Whether you’re boating on Lake Conroe, at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, or on any other lake in Texas, do you know what to do if an accident occurs?
With Texas’s spike in recreational boating accidents, it’s a question you should know the answer to. If you’re injured in a boating accident, there are a few steps to follow.
Doing so can help protect your legal rights and ensure you’re following Texas state law.
What to Do Immediately Following a Boating Accident
Maybe your boat capsized, and winds can get gusty in Texas resulting in some impressive and dangerous waves.
Because of this, your boat may have struck an object like a pier or bridge piling, and another common accident scenario is crashing into another boat.
Regardless of how the accident is caused, the steps to take afterwards remain the same.
Contact the Authorities
While it’s always a good idea to immediately report a boating accident, it’s not required by Texas law. You have 48 hours to report a boating accident involving a fatality, and from an ethical perspective, it should be reported far sooner than that.
Otherwise, you have 30 days from the accident date to file a report with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. If the injuries are minor, like a slight scrap or bruise, or if the damage is less than $2,000, you can also wait a month before alerting the authorities.
A quick note: if the boating accident occurs in the Texas Gulf, you’ll want to alert the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has jurisdiction in the Gulf instead of the Department of Parks & Wildlife.
Even though contacting the authorities is not always a legal requirement immediately after a boating accident, it’s still a good idea to make the call. Not only does this help protect your legal rights, but you may also have internal injuries that aren’t obvious. Being safe is always advisable in any type of accident.
Get Medical Attention
If you have severe injuries you’ll want to seek immediate medical attention. Medical personnel may be waiting on the dock, or the responding authorities may also provide emergency treatment.
Even if you’re walking away from the accident, still make an appointment with a physician. Some injuries may not be apparent until a day or so after the accident. You’ll also need a copy of your medical records if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
Obtain a Copy of the Accident Report
The boat’s operator is responsible for filing the accident report with the proper authorities—however, you can request a copy of the report.
Don’t expect the report to be available immediately after the incident. Remember, the boat’s operator has up to 30 days to make a report. Even then, it still takes a few days for the report to become available, typically around a week. You should also expect to pay a nominal fee to obtain a copy.
Why do you need a copy of the accident report? Your accident attorney will use the report to substantiate your personal injury case. Your insurance provider will also request a copy before processing your claim.
Don’t worry if your injuries prevent you from collecting evidence and documenting the accident scene. The authorities will handle this and include the information in the final accident report.
However, if possible, it’s a good idea to collect evidence at the scene, but this doesn’t mean breaking out an amateur crime scene kit. Instead, simply use your smartphone to take pictures of any damages and injuries.
Don’t forget to jot down a few details leading up to and about the accident. These details are still fresh in your mind. You may not remember everything once the stress and excitement have died down.
Don’t Discuss the Accident
While you may need to answer questions posed by investigators, don’t discuss the accident with friends or family. You may also want to refrain from talking about the accident with others involved.
If you do decide to seek financial compensation, anything you say can be used against you. This may even mean placing friends and family in the uncomfortable position of repeating your statements in court.
Contact an Accident Attorney
As soon as possible, get in touch with an experienced accident attorney. You want to do this before calling your insurance provider. Even if you’re only filing a claim to cover medical expenses, it’s still a good idea to have a lawyer on your side.
Insurance companies often try to get you to accept the lowest claim offer, which can still leave you with medical expenses. If you settle and need ongoing care, you may end up paying out-of-pocket. Once you accept an insurance offer, you cannot submit another claim for the same accident.
Thankfully for you, your attorney is a skilled negotiator and will help ensure you receive full and fair compensation.
What Happens If Your Claim Goes to Court
Sometimes, it’s not possible to reach an agreement with an insurance company. You may also be seeking compensation from the boat’s operator, and if so, this can complicate your case. If your personal injury case goes to court, your attorney will take care of filing the paperwork.
The next step is negotiating an acceptable settlement. In most instances, a settlement is reached before going to trial, and hopefully, this applies to your case. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to reach an agreement, and this is when your case goes to trial. Your case may be presented to a judge or a jury.
During the trial, your attorney will present the evidence supporting your claim, but be prepared for the defence to try and refute the evidence. Don’t take offence to this or take it personally, it’s a standard part of almost any trial.
After closing arguments, the judge or jury will decide whether your case has merit. If so, the penalty phase begins, and this is when you learn your compensation amount.
Talk to An Attorney If You’re Involved in a Boating Accident
While accidents on the water are a reality, navigating the legal aftermath should not be a solitary endeavour.
It‘s crucial to engage a personal injury attorney who can diligently work to safeguard your legal rights, ensuring that you have professional guidance and advocacy throughout the process.
This approach provides peace of mind and the assurance of expert legal support.