The cars and trucks you see on Texas roads and highways are heavily regulated, and specific laws come into play if the vehicles are in an accident.
You may wonder – what about the boats and watercraft on the bodies of water in and around Texas? Are these boats regulated? What happens if an accident occurs? Is there a difference in the law for recreational boats and boats used for work?
Many people believe that boat accidents are only an issue along the coasts of California and Florida; however, that is not true. Texas ranks third in the country for maritime jobs. Also, Texas has more inland water than any other state, with more than 580,000 registered boats.
Because there is so much potential for accidents and other issues on the water, understanding the laws is important. At the Burkett Law Firm, we can help you understand your legal rights and options. Our experienced maritime lawyer can also answer any questions you have.
Texas Boating Accident Laws
It is often challenging to determine what laws apply to boating accidents. There are state and federal laws that may apply based on the situation.
Texas Boating Laws
Texas state laws govern most of the non-navigable water accidents. They can be found (mainly) in the Texas Water Safety Act.
Boating law in Texas primarily concerns the operation of smaller recreational watercraft within the state’s internal waterways. Boating laws are state-specific and are enforced by local authorities like the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
State Jurisdiction and Boating Law
Boating laws in Texas are predominantly under state jurisdiction. Cases involving boating accidents on a lake or river within the state typically go through Texas state courts. These laws cover various issues, such as boat registration, safety requirements, and the legal obligations of boat operators.
Some of the specific issues and situations addressed by these laws include:
- Ownership of vessels and outboard motors.
- Required boater education courses.
- Required accident reports.
- Duties of boat operators.
- Boating while under the influence.
Federal Boating Laws
Originating from international conventions and practices, maritime law has been adopted by individual nations, including the United States. In Texas, this law regulates various aspects like shipping, fishing, and the use of the ports.
Usually, maritime laws, also called admiralty laws, govern boating accidents occurring in the following places:
- On navigable waters, including any body of water that provides a channel for transporting goods or people.
- Involve traditional maritime activities, such as commercial activities, instead of recreational ones.
Some of the federal laws that must be followed cover the following issues or situations:
- The removal of oil spillage and implementing processes for determining damages.
- Compensation and vocational rehabilitation for injured workers or a deceased person’s family.
- Filing a wrongful death claim for the family of deceased sailors if they were killed due to negligence on international waters.
- Protection for Americans working at sea.
Federal Jurisdiction and Maritime Law
One of the most significant distinctions between maritime and boating law is jurisdiction. Maritime law is under federal jurisdiction, meaning federal courts typically handle these cases. In Texas, the U.S. District Courts are where maritime lawsuits, including those involving shipping accidents or offshore oil rig injuries, usually take place.
Where Do They Overlap?
While maritime and boating laws are distinct, they share some common ground. For example, both address matters of vessel safety and operator responsibility. In some instances, especially when an accident occurs on navigable waters connecting to multiple states or countries, elements of both maritime and boating law can come into play.
Why the Distinction Matters
Understanding the differences between maritime law and boating law is critical. Not knowing which set of laws applies to your situation could lead to complications and may affect the outcome of your case.
When You Need a Texas Maritime Accident Lawyer
Suppose you’re involved in an accident that falls under the umbrella of maritime law—perhaps a shipping accident in the Gulf of Mexico. In that case, you’ll likely require the specialized services of a Texas maritime accident lawyer. This type of lawyer will be well-versed in federal statutes and international conventions that might impact your case.
Since the nuances between maritime and boating law can be complex, it’s essential to consult an expert. Whether you need a Texas maritime accident lawyer or someone specialized in Texas boating law, choose an attorney experienced in the relevant jurisdiction and legal frameworks.
At the Burkett Law Firm, We Can Help with Maritime Accidents
While they might seem similar at first glance, maritime law and boating law differ in several key aspects, including jurisdiction, scope, and application. Knowing the difference can be invaluable, whether you’re a business owner operating commercial vessels or a weekend boater looking for relaxation on the Texas waterways.
When in doubt, consult legal professionals well-versed in the specifics of maritime or boating law in Texas to guide you through the complexities of the legal waters you may be navigating.
At the Burkett Law Firm, we can provide the services you need. If you have been involved in an accident or have questions, contact our office to schedule a free consultation.