Texas law makes it clear that people operating a boat must have proper skill and licensing to do so. The goal is to minimize the risk of mistakes that lead to injuries. Here, we discuss what you should know about Texas boat operator rules and their impact on your personal injury claim following a boat accident.
Texas Boat Licensing Requirements
The state requires individuals born after September 1, 1993, to obtain a Texas Boater Education Card, also known as a boating license. With this license, a person is then able to operate a motorized boat of 15 hp or more, a wind-powered sailboat that is more than 14 feet in length, or personal watercraft (PWC).
A PWC is a type of motorboat specifically designed to be operated by a person while they are standing, sitting, or kneeling on the vessel rather than being inside the vessel. Examples include jet skis and wet bikes, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife.
To obtain a boating license, individuals must complete a boater education course. This course is available in a classroom or online. Completion of the course allows for a person to obtain the necessary licensing (with their identification) to operate a boat in the state. To complete this course, a person must be at least 13 years of age.
Those who are under the age of 13 are prohibited from operating a PWC unless there is a person over the age of 18 onboard with them. The minimum operator age is 13 for vessels of more than 15 horsepower or windblown vessels if they meet the other requirements of having a license.
The only exemption to this law is if a person was born prior to September 1, 1993. These individuals do not have to complete the boater education course, though it is still strongly recommended that they do.
Forms of Identification Boating Operators Must Carry
A person should have a picture identification card issued by the state (such as a state ID or driver’s license) as well as a boater certification card issued by Texas Parks & Wildlife. It must be kept in their possession while operating the boat.
If you’ve been in an accident caused by another person, request to see their identification and boater education information if it is safe to do so. This may be vital to completing a claim against that individual, especially if they lack the necessary education or licensing to operate the boat.
Operating a Boat Without Meeting Texas Boating Requirements Can Indicate Negligence
A person who lacks proper boating education and training is more likely to cause an accident leading to injury. For example, they may lack skill in managing storms on the water that pop up suddenly. They may also lack the ability to maintain the boat properly to avoid a collision with a structure or another boat. Sometimes, those without this type of education may also lack the overall fundamental knowledge about boating laws and regulations that are applicable in Texas. This puts anyone on the water with them, or those on the boat as passengers, at risk.
Uninsured Boat Operators Can Make Your Claim More Challenging
The state of Texas does not require boaters to maintain insurance on their watercraft. Many boaters do maintain insurance because it can significantly reduce out-of-pocket costs should an accident occur.
If, after an accident, you believe the other party is at fault, be sure to ask to see their boat insurance. If they have coverage, they may carry an insurance card with them as proof of coverage with all data you need to file a claim. Gather the name and policy number from the card as well as the name of their agent and insurance provider.
If they have insurance, you may be able to file a claim directly with their insurance carrier. If they do not have insurance, you may still be able to pursue financial compensation for your losses. However, the process will be a bit more challenging.
What to Do After a Boating Accident
When a boating accident occurs at any scale, take steps to get medical care as soon as possible. Report incidents to the Coast Guard or local authority as soon as possible. It’s also wise to take a few other steps if it is safe to do so:
- Request identification for all of those on the boat. This may help you later prove someone else was responsible.
- Find out if the operator has boating insurance. If so, request information about the agent and policy.
- Take photos of the scene and any damage. Do this before anything is cleaned up or moved, if possible.
- Request contact information for any witnesses to what’s occurred. This includes their name and phone number, even if they state they were not hurt or didn’t see anything.
- Contact the police as soon as possible to complete a formal report.
If you suffered medical injuries or other losses, you may qualify for compensation paid to you by the responsible party. It is always wise to gather help from a boat attorney in Texas to help guide you through this process.
Avoid speaking to insurance adjusters or posting photos on social media about what’s occurred. Instead, reach out to a Texas boating lawyer for immediate help. The Button Law Firm is always available to discuss your case with you during a free consultation. Contact us now to learn more.