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Dangers of Maritime Collisions

Maritime collisions can produce substantial property damage as well as injuries, and even death. Often, we think of such crashes in the context of commercial shipping. But, yesterday, a grand jury did not issue any indictments in a boating collision that involved pleasure craft.

The incident occurred after dark on July 1, 2014. A bass boat participating in a tournament struck a pleasure boat on Lake Conroe: tragically, a 9 year old boy died, along with his mother and her sister. The grand jury apparently determined that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that criminal negligence contributed to the collision. In particular, there were no reports that intoxication caused it.

Pleasure boating can provide an enjoyable outing. But those involved must maintain care. In the fatal collision on Lake Conroe, investigators considered whether speed and lighting, or lack of it, caused the crash.

Alcohol is an obvious danger than can lead to death both on the water and off of it. Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court exonerated a company when one of its guests allegedly got drunk on a fishing trip, and then, when driving back to Houston, crossed the centerline and severely injured two people on a motorcycle. While maritime law usually governs watercraft and damages that stem from their use, in that case the Court ruled that maritime law did not apply. The effect was to allow the company to escape responsibility, because, in nearly every situation, decisions by the Texas Supreme Court and the Legislature will not impose "social host" liability when someone provides intoxicants that cause injuries. Thus, when one operating a fishing boat provides alcohol, allows his guest to get drunk and then drive, which leads to a horrible crash, the person providing the alcohol will typically not be held responsible for his actions. Observers naturally wonder how our state can improve safety when those who do not maintain it are not held responsible for their conduct.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a boating accident, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-396-3964 or 1-800-594-4884.

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