or alcohol.

Your notes and footage from the scene could easily turn the tide of your case. Your Austin personal injury attorney will be able to help you organize these pieces of information, ensuring that your case will have a better chance at bringing you the maximum amount of compensation possible.

Types of Recoverable Damages

Second, there are two kinds of recoverable damages in a negligence action, economic and non-economic. Each requires separate but overlapping kinds of evidence.

Economic damages are those that can be reduced to a tangible monetary value. For example, medical bills, pharmacy bills, loss of income (both present and future), and lost earning capacity are all examples of economic damages. To prove economic damages, you should keep good track of all bills associated with treating your injuries.

Non-economic damages refer to those that cannot be reduced to a monetary value. Among other things, this includes your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of a loved one (legally referred to as “loss of consortium”). Medical treatment records can go a long way toward proving non-economic damages; however, an experienced boating accident attorney is necessary to explain the full extent of your pain and suffering to a judge and jury.

Statute of Limitations

Third, you should be aware of the statute of limitations governing your case. A statute of limitations simply sets the maximum amount of time that may elapse after the accident before a plaintiff may file their case. In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including boat accidents, is set at two years from the time of the incident.

The Importance of Hiring an Attorney

Finally, it is important to consult with an attorney who can fully assess the viability of your case. A will assist you in investigating the accident and determining how the injuries occurred. A skilled lawyer can help you either pursue your claim in court or negotiate a settlement with the responsible party or their insurance company.  

Beware of speaking with insurance companies before consulting with an attorney. Insurance companies are not neutral third parties, and even your own insurance company is not your closest ally; they generally base settlement offers on their own assessment of what they think is a likely outcome at trial rather than on the reality of your injuries. By contrast, once you hire an attorney, they are obligated to fight for you.

Remember, any communication you have with an insurance company can be leveraged against you in negotiation. Before speaking to an attorney, do not at any point sign a form or waiver provided by an insurance company or admit fault.

Get Help from Our austin boat accidents lawyers.

At Zinda Law Group, our Austin personal injury lawyers have extensive experience in handling boating accident cases. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and any other ways your boating accident injury has cost you.

We believe victims of boating accidents should never have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. We pride ourselves in providing that representation, and you pay nothing unless we win your case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.

If you or a loved one has been injured on a boat in Austin, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney near you.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.