Boating in Texas’ waterways is great fun, but unfortunately, accidents happen. So what do you do when a dreamy day on the water turns into a nightmare?
Knowing what steps to take in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and in the following days and weeks, is crucial to protecting your legal rights and getting as much compensation as possible for any injuries you suffered at the hands of a negligent boat operator.
In this article, our Dallas boating accident lawyers will help you navigate the often choppy legal waters that ensue after a boating incident and outline some of the immediate steps you should take.
Seek Medical Care (Even If You Don't Think You're Injured)
In the aftermath of a boating accident, one of the first things you should do is speak with a medical professional. Even if it appears that you walked away with little to no injuries, it’s still a good idea to get checked out. Why? One word: Adrenaline.
After a traumatic event, like a boating accident, adrenaline floods the system and can mask symptoms of a serious injury. Because of this, you may not realize you’re in pain until days or weeks after the wreck. So, it’s best for you and anybody else who was on your vessel to err on the side of caution.
Your doctor will be in the best position to determine whether you sustained any injuries in the accident and can also give you advice on monitoring symptoms of potential injuries, including the sorts of red flags to watch out for.
It also pays to see a doctor as soon as possible from a legal perspective. Any Dallas boating accident lawyer will tell you that medical records act as crucial evidence of your damages should you choose to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the boat driver or owner.
Document Evidence and Gather Information
Proof of how the collision happened, who was involved, and the extent of any injuries or property damage will be important to have in your back pocket when the dust (or water, rather) settles after your boating accident. It can be hard to think about evidence when you’re trying to make sure everyone is safe and tended to—but, gathering evidence is especially crucial after a boating accident.
Evidence of accidents that happen on the water can be more difficult to obtain when time has passed because, unlike in a road accident, the surface of the water does not preserve evidence and some evidence can sink or be washed away.
Information that you should gather at the accident scene includes:
- Vessel registration numbers
- Insurance information of boat operators
- Name and contact details of boat operators, owner, passengers, and witnesses
- Photos and or video of the scene, boats, damage, and injuries (including minor injuries, like scratches or bruises)
Report The Boating Accident
When a car accident happens, it’s the police officer who is called to the scene that files the report. However, boating accidents are different—you are the one responsible for filing an accident report with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
According to section 31.105 of the Parks and Wildlife code, each boat operator must file a report to the department no later than 30 days after the incident if they are involved in an accident that results in:
- Death; (within 48 hours) or
- Injuries to a person requiring medical treatment beyond first aid; or
- Causes damage to vessel(s) or property in excess of $2000
The report should include a full description of the collision, accident, injuries, or casualties.
A word of warning: Be honest, but be careful during this process. Even if you know you weren’t responsible for the accident, your words could later be used against you. It may seem like bad manners, but you don’t want to offer apologies or accept any sort of responsibility for the crash. Determining who caused the accident must be done by taking into account all of the facts, and you do not want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim by trying to be polite. In fact, you should consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can assist you in making the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation.
Make a Claim Against Their Insurance (If They Have It)
If you’re injured in a boating accident, you can seek compensation for your suffering by filing a lawsuit through the court, or by filing a claim through the other party’s insurance company (assuming they have insurance that covers boating accidents).
Unlike auto insurance, there are no laws in Texas that require people to carry insurance for their boats or watercraft. People may have home insurance that covers damages to their boat, however, most of these policies don’t provide liability coverage. A separate boat policy is usually needed to cover medical payments or pay for damage or injuries to others after an accident.
With that said, you should always ask if the other boat driver has insurance and collect that information so you can make a claim. If they do have insurance, you should avoid entering a discussion with the insurer before getting legal advice. And as we mentioned earlier, you should NEVER admit any blame in the accident or accept a settlement offer from an insurance company without first consulting a Dallas boating accident lawyer.
An insurance company will generally try to avoid a large payout and will make a lowball offer that they hope will be accepted, especially if the victim is unrepresented. Once you agree to a settlement with the at-fault party or their insurer, you will likely be prohibited from making another claim for compensation. You’ve got to think about the bigger picture and must ensure that any compensation is sufficient for your injuries from the boating accident, including future expenses such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Call a Dallas Boat Accident Lawyer For Help
After a boating incident, you should get the advice of an attorney experienced in handling boating accidents—especially if your injuries are severe. Receiving compensation for damages and injuries suffered in a boating accident can be challenging, even during the best circumstances. Evidence is often difficult to obtain in the aftermath of a crash, and even if you did obtain ample evidence, insurance companies or the at-fault party will often find ways to minimize or deny their liability for your losses.
Fortunately, most attorneys, including the boating accident lawyers at Tim O’Hare, offer a free initial consultation so that you can find out if you would benefit from legal representation, and if that legal team is right for you. When you partner with us, our team will gather evidence and negotiate with any at-fault parties on your behalf so that you get the compensation you deserve while you focus on recovering. Plus, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing if we don’t win. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us today.