Intoxication on the Water: Drunk Boating Laws and Protection in the Lone Star State
Whether you are taking a leisurely trip with the family, celebrating a holiday, or just trying to blow off steam, Texas has hundreds of places to rev up your boat. However, just as driver safety laws help to decrease roadway accidents, Texas has watercraft laws that are essential for keeping our waterways safe and injury free. One of the most important of these laws pertains to drinking, drug use, and boating while intoxicated.
As a result of the popularity of boating in Texas, boaters are required to refrain from operating a boat, sea vessel, motorized flotation device, or even water skis while intoxicated. Unfortunately, these laws are regularly flouted by drunk boat operators offshore or on lakes who end up hurting other people. In fact, of the total boating accidents on Texas waters, half involve the use of alcohol.
Although drinking while boating and having open containers of alcohol on operating watercraft is legal, the line is drawn when intoxication and impairment come into play. BWI, or boating while intoxicated, is similar to driving under the influence and is subject to similar rules and consequences. For example, if the coast guard or police establish that the operator of a watercraft has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, the driver may be subject to the following:
- Fines. A first offense can carry a fine up to $2,000 while additional offenses can carry fines up to $10,000.
- Jail time. Sentencing for first conviction can demand up to180 days. A second conviction carries jail time up to one year, and third conviction can require two to ten years of incarceration.
- Civil lawsuit liability. If the intoxicated boater’s actions caused an accident or any injury (intoxication assault), he could be held liable for damages, medical expenses, and court costs for the subsequent injury claims. Furthermore, if the incident proved to be fatal, the intoxicated boater could also be convicted of intoxication manslaughter, which is a felony.
Unfortunately, despite the laws and consequences, hundreds of boaters continue to rev up their engines, beer in one hand and a complete disregard for safety in the other. So what does this mean for you? It means that your family’s next leisurely boat ride or beach day could wind up a disaster as the result of someone else’s careless decision.
Under Texas law, the victim of an intoxicated boater has the right to hold that driver accountable for his actions. Whether the accident caused a boat to crash into another boat, or another object to collide into an innocent swimmer, if the negligent actions of the inebriated driver resulted in physical or proprietary damages, the victim is entitled to compensation. Period.
The majority of non-commercial boating accidents are covered by state negligence laws and are eligible for insurance coverage. As a result, victims can seek damages and compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, wrongful death, punitive damages, and a host of other legitimate accident concerns. However, although you have the right to compensation, that doesn’t mean getting it will be easy. Below are a few tips you can use to ensure your claim is strong and the negligent party doesn’t make any further waves for you and your family.
- Assess your injuries. Following a boating accident, the first thing you need to do is assess your injuries. If you or someone you love is injured, seek medical attention immediately.
- Analyze the accident. Once your medical condition is stable, you must take the opportunity to investigate and analyze the accident. Pay particular attention to the location of the accident. Take photos and fill out a journal describing the incident. Make sure the responding officer performs a sobriety test on the driver (also make sure you receive a copy of the full report). Witness accounts are also essential to help recreate the incident and provide third-party accounts that can verify your claim’s validity.
- Secure a qualified and experienced attorney. Learn about your legal protections today by consulting an experienced personal injury and maritime lawyer. Attorney Steve Lee is standing by now to conduct a FREE consultation to discuss your claim. Call our office or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your appointment.
There’s no need when it comes to your legal rights, to continue to bob around in a sea of uncertainty. Allow us to calm the waves of distress and get you back to enjoying your time on the water. We’re waiting for your call.