Brian White | June 8, 2018 | Summer Safety
Many Texas residents will take to Lake Houston this summer to enjoy boating and other watercraft during the hot weather. Boating can be a great way to spend a summer day until an injury occurs. It’s essential for boat owners to know their responsibilities to their passengers and other boaters, just as a person who sustains an injury in a boating accident should know his or her rights and options for legal recourse. As part of our series on summer safety, Attorney Brian White and his team of Houston boat accident attorneys want Houston residents to know a few best practices for safe boating at Lake Houston this summer.
Boat Owner Responsibilities
It is a boat owner’s responsibility to ensure that the craft is safe for navigating Lake Houston and includes all required safety equipment under Texas law. According to the National Safety Council’s statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, 84% of drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets. About 78% of all boating deaths are from drowning, so it’s essential for all boat owners to keep one life jacket per passenger on their crafts for every trip. Boat owners should require every passenger to wear a life jacket and make sure they fit appropriately. Children should only wear life jackets sized for children to avoid slipping out of them in the water.
Boat owners must also complete required safety courses and meet the state’s requirements for operating a watercraft. Special rules exist for personal watercraft such as Jet Skis as well. Boat owners should also keep emergency equipment such as tools, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits onboard as needed.
Best Practices for Passengers and Swimmers
If you plan to ride on a boat as a passenger, make sure to follow the boat operator’s instructions during your ride. Even if you are confident in your swimming ability you should still wear a lifejacket on the boat. A sudden bump or capsizing could cause you to hit your head and slip under the water without a flotation device. Make sure your lifejacket is undamaged and functional before wearing it, and make sure to fit it correctly.
If you plan to swim in Lake Houston where boaters may be present, be sure to swim only in designated areas and make yourself as visible as possible. A passing boat may not notice a swimmer’s head sticking out of the water, potentially causing severe injuries or drowning. Only swim in approved areas and avoid swimming alone or at night when you will be even less visible to boaters.
Legal Options After a Boating Injury
If you sustain injuries due to negligence while boating, you could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries. If a boat operator disregards posted signs, travels too fast, or does not have appropriate safety equipment onboard, the operator could absorb liability in the event of an accident. If a boat owner operates a boat under the influence of alcohol, he or she could lose his or her driver’s license in addition to other legal penalties. Although Texas’ open container law does not apply to watercraft, it’s imperative for boat operators to refrain from consuming alcohol or other drugs before operating their vessels.
If your injuries resulted from a defective product such as a faulty life jacket or defective personal watercraft, you may have the option of filing a product liability claim against the manufacturer. In this case, you will not necessarily have to prove the manufacturer was negligent, only that the product in question is indeed defective and the defect directly caused your damages. One of the best resources of information after a boating accident is a reliable Houston injury lawyer, so keep Brian White & Associates in mind after any boating accident on Lake Houston.