Boating & Personal Injury Law

So Summer is here and kids are out for Summer Vacation, which means there are a lot of people out on the lakes. A Lot of people out on the lakes also means a lot of people out boating on the Lakes. When there are a lot of people boating, accidents happen and you need to know your rights when it comes to these accidents. 

Boating Negligence 

If you get injured on a boat, it's much like getting injured in a car accident, you must be able to prove that your injury resulted from someone's negligence in order to recover. Negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care. This means that you and your lawyer must be able to prove that someone failed to act with reasonable care, and that, as a result of that negligence, you got hurt.

Injuries involving the Wake

Federal and state boating laws and regulations, as well as safe boating practices, require the boat’s operator to keep a proper lookout for anything that might be a hazard to his or her boat and passengers. But the operator’s liability in a wake accident will generally depend on the circumstances, such as the following:

  • the size of the wake
  • the boat’s speed
  • the visibility
  • the boat traffic in the area of the accident
  • whether the operator warned the passengers that the boat was approaching a big wake
  • whether the injured person was on a motorboat or a sailboat

The operator of the boat that created the wake may also be negligent, depending on the accident location and the boating traffic in the area. If the boats were in a no wake zone then any wake violates the boating safety rules, and the operator would be negligent. If the boat was zipping through a crowded area and leaving behind a large wake, the operator may be found negligent for creating too large of a wake for the area. But if the accident occurred in an isolated area, then the other operator is unlikely to be at fault.

Hitting a Wave

A wave accident is similar to a wake accident except that there is no other boat to hold liable. So whether the boat’s operator was negligent will generally depend on the care of the boat operator and those factors listed above. 

Collision With a Submerged Object, a Rock, or The Land

Even in the best of weather and visibility, the boat can hit a submerged object or a rock. In poor weather and poor visibility, boats can run aground or hit a jetty or the coastline. The operator’s liability for a collision with a fixed object will depend on the circumstances. If, for example, the operator has nautical charts for the area, is traveling slowly and cautiously, and hits a rock, he or she is probably not going to be found negligent. But if he or she is zooming along in dense fog, without charts or a GPS, and runs into a jetty, that is negligence.

Failure to Have Proper Safety Equipment on Board

Federal and state boating safety laws and regulations require even small pleasure boats to have various kinds of safety equipment on board, such as life jackets for each passenger, throwable life rings, navigational lights, flares, loud whistles, and fire extinguishers. While failure to have the proper safety equipment on board will probably not cause an accident, it can hamper the rescue efforts afterward. If the boat becomes disabled the lack of proper safety equipment on board could lead to a claim of negligence against the boat’s owner.

Drinking while operating a boat

Drinking alcoholic beverages and boating goes hand in hand in many cases, especially here in Texas. Operators of boats are held to the same intoxication standards as when operating a car. If the operator of a boat is intoxicated and causes a collision they will be held negligent and arrested for such action. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife "Open containers are legal, but operators of boats are subject to boating while intoxicated laws, similar to driving a vehicle. Operators or passengers may also be subject to public intoxication laws. Drinking and boating is DANGEROUS and the cause of most boating fatalities."

Damages Available in an Injury Lawsuit

Just like in a car accident lawsuit, if a boater acted negligently and you became injured as a result, you are entitled to damages. Your damages may include the reasonable value of your medical bills, your lost earnings and lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

How Insurance Coverage Affects Your Case

A major part of personal injury law is collectibility on a case. Even if someone in a boating accident was at fault, that does not mean that you will be able to recover damages from that person. If the person has no boaters’ insurance and no assets, he or she will not be able to pay you damages. Motor vehicle insurance does not cover injuries on boats. Homeowner’s insurance might provide insurance coverage for these injuries, but not everyone has homeowner’s insurance, and not all boat owners have boating insurance coverage through their homeowner’s policy. Nor will you be able to file a claim against your own homeowner’s insurance for this type of injury. Unlike motor vehicle coverage that usually includes uninsured benefits, homeowners’ insurance policies almost never provide coverage for the actions of other people who do not have insurance.


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