Watercraft and Boating Accidents
South Texas lakes and rivers and the Gulf of Mexico offer plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other recreational activities. Our rivers, lakes, and shore are often full of recreational boaters, jet ski (and other personal watercraft) users, water skiers, and fishermen. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are more than 580,000 registered boats in Texas – and unfortunately, this popularity leads to many boating accidents.
In 2017, 170 boating accidents were reported in Texas: 51 were fatal. The truth is that most of those injuries and deaths could have been avoided. 85% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket when they were involved in an accident. Many people operating boats and other watercraft on Texas waterways act recklessly or negligently, thereby endangering the safety and lives of others around them. Law enforcement on rivers and lakes falls mainly to The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who have relatively limited resources and are stretched thin.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents:
- Alcohol Use – Excessive drinking and intoxication are common among recreational users
- Inexperienced Operators – People who have little or no experience are able to rent or borrow boats or personal watercraft, and often use them improperly
- Recklessness – Boaters or watercraft operators can be distracted, unfamiliar with the waters, or driving too fast
- Ignorance – Many boat and watercraft operators do not know the Maritime "Rules of the Road," or that both experience decreased steering control during “off throttle” operation
- Negligence – The most common citations issued by Texas game wardens are for not having enough life jackets aboard the boat, and for children not wearing a life jacket
- Faulty Equipment – Boats and watercraft, especially rentals, can be improperly maintained or damaged, leading to equipment failure
- Lack of Familiarity with Body of Water – Underwater and unseen obstructions such as logs, rocks and sandbars present significant hazards
What to do Next
If you or a loved one have been involved in an boating or watercraft accident, it is important to get started on the case immediately, or important evidence and testimony may be lost. Report any incidents to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Contact an experienced attorney at Tinsman & Sciano.