What Are My Rights as a Passenger in a Texas Boat Accident?
Getting on a boat can be fun and relaxing. According to Statista, in 2019, there were about 11.88 million registered vessels in the United States, up from 11.85 million the previous year. It means that there are several vessels on the waterways, and boating accidents could occur.
When there’s a boat accident, those on board suffer different degrees of injuries. There could be minor injuries or more catastrophic injuries like spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries. This is why as a boat passenger, you need to know what your rights are before getting on the water.
At McDonald Worley, we understand the different types of watercraft accidents and the rights of parties. If you contact us, our personal injury lawyers will offer you expert legal advice and representation.
Who Is Liable in a Boating Accident?
Whether it is a boating accident or a motor vehicle accident, there is always a liable party — the person who failed to exercise their duty of care, behaved negligently, and ultimately caused the collision. This could be the boat operator, the manufacturer, or even a passenger.
But before we look at who can be the responsible party for a boat accident passenger injuries, let’s look at causes. According to the American Boating Association (ABA), the five top causes of boat crashes are:
- Operator inattention/operator error
- Improper lookout
- Operator inexperience
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol consumption
Asides from the above, the following also causes boating accidents :
- Machinery failure due to poor maintenance
- Navigation rules violation by boat operators
- Hazardous waters
- Weather conditions
Any of these causes could result from one of the following possible liable parties:
- The operator of the boat
- The owner of the boat or the boat rental company for recreational boating accidents
- The boat manufacturer if the accident occurred due to a manufacturing defect
As a passenger, you can be liable for the boating accident if you behaved in a reckless manner that led to the occurrence. In such an instance, the boat operator can share the liability for failing to warn the passenger to stop the reckless behavior.
Can Passengers Drink on a Boat in Texas?
When it comes to law enforcement, Texas is strict, and this applies to boating laws too. Texas has more square miles of inland water than any other state in the U.S. This means that there are several jet skiers, powerboats, yachts, and maritime vessels on the bodies of water.
This large number of watercraft, lakes, and gulfs increases the chances of an accident. The risk is higher when there is alcohol involved. Like in auto accidents, evidence of drunk boating by vessel operators is a criminal offense.
Texas laws require boaters to operate their vessel with less than .08% blood alcohol concentration in their system. However, this law does not apply to passengers. A boat passenger is allowed to consume as much alcohol as they want. Furthermore, the open container law that applies to drivers and passengers in a motor vehicle accident does not apply on boats.
What Other Rule Applies to Boat Passengers?
Most boating rules apply to operators, not passengers. For instance, an operator must complete a boat education course with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Passengers do not need to do this; rather, they must uphold boating safety rules.
Some of the safety tips released by the TPWD are:
- Always wear a life jacket
- Be extra careful on a personal watercraft
- Have safety equipment on board
- The boat operator should avoid operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol.
- Have a personal flotation device onboard
- A passenger who is not impaired should serve as a lookout in addition to the operator.
What Are the Rights of a Passenger in a Texas Boat Accident?
The rights of a boating accident victim are similar to those of the victim of an auto accident. Generally speaking, a boat crash passenger has the following rights:
Right to Information
The right to request the name, address, operator license details, boat registration number, and insurance information. If the vessel operator refuses to provide you with the preceding, let the game warden or local law enforcement officers deal with it. They will gather the information, and you’ll get it from them.
Right to Medical Assistance
You have the right to reasonable assistance if you are injured. This includes transportation to a hospital and getting treated by a medical professional. Doing this would help your boating accident claim.
Even if you do not need emergency aid, see a doctor once you’re on land. This will help rule out internal injuries, as some wounds take days or months to manifest. A doctor’s report is also evidence in an injury claim and documents the treatment and amount spent.
Right to Police Assistance
Since the local police would coordinate with the game warden in investigating the boat accident, you need to obtain their official accident report. Find out when the report will be available and request one. In Texas, vessel operators are mandated to report accidents when there’s death, personal injury, or property damage exceeding $2,000.
Right to Decline Insurance Settlement Offers and Speak With an Attorney
Insurance companies handle most personal injury settlements. It’s within your right to decline to speak with insurance adjusters or reject their settlement offer. It’s also your right to consult a boating accident attorney. The lawyer will advise you on the legal process of a boat accident claim and what to expect.
Right to Compensation
The severe nature of most boating accident injuries leads to huge medical expenses. As such, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. If you lost any personal property during the accident, you could also get compensated for them.
The compensation is categorized into economic damages and non-economic damages. The former includes your medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses. The latter covers non-monetary damages like mental anguish.
If you file a boating accident lawsuit, and the court finds the liable party grossly negligent, they will award punitive damages. Our boat accident lawyers at McDonald Worley can explain further.
What Are My Legal Options for Compensation as a Boat Accident Victim?
A boat crash victim has two legal options for compensation. One is filing an insurance claim, while the other is filing a personal injury lawsuit. If there is a death, the deceased passenger’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In Texas, unlike in auto accidents where drivers must have an auto insurance policy, the law does not require a boat owner to have liability insurance. But owners can take out one or add their vessel to their homeowners’ insurance policy. If the liable party is a boat owner and has a homeowner’s coverage, the policy will cover your losses.
However, the absence of an insurance policy brings us to the second legal option. You can commence a lawsuit with the help of an attorney to recover damages. Before the lawsuit goes to trial, you can settle with the fault party and receive a settlement sum.
Note that you can also commence a lawsuit when the fault party’s insurer offers you less than you deserve. Insurance adjusters are always looking out for the insurance company and like to offer less than what’s fair. This is why you need to work with a boat accident attorney.
Get Help From McDonald Worley!
No injury claim process is easy, but having an experienced personal injury attorney makes it easier. At McDonald Worley, we offer you our wealth of experience and expertise. We will work on your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
We do not demand upfront fees and work on a contingency fee basis. We desire to get you the justice you deserve, and the process begins with you contacting us. So, get in touch today for a free case review.