Boating Accidents FAQ

Am I supposed to carry some form of identification while I am onboard my boat?

 

Yes, you are required to carry at least two forms of ID onboard: an identification card with a picture and a boater certification card issued by the Parks and Wildlife Department.

Approximately how many recreational boat owners are there in the United States?

There are approximately 20 million recreational boats in the U.S. and 11 million of them are motorboats.

Are boating accidents common?

Yes, boating accidents are far more common than one would expect. In fact, according to the U.S. Coast Guard in their 2014 boating safety report, there were 4,064 boating accidents involving 610 deaths. Additionally, there were 2,678 injuries and roughly $39 million in property damage.

The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000, a 10.6 percent jump over 2013’s figures. Where there was a known cause for a boating accident, 78 percent of the victims drowned and 84 percent were not wearing life jackets. Eight out of 10 victims who drowned were on boats less than 21 feet long and the top five causes of accidents were: boating while under the influence, speeding, inattention, inexperience and not paying attention to the area.

Are boating accidents often fatal?

Boating accidents certainly have the potential to be fatal. According to the U.S. Coast Guard Service, there are roughly 1,000 boating accident deaths every year.

For further information on boating accidents and fatalities, click here.

Are boats/personal watercraft supposed to follow rules of the roads like vehicles or can they go anywhere they wish to go?

Yes, boats/personal watercraft are supposed to follow rules of the road similar to those that are applicable to cars. Cars in the United States are mandated to drive on the right hand side of the road. When a pilot is handling a boat, the usual traffic direction on waterways in the United States is counterclockwise — which is the same as driving on the right hand side of the road.

Also, any boat or watercraft taking off from a shoreline must yield to any other non-powered craft, unless that craft is overtaking a powered craft. This rule is also similar to the rules of the road. Just as you would not pull out in front of other cars travelling at a good speed on the road, you would not pull out in front of a watercraft until the way is clear.

There is a notable difference between driving a vehicle and driving a watercraft. One the road, a vehicle may only pass on the left. On the water, a boat may pass on either side if it is safe to do so. However, the pilot of the passing boat is responsible for its wake trail and any possible collision. A boat overtaking another is obligated to maintain speed and course.

If two boats meet head-on, they must pass portside to portside (lefthand side to lefthand side) when possible.

Are Jet Skis popular in Texas?

Yes, Jet Skis are popular in Texas. However, their use has exploded over the last two decades and many local Texas lakes now ban Jet Ski use. Within the last ten years, the power of the Jet Skis has also grown exponentially, and as a net result, this opens the door to greater numbers of wrongful deaths and serious injuries.

There are a number of safety concerns involved with this type of personal watercraft, not the least of which is that operators frequently are not properly trained on how to use them in a safe manner.

Are Sea Doo, WaveRunner, Wet Jet and Jet Ski machines personal watercrafts?

Knowing what is and what is not a personal watercraft can sometimes be tricky, as many personal watercrafts are often only recognized by their brand names. But yes, Sea Doo, WaveRunner, Wet Jet and Jet Ski are personal watercrafts.

Another distinguishing feature of such a craft is that the pilot stands or rides it and does not sit inside.

According to the United States Coast Guard, personal watercraft are considered to be Class A inboard motor vessels and must follow all rules and regulations that pertain to any other powerboats in the same category. An example would be that they must be registered with the state, follow all Nautical Rules of the Road, have proper signalling devices and an onboard fire extinguisher.

Are there age limits to operate or rent a jet ski?

Each state has its own set of laws relating to the operation of jet skis/personal watercraft. The best thing to do for those who are not certain they are old enough to legally operate such a craft is to check with their state boating authority and find out personal watercraft rules and rental rules.

To find out what rules apply in one’s state with regard to operating a personal watercraft, visit: http://www.nasbla.net/referenceguide

Are there certain types of accidents that have to be reported to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division?

Yes, there are certain types of accidents that must be reported with alacrity to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division. Those accidents that must be reported expeditiously are:

  • when a person is injured and requires medical treatment that involves more than just first aid
  • when an individual is killed
  • when a person disappears from a boat
  • when there is damage to property in the boating accident that is in excess of $2,000

It is important to note that boating accident reports are not admissible in court as evidence and they are strictly confidential.

Are there many boating accidents each year, or is operating a boat fairly safe?

Although boating may be relatively safe if all safety precautions are followed, there are still a fairly large number of boating accidents each year.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there are roughly 8,000 accidents every year resulting in approximately 5,000 injuries, over 800 deaths and at least $30 million in property damage.

Can anyone operate a vessel on their own, or do they have to be certified to do so?

Texans cannot operate a windblown vessel over 14 feet, a personal watercraft or a motorboat over 15 hp unless the individual was born on or before Sept. 1, 1993, and passes a boater education course or an equivalent exam deemed acceptable by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Or they must be 18 years old or over, at least 13 years old and have completed an approved boater education course.

Boating education courses are not expensive and most can be taken for as little as $20, which is a small amount if it saves a life.

Can anyone, even younger children, operate a personal watercraft?

Those under the age of 13 are prohibited from operating a personal watercraft, unless someone onboard is at least 18 years old.

Those operating the personal watercraft must be born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, and have passed a boater education course or an equivalent exam deemed acceptable by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Or they must be born before Sept. 1, 1993. Those who must have boater education and who have not completed a course must be partnered with someone 18 years or older who must be capable of operating the craft. Or they must be a minimum of 13 years of age and have passed a boater education course or an equivalent exam deemed acceptable by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The only exemption to the mandatory education law relates to those born before Sept. 1, 1993.

Can boating accidents be fatal?

Yes, boating accidents can indeed be fatal. While not every accident does cause a death, there are, on average roughly 1,000 fatalities every year in boating accidents. In addition to fatalities, there are a high number of such accidents that also cause serious injuries, such as: collisions, capsizing, fires, flooding and crew members overboard.

Can I have an open container onboard a personal watercraft?

Having an open container on a boat is legal. However, boat operators are subject to boating while under the influence or boating while intoxicated laws. Those piloting a personal watercraft or any passengers onboard may also be subject to public intoxication laws. Drunk boating is the cause of most boating fatalities.

Can someone die of carbon monoxide poisoning on a boat?

While it may seem odd to think someone could die of carbon monoxide poisoning while on a boat, it does happen. Every boat operator, crewmember and passenger needs to be aware of this possibility.

Some of the more common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are: boat air conditioning systems, improper or inadequate ventilation systems, gas powered engines and being too close to engine exhaust.

Do boat accidents have a Statute of Limitations?

It depends on where the accident happened and whether or not it comes under the purview of Federal Maritime laws or state laws. If you have been involved in a boating accident, make it a priority to contact an experienced boating accident attorney in order to find out your rights and to avoid missing any pertinent deadline for the applicable Statute of Limitations. Missing a filing date may bar any application for compensation.

Do I have to attend a boating education course in person? Or is there another way I can be certified?

You may attend a boating education course in person, but if that is not possible due to your location, or for other reasons, you may find and take online boater education courses.

Be aware that there are certain offenses where the courts may order an individual to take a boater education course.

Do I need to contact an attorney if I am involved in a boat accident? Can’t I just deal with the insurance company and get a fair settlement?

Yes, you need an attorney to handle your boating accident. An experienced personal watercraft accident lawyer can quickly determine the facts of your case and most importantly of all, preserve evidence. Evidence may be crucial should your case go to settlement or to court.

Dealing with insurance companies is not only frustrating, but they are not your friends and are not trying to help you get the settlement or payout you actually deserve based on your injuries. Their main goal is to discredit your claim and attempt to reduce, diminish or dismiss it. They are not in the habit of paying out fair settlements. Only by going to court can an injured plaintiff avoid the insurance company trying to get them to settle for less or throwing out their claim.

Does admiralty-maritime law apply to accidents involving recreational and/or private watercraft?

Yes, admiralty-maritime law can apply to accidents involving recreational and/or private watercraft. Boat pilots are obligated by law to drive their craft with due care and attention. If negligence is proven, they may be held liable for injuries or a death sustained in an accident. Negligence is usually the result of careless or reckless actions on the part of a boat operator.

Does Texas keep track of boating accident numbers?

Yes, Texas does keep track of boating accident numbers. For example:

  • Virtually 85 percent of drowning victims in the state were not wearing life preservers.
  • Alcohol does play a role in about 50 percent of all boating crashes nationally.
  • Most personal watercraft accidents happen on weekends during the hours of noon and 7 p.m.
  • Inebriated drivers cause many boating accidents.
  • There were more than 200 arrests for BWI in Texas in 2013.
  • Those 200 accidents resulted in 22 deaths and 85 injuries.
I have been involved in a jet ski accident in which I was hit by another jet ski. Am I entitled to damages and if so what kinds of damages may I receive?

The laws with regard to jet ski accidents vary from state to state and are dependent on the losses one has sustained and what injuries one may have.

Jet ski accident compensation in Florida may involve eligibility for mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of support, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, lost wages, medical expenses and loss of earning ability. Jet ski accident compensation in Texas may involve payment of medical bills, compensation for scarring, wrongful death, short-term disability and compensation for lost wages.

Each case is unique and all aspects of each case must be taken into account before one is advised of what compensation would be applicable in one’s particular case.

I have been involved in a jet ski accident in which I was hit by another jet ski. Am I entitled to damages and if so what kinds of damages may I receive?

The laws with regard to jet ski accidents vary from state to state and are dependent on the losses one has sustained and what injuries one may have.

Jet ski accident compensation in Florida may involve eligibility for mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of support, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, lost wages, medical expenses and loss of earning ability. Jet ski accident compensation in Texas may involve payment of medical bills, compensation for scarring, wrongful death, short-term disability and compensation for lost wages.

Each case is unique and all aspects of each case must be taken into account before one is advised of what compensation would be applicable in one’s particular case.

I have been told that the main cause of boating accidents is drinking while driving the boat. Is that true?

In reality, the main cause of boating accidents, according to numerous reports and statistics, is inexperienced operators. Many people simply assume they can just climb onboard a boat and pilot it anywhere and do anything, because it is easy. Nothing is further from the truth. It takes skill and education to safely pilot a boat. Many of the rules applicable when driving a boat are similar to the rules and regulations that apply to car accidents in Texas.

Mandatory boat operator education is the rule of thumb for anyone born after September 1, 1993, and children younger than 13 must wear a personal flotation device while in a boat of less than 26 feet.

I know there are boater education courses out there, but do I have to take one?

The individuals who must take boater education are those born on or after Sept. 1, 1993. Courses must also be taken in relation to any vessel over 15 hp, for all personal watercraft and any wind-blown vessel over 14 feet.

Other individuals mandated to take boater education are those found in violation of the Water Safety Act. To find out more about various violations visit: Digest of the Water Safety Act.

I was a passenger in a boating accident. I sustained a broken collarbone and cracked ribs. Am I obligated to report this to the police?

It is a good idea to report your injuries to the police and to also make sure that the person operating the boat does file an accident report to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Although it is the driver’s responsibility to report any accidents, if you are injured you should follow-up and ensure there is an accident report so you have documentation for a case/claim.

I was injured in a jet ski accident and would like to file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation for my medical bills. The company is huge. Could I possibly win?

If the evidence in one’s case is clear and compelling and there is negligence involved in the manufacturing of one’s jet ski, there is no real reason why one could not win. One’s attorney is experienced and knowledgeable and knows exactly how to file a lawsuit against major jet ski manufacturers for defective personal watercraft.

Many big name personal watercraft manufacturers, such as Yamaha and Bombardier, have successfully been sued for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship, support or consortium, mental anguish, loss of earning ability and pain and suffering.

I was involved in a boating accident and my friend says I need to have someone other than the Parks and Wildlife Department investigate the cause. Is that true?

If you are involved in a boating accident, you are required to render assistance to others as necessary, and possible. You are also required to exchange contact information, boat ID information and insurance information as soon as possible. And yes, it is vitally important to ensure that you have your own team analyze the cause of the accident. In many cases, this means consulting an experienced boating accident attorney who can preserve crucial evidence to present your case in court.

In some cases, evidence of an accident can disappear or be altered, which could have a negative impact on your case. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and the details.

If I am the operator of a watercraft and I am involved in a boating accident, do I have any responsibilities relating to the accident?

Yes, as the operator you do have responsibilities relating to the accident. You must:

  • remain at the scene of the accident
  • offer assistance to any individual who is injured provided you are not risking your safety or that of your passengers
  • offer assistance to anyone in danger provided you are not risking your safety or that of your passengers
  • give your boat information, address and name in writing to anyone injured in the accident
  • give your boat information, address and name in writing to the owner of property damaged in the accident
If someone was driving a boat in a reckless manner just prior to an accident, can that person be held liable for causing the accident?

Boating rules require safe operation of the personal watercraft at all times. Those same rules also dictate how boats should pass when they meet, the use of proper safety equipment, the imperative to be licensed and drive with due care and attention, much like operating a car. If an operator violates any of those rules, they may be held liable for negligence in causing injuries to others or for killing someone.

In articles about jet ski and boating accidents, there is also reference to personal watercraft or PWC. Does that refer to jet skis?

Personal watercraft, or PWC, is a wide class of recreational water vehicles that are ridden while an operator either sits on the craft or stands while operating it. Most people recognize personal watercraft by brand names, which may include Wet Jet®, WaveRunner®, Sea Doo® and Jet Ski®.

Is it mostly adults that are injured or killed in boating accidents?

No. It is not mostly adults killed or injured in boating accidents. According to the figures in the U.S. Coast Guard report for 2014, 12 children under the age of 13 were killed. Seven of those children, or 58 percent drowned. Fifty-seven percent of the children who drowned (four children) were properly equipped with a life jacket. Two other deaths happened in states where it is not mandatory under state law for children to wear life jackets.

Is it necessary to have a certificate or license to operate a jet ski?

Most states do specify that boater education is mandatory. That may not necessarily mean that one needs to take and pass an approved boating safety course. What one must do and is allowed to do is usually dictated by one’s age and the kind of watercraft one is going to pilot. Make it a point to know the boating rules and regulations applicable in one’s state.

Is there a certain place or body where I have to report a personal watercraft accident?

In Texas a boat operator involved in a collision or accident must immediately contact the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).

An accident may be reported to the TPWD 24-hour police communications operator at (512) 389-4848 or the local police or game warden.

In the event you are unable to contact TPWD, you must contact your nearest law enforcement agency within 30-days of the accident if:

There was damage to property or the watercraft in excess of $2,000 or

The accident resulted in a death (notification must be within 48-hours) or

If injuries sustained in the accident required more than just first aid

Is there anything I can do to avoid, reduce or even prevent a boating accident?

There are a number of things you can do to avoid, reduce or even prevent a boating accident. There are designated safety procedures for anyone piloting or riding on any kind of watercraft. These precautions need to be followed to save lives and prevent injuries or death.

For example: wear a properly sized and approved life jacket, always do a safety check before leaving the dock, take approved safety courses that demonstrate what to do in various situations, get certified and never, under any circumstances, pilot a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance.

Is there such a thing as a “typical” boating accident?

Yes, there is such a thing as a typical boating accident. Close to 85 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket, were in an open motorboat, piloting on the weekends, between the hours of noon and 7 p.m., with the operator ranging in age from 26-50 years of age and involve the victim falling overboard.

Is wearing a lifejacket mandatory when operating a Jet Ski?

No, wearing a lifejacket when operating a Jet Ski is not mandatory. However, given the nature of the vehicle it should be mandatory to wear a personal flotation device. It may save your life in the event of a collision or other accident.

My friend was arrested for boating under the influence. Is that an actual offense?

Yes, there is an actual offense referred to as boating under the influence. It is similar in nature to driving while under the influence, and you can be arrested for boating while under the influence (BUI).

A BUI charge is considered to be extremely serious and there are often hefty fines and possible jail time associated with it. If an individual is a repeat offender, the consequences are even stiffer.

We are going to a new lake to run our boats. Are there any special or specific water safety regulations for that lake?

In order to find out if there are specific or special water safety regulations on the lake of your choosing, you should be aware that Texas Water Safety Act rules are applicable to all public water in the state. However, you need to also contact and check any local governing bodies for rules and regulations that may relate to restricted areas and how personal watercraft are operated.

You may check this link to find the lake you have chosen: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/lakes/lakelist.phtml

What are the most common accidents involving boats?

Some common accidents that occur involving boats include collision, sinking, fire, explosion, flooding and man overboard. Most of the reported deaths happen when a passenger falls overboard or the boat capsizes.

What are the most common causes of boating accident injuries?

The most common causes of boating accident injuries are: boat fires, sinking, collisions, drowning, man overboard, capsizing, flammable material explosions, interior flooding, gasoline fires, propeller injuries and jet ski accidents.

What are the most common causes of jet ski accidents?

The most common causes of jet ski (personal watercraft, or PWC) accidents may include, but not be limited to:

  • Defects in the craft
  • Unsafe craft design
  • Negligence of another jet ski, PWC or boat operator

  • Lack of training and operating instructions
  • Ignoring jet ski operator safety warnings
  • Not wearing the proper safety gear
  • Reckless craft operation
  • Driver distractions
  • Operator errors
  • Inexperienced jet ski operators
  • Operating a PWC under the influence of drugs or alcohol

What are the most common kinds of lawsuits filed when it comes to Jet Ski personal injuries?

The most common forms of litigation that are usually associated with Jet Ski personal injury accidents are defective product litigation, referring to the condition of the Jet Ski or safety equipment; lack of training, driver error and negligent entrustment. Negligent entrustment is where someone may be held liable for negligence because they provided another individual with a dangerous instrument (e.g. Jet Ski) and that person caused injury to a third party.

What are the most common types of injuries sustained in a jet ski or personal watercraft (PWC) accident?

The most common injuries associated with jet ski or PWC accidents include, wrongful death, concussions, traumatic head injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, cuts, abrasions, decapitation, broken bones, burns, drowning, crush injuries and internal organ damage.

What can I do to avoid or reduce the chances that I may be involved in a boating accident and sustain injuries?

There are a number of precautions you and your family may take to reduce the chance that you may be involved in a boating accident, including, but not limited to:

  • Wear an approved and properly sized life jacket
  • Always remember to do a boat safety check before leaving the mooring location
  • Never operate a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Always ensure you have taken a certified safety course and ensure all of the passengers know how to swim or dog paddle if they fall overboard
What does duty of care involve when it relates to a boat operator?

Violations of a boat operator’s duty of care may involve, but not be limited to:

  • Permitting a passenger to sit in a dangerous position
  • Overloading the watercraft
  • Failing to warn others against foreseeable harm (e.g. not telling passengers to wear life jackets)
  • Violating the rules of the water by failing to yield, speeding or driving while under the influence
What is a personal watercraft (PWC)?

A personal watercraft is, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, an inboard boat with an inboard motor that powers a jet pump for propulsion. Its design allows the operator to sit, stand or kneel on the craft. Personal watercrafts must follow the same regulations, rules and requirements that other powerboats must adhere to, in addition to any craft-specific rules for personal watercrafts.

What is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents?

The leading known cause of fatal boating accidents is alcohol use. U.S. Coast Guard statistics for 2014 indicate that drinking while boating was listed as being responsible for 21 percent of deaths.

The most common type of watercraft involved in accidents is motorboats, canoes and kayaks.

What kinds of boats are commonly involved in accidents?

The most common boats involved in accidents are open motorboats, personal watercraft and motorboats with cabins.

With an estimated 11,804,002 recreational vessels registered in the United States in 2014, there are a significant number of water-worthy boats and other types of personal water craft that may be involved in collisions or other types of accidents.

What percentage of boating accidents are caused by the person at the boat operator?

It may not surprise you to find out that virtually 70 percent of all boating accidents that result in serious injuries or death are caused by an operator error. This is one of the main reasons why anyone who is going to be piloting a watercraft must be properly trained, sober and familiar with all appropriate precautions applicable while on the water.

What percentage of boating accidents are caused by the person piloting the watercraft?

According to National Coast Guard statistics, the percentage of boating accidents caused by the pilot or boat operator, is close to 70 percent. This is a shocking statistic and points out how vital it is for the pilot to be cautious, clear-headed, certified and safety conscious at all times. The pilot is responsible not for safety operating the watercraft, but for all of those onboard.

Who is in charge of recreational boating safety in Texas?

Boating safety in Texas is primarily the responsibility of Texas game wardens, and they hand out numerous citations in this area. The most common ones are citations for:

  • Children under the age of 13 not wearing a life jacket
  • Not having enough life jackets on the watercraft in question