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Disastrous Boating Accidents: How Texans Can Prevent Them


Passenger and boat operators can do their part to prevent injuries and fatalities as a result of boating accidents. Here are a few of the most important tips to prevent boating accidents include the following:

Always operate your boat sober. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing cause of boating accident deaths. In 2011, alcohol use was responsible for 16 percent of boating accident deaths – more than any other single cause. Unfortunately, being out in the hot sun and on the water all day can exacerbate the effects of alcohol, and it is far too easy for a boat operator to be drunk and not be aware of it. Making a commitment to stop after a drink or two – or better yet, not to drink at all – is a smart choice when operating a boat. You can avoid an arrest for boating while intoxicated and you can also save lives.

Our boating accident attorneys at Martinez & Associates have decades of experience handling these complex claims. We have helped clients who were in injured in boating accidents recover compensation for their losses. This includes medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We understand the ins and outs of your local boating laws, the small details that can make or break a case and get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

How Can a Boating Accident Attorney Help Me?

Our attorneys handle both personal injury and maritime claims, and will use this experience to determine the laws, statutes, theories, and jurisdictions applicable to your claim. With this information, we can establish who can be held liable for your losses, depending on the body of water in which the accident occurred and the type of accident. Failing to file your claim within your state’s statute of limitations for personal injuries may leave you unable to recover compensation for your injuries. Like most personal injury claims it is important to contact a boating accident attorney as soon as possible.

Types of Boating Accident Claims Handled By Our Firm

Negligence: An operator may be considered negligent for:

Hitting a big wave or wake at an excessive speed;Deciding to navigate in heavy weather, causing individuals to fall overboard;Contact with propellers,Operating at a high speed;Failing to carry safety equipment on board;Collisions with other boats or fixed object(s);Failing to know the “rules of the road,” as required by the FFWCC; andOvercrowding and overloading the vessel.

Boating Under the Influence: Under Texas state law, it is illegal to operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If an individual is suspected of operating a vessel while intoxicated, they must submit to sobriety tests. Refusal to submit to the test will result in the revocation of the operator’s boating and driving privileges. An individual is intoxicated, according to the law, if their blood or breath alcohol level is at or above .08.

Anyone under 21 who has a blood or breath alcohol level above .02 is considered to be intoxicated. Any individual registering a blood or breath alcohol level exceeding the permitted limit may be subject to fines, jail time, and/or probation.

Reckless and Careless Operation: Under Texas and Federal Navigation Rules, an individual who operates a vessel with “willful disregard for the safety of persons or property” may be cited with reckless operation, which is a first-degree criminal misdemeanor.

Boating operators have a duty to operate “their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other circumstances” to ensure the safety of other boaters, guests, and property. Failure to follow these regulations may result in a citation for careless operation. Multiple citations will require the offender to complete a boating education course before being permitted to operate a vessel again.

Make sure there is adequate safety equipment onboard the boat. There should be life jackets and other flotation devices available for everyone, as well as a first-aid kit and emergency supplies. Boat lights, a fire extinguisher and an anchor should also be aboard every vessel. The Coast Guard has estimated that 70 percent of boat accident deaths occur due to drowning, and that 84 percent of those who drown do not have life jackets on. Boat owners should provide life jackets, and passengers should wear them.

Maintain the boat and all safety equipment properly. Failure of the boat or boat equipment was a factor in 424 accidents, 28 deaths and 151 injuries in 2011, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Monitor weather and water conditions carefully. The Coast Guard attributes 771 accidents, 155 deaths and 461 injuries in 2011 to environmental issues such as weather, congested waterways, problems with dams, missing navigation aids and hazardous waters. You should check the weather report and report on water conditions before heading out. If it looks like the weather is going to get bad, you should return to shore as soon as possible.

Load passengers and gear carefully. In 2011, there were 193 accidents, 79 deaths and 109 injuries resulting from problems loading passengers or gear. These problems included improper anchoring, overloading the boat and improper weight distribution. Be sure to follow guidelines for your boat and to load the vessel carefully to avoid capsizing and other accidents.

Take an accredited boat safety course. According to the Coast Guard, around 90 percent of boating accident deaths involved boat operators who had not received safety instructions. Only 7 percent of fatalities occurred aboard boats that were operated by someone who had been through a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-accredited boater safety course.

Be watchful and vigilant. Operator inattention was the cause of 581 accidents, 58 deaths and 363 injuries in 2011. Be sure to always keep your eyes on the water and pay attention to safe boat operations. Do not be distracted by passengers or other onboard diversions, but instead keep focused on the boat’s movements, water and weather conditions, other vessels and your surroundings.

Maintain a safe speed. Excess speed was a primary contributing factor in 349 accidents, 28 deaths and 321 injuries in 2011. You should obey the speed limits and travel at a speed that is safe in light of current water and weather conditions.

Follow all boating and navigation rules. There are many rules for safe boating, just as there are traffic safety rules on the road. These rules must be followed, as they exist to promote safety and prevent accidents. All boaters should learn them and obey them.

By following these basic tips, boaters can significantly reduce the chances of an accident and can help to keep themselves, their passengers and other boaters safe.

If you’ve been seriously hurt in a Texas boating accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you can trust the attorneys at Martinez & Associates to work hard to get you the money and benefits you deserve.

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