Boat Accident Lawyers

Austin Boat Accident Attorneys

Among the vastly different terrains that Texas is home too, there are some very significant bodies of inland freshwater rivers and lakes, as well as an entire southern gulf coastline. With water comes boats and the recreational opportunities of water skiing, fishing, sailboat racing, swimming, and just enjoying the scenery and serenity of being on the water. Texas ranks 6th in the nation for most registered and owned water-crafts, which rounds out to about 600,000 registered boats.

Unfortunately, with such a large number of boats, accidents are bound to happen for a variety of reasons. In too many cases, boaters fail to have enough lifejackets on board or neglect to have young children (younger than 13 under Texas law) wear one. As a result, nearly 85 percent of fatalities occur because a victim was not wearing a life jacket. Also, almost half of all boating accidents have some alcohol involvement.

There are thousands of boating accidents each year involving sailboats, speedboats, cigar boats, yachts, and personal watercraft accidents while water skiing, wake boarding or jet skiing. Many of these operators are inexperienced, drive recklessly or negligently and have little knowledge of boating laws resulting in collisions and other incidents. In some cases, equipment failure or design flaws can lead to tragic boating accidents and injuries. If you have been involved in an accident, contact our boat accident attorney in Austin, TX. We offer free consultations.

Discover How Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP Can Help You Recover From Your Boating Accident

  • Head Injuries
  • Disfigurement
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Burns
  • Amputations
  • Broken limbs
  • Drowning
  • Spinal injuries

Legal Obligations of Boat Operators

A boat is considered a motor vehicle. You can be arrested and convicted of BUI or boating while under the influence. Like any other motor vehicle driver, your blood alcohol content must be under 0.08 percent or you face loss of your driving privileges and possible incarceration. Boaters also have a duty to exercise reasonable care when operating a boat, which includes keeping a safe speed, being alert for other boats and swimmers and objects in the water, and maintaining a safe distance while adhering to all boating laws and safety regulations. It is also recommended that you have a fire extinguisher on board, even if your class or type of boat does not require it.

If you are involved in a boating collision, Texas law requires you to render aid and assistance as well as give your name, address and boat identification to any injured persons. Notice of the accident has to be given to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department within 30 days unless there was an injury or extensive damage of at least $2000, in which case immediate notification is required.

Causes of Boating Accidents

Most boat accidents are caused by inexperienced operators and inattention. Operating a boat is a lot different from driving a car or a truck. As compared with driving in the road, maneuvering a boat is a lot more difficult. This is because driving in water is actually a lot more fluid and it can be quite harder for you to stop, slow down or change the direction of the boat immediately. This is why the operator should be proficient in boat driving.

The ocean is actually a lot more dangerous when it is stormy or just even, rainy. This is why it is important that you determine the weather before you set out to sail. In addition to that, you should also gain an understanding of the quality of waves in the area where you will be boating on. When you are on the road, there is lesser chance of getting an accident because the road is properly maintained. On the other hand, there is no one that would maintain the waves in the sea.

The major factor that would greatly affect the severity of injury and the boating accident is the condition of the boat itself. For one, the size of the boat would definitely matter. A large motorboat is a lot safer than riding a smaller one. In addition to that, the speed of the boat will play a great role in the accident too.

Other factors that contribute to boating accidents include:

  • Intoxication
  • Operating at speeds not safe due to conditions such as weather, traffic and visibility
  • Failing to reduce speed near swimming areas or when passing other boats
  • Distraction
  • Overloaded boats
  • Collisions
  • Explosions
  • Equipment failure
  • Boat or equipment design flaws

Also, boat operators must have a whistle, bell or horn on board and must refrain from operating at night if proper lighting is unavailable.

Passengers can be thrown overboard if they are allowed to ride on the bow, gunwale or transom, especially at high speeds. Falling overboard can result in head trauma or spinal injuries or even making contact with the propeller blades.

Boating Injuries

Being thrown overboard can lead to hypothermia as well as panic from disorientation. The effects are heightened if you are intoxicated. Other injuries include:

  • Head injuries
  • Disfigurement
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Burns
  • Amputations
  • Broken limbs
  • Drowning
  • Spinal injuries

Prevent Boating Accidents in Austin

Research Local Boating Laws

Before going on a boat trip, the first thing that you need to do is to research about the boating laws in the state where you will be going to. Keep in mind that each and every state has their own boating laws. By familiarizing yourself with their boating laws, you will be able to prevent yourself from committing various violations that will put your life at risk.

Second thing that you should keep in mind is that you should never operate a boat when you are under the influence of alcohol. Boating is no easy feat. You need to be fully alert and aware with what is happening around you. If you have been drinking, you will find it difficult to do this.

Before going on a boat trip, make sure that the proper safety equipment is on board. Such equipment include safety jacket an fire extinguishers. In addition to that, ensure that the fuel system of the boat is properly maintained.

Steps to Prevent Capsizing

Capsizing of the boat is the most common cause of personal injuries during a boat ride. Lucky for you, there are many steps that you can take in order to prevent the boat from capsizing. First, you have to ensure that the boat is secured on the dock before you load it. It is also recommended that you request all passengers to never enter the boat while they are carrying things. The passengers should also stay on the center of the boat to prevent it from tipping over. Everyone should stay away from the sides of the boat. There have been cases where people sat or leaned against the sides of the boat and they have fallen overboard.

By following these simple rules, you can prevent boat accidents that may lead to minor or even, major injuries.

Liability of a Boat Operator

Operating a boat takes more training and awareness than a motor vehicle driver. The pilot or captain is also responsible for the passengers, including ensuring that enough life jackets are on board and that children under the age of 13 are wearing them in accordance with Texas law. The pilot or operator is also obligated to see that the passengers or guests do not overindulge in alcohol so that their condition or behavior poses a serious safety risk to themselves and others.

A pilot has to be on the constant lookout for objects in the water, to be aware of the water depth, weather and potential storms and to maintain the appropriate speed when other boats are nearby or if entering or are near the coast or swimming areas. If the boat drops anchor in the water, the pilot must take care that all guests are not in danger from the motor propeller and that they safely return to the boat before the boat pulls anchor and leaves the area.

The principles of negligence apply to a boat operator's conduct and if their conduct fell below that expected of a reasonable boat pilot under similar conditions, liability may be imposed.

Understanding Rules of the Road

When it comes to being successful in proving who is at fault, you should have a good understanding of the rules of the road. When we say rules of the road, we are referring to the regulations which govern the etiquette of boats with each other while they are on the sea. The main purpose of these rules is to prevent boat collision.

With this in mind, you should understand that there are two types of rules that govern the boats in the sea. The first one is international navigation rules which is standardized all over the world With this type of rules, boats from different countries will have a same set of rules to follow once they come across each other. The second type is the inland navigational rules may vary from one region to the other. Both of these rules play an important part in determining who is at fault in a boat accident.


Another important thing that you should know about when determining who is at fault in a boat collision is the COLREGS or the Collision Regulations. By understanding the simple policies that come with this, you will be able to determine who the stand-on boat is and which the give-way boat is. By taking a look at this simple factor, you will be able to determine which boat was the one that caused the accident.

The Various Rules

When it comes to special situations, there are also other rules that you should consider these include: Look Out (Rule 5), Safe Speed (Rule 6), Risk of Collision (Rule 7), Action To Avoid Collision (Rule 8), Narrow Channels (Rule 9), Head-on Situation (Rule 14) and the Crossing Situation (Rule 15).

Steps to Take After Boating Accident

In the unfortunate event that you met a boat accident, the first thing that you need to do is to attend to your medical needs. Seek help from a medical professional. In addition to that, you also have to secure a medical certificate in order to show proof that the accident indeed took place.

This is important in the event that you think that the other party is the one responsible for the accident. Aside from this, you also have to talk to an Austin personal injury attorney who can help you out in the claiming process.

What Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP Can Do

As Austin personal injury attorneys, we are experienced in negligence law as it applies to boating accidents and Texas boating regulations. When an accident occurs, we will investigate the accident scene, interview witnesses, obtain relevant documentation, determine if any state boating regulations have been violated, and have the boat examined if there was an equipment failure, collision, explosion, fire, design flaw or other circumstance involving the boat. In a number of these cases, there are multiple parties who are liable for the accident and the resultant injuries.

For more than 50 years, Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP has brought justice to victims of all types of motor vehicles including boats and personal watercraft. In 2010, our firm achieved the first and only verdict in the country against a boat manufacturer for propeller injuries that could have been prevented if manufacturers had used the simple protection of a guard around the spinning boat propeller.

Our lawyers are committed to helping you recover the maximum compensation to which you are entitled under the law. When someone else' negligence has caused personal injury or death, call our law office at 512-271-5304 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP Wins Big in Boating Accident Claim

The unguarded propeller of a SeaRay runabout chewed through our client's leg, requiring amputation of the remainder of his leg up to the hip. The firm had industry experts construct and demonstrate a propeller guard that would have prevented this horrible injury while not effecting the functional operation of the boat. Full Story

See more notable personal injury cases here.