Many areas in Texas reach the gulf coast, and the multiple lakes and other bodies of water in the Lone Star State means a number of boat accidents happen each year. Overall, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports somewhere between 150 and over 250 boating accidents each year in Texas, resulting in somewhere between 20 and 60 deaths each year. If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident in TX, it is important to understand how long you have to bring your case and to talk to a Texas boat accident lawyer about filing your case as soon as you can to ensure proper compensation. For a free consultation on your boat accident case, contact The Queenan Law Firm today.
How Long Do You Have to Sue for a Boat Accident in Texas?
If you were injured in a boat accident, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. Any case that goes to court is subject to a rule called the “statute of limitations,” which gives a time limit on how long the injured party has to file their case. These apply for both civil cases like boat accidents and car accidents as well as criminal cases. The statute of limitations for boat accidents depends on where exactly the accident occurred.
Most boat accidents occur near the coast or in smaller bodies of water like lakes or even large ponds. Any of these cases would be subject to Texas’ personal injury law. This means that the case has a 2-year statute of limitations. Most injury cases follow this 2-year period, giving you a reasonable time to heal before you need to contact an attorney and get your case filed. With serious injuries like traumatic brain injury, you may not be fully recovered before you need to bring your case to court.
Because boat accidents may occur in the Gulf of Mexico and other navigable waters, they may actually be subject to maritime law. This law covers the rules at sea throughout the US, following different rules than Texas’ laws. Offshore oil drilling, commercial fishing, and other professions take their workers into these deeper waters where they could be subject to workplace injuries on their vessels. If you were injured at sea, you have 3-years under maritime law to bring your injury case.
These statutes of limitations restrict when you must file your case. Once your attorney files the initial complaint and serves the defendant with notice, you have additional time to finish your case. The processes for evidence exchange, depositions, and evidence-gathering, known as “discovery,” may take a few months. In addition, there may be opportunities for legal motions, which take time to resolve and argue before the judge. After that, the trial itself can take up to a week if the facts are complex. None of these time periods are counted into the statute of limitations, and you merely need to get your case filed within the time limit.
What Happens if I File a Boat Accident Case Late?
In many cases, filing a case late can block you from pursuing your claims. The defendant is permitted to use the statute of limitations as a defense, claiming that your case was filed too late. When this happens, a judge is required to drop the case. A judge may even see that the case was filed too late and decide of their own volition that the court should save its time and resources by dropping the case.
However, there are multiple rules that give you extended opportunities to file your injury case. Texas law accounts for two types of “legal disabilities” that allow you an extension for filing your case. First, if you were under 18 at the time of the injury, you could be given an extension so that the clock does not start running until you turn 18. Your parents can usually file your claims on your behalf, which can get you the compensation you need more quickly. Second, you can be given an extension if you were “of unsound mind” when the injury occurred. People with severe mental disabilities are allowed to wait until their disability resolves and they can better appreciate the claims they are entitled to. If either of these apply to your case, talk to an attorney about extending your filing deadline.
If you were injured, you may be able to file your case through an insurance company if the at-fault boat was properly insured. The deadlines for filing your case with insurance may be different than filing with the courts. However, if you wait too long, you may be stuck with whatever payout the insurance company decides is fair. Taking your case to court could entitle you to additional damages insurance would refuse to pay. Talk to an attorney early in your case to ensure you understand what your case is worth and to ensure you have time to file a strong case.
Texas Boat Accident Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you or a member of your family was injured in a boat accident, or if a loved one died in an accident, talk to an attorney right away. The Dallas personal injury lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm offer free consultations to help you understand your case and what your injuries could be worth. For a free consultation, contact our law offices today at (817) 476-1797.