What victims need to know about boating under the influence in California

Categories: Personal Injury

Mixing boating and alcohol can often lead to serious accidents like boat collisions or accidental drowning. If you’ve been harmed by a drunk boater, you may have the option to pursue a claim for compensation for your injuries. A San Luis Obispo boating accident lawyer can explain your legal options if you were harmed by someone’s violation of California’s BUI laws.

California BUI laws

California’s Harbors & Navigation Code 655 prohibits boating under the influence of alcohol. “Under the influence” is a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. “Boating” under this statute refers to operating any kind of watercraft.

BUI laws apply to both pleasure and commercial craft, although the threshold to be considered “under the influence” for a commercial watercraft operator is a BAC of just 0.04, which can often be achieved after drinking just one drink.

BUI laws also cover criminal penalties for boating under the influence in California and causing an accident that injures another person.

Common causes of BUI accidents and resulting injuries

When someone has been drinking, they may have a slower response time or be unable to fully control the boat. Alcohol also lowers impulse control, so people may be more likely to engage in reckless boating.

Boat accidents can happen on any type of watercraft, like:

  • A collision caused by a drunk boat driver, crashing the boat into the dock, rocks, or other vessels
  • Slip-and-fall accidents if a boat passenger is intoxicated
  • Assault committed by drunk passengers against others

If you are involved in a boating accident, you may end up with one or more serious injuries, like:

  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Soft tissue injuries like strains and sprains
  • Abrasions, contusions, and lacerations
  • Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Facial or eye damage
  • Internal bleeding or internal organ damage
  • Back, neck, and spine injuries
  • Shock and hypothermia

Some people may not survive a boating accident, like drowning or electrocution. If you’ve lost a loved one in a California boating under the influence accident, contact a San Luis Obispo boating accident lawyer about filing a wrongful death suit against the drunk boater.

Implications of a BUI operator on your boat accident case

A boat operator who causes an accident because they were drinking can be held liable for that person’s injuries just as a drunk driver would be liable for injuries they cause on the road.

Personal injury cases rest on proving negligence, which means that the defendant had a duty of care for your safety, breached that duty of care, and then caused an accident that injured you, the plaintiff. When someone is drinking and boating, it can be argued that these are negligent actions and the drunk boater owes you full and fair funds for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages from time missed at work because of your injury
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Diminished quality of life if your injuries prevent you from working or enjoying activities you once did

How your attorney proves BUI in your accident case

Proving that the party who caused your accident was drunk at the time can be tricky. After an accident, it can take much longer for help (and law enforcement from California’s Division of Boating and Waterways) to arrive. By the time someone arrives to test the BAC of the at-fault party, their blood alcohol content may have dropped below the legal limit.

Your attorney may need to rely on testimony from the boat driver’s passengers or others who saw them drinking excessively. Without a BAC test indicating that the operator was intoxicated, it’s hard to prove drunk boating. This is why it’s critical to work with an attorney experienced in handling these challenging cases.

Comparative negligence in California boating accident cases

Comparative negligence (fault) is an argument used in personal injury claims. The defense argues that the victim’s actions contributed to the accident, so the victim is partly responsible for their injuries.

California is a pure comparative negligence state, though, which means that even if the victim shared up to 99% of the blame for the accident, they can still collect damages (although the amount of their award is reduced).

Legal options and resources for BUI accident victims in California

A boat accident injury lawyer advises you of your legal options after the accident. Save your medical records as proof of the injuries you sustained from the accident. Keep a pain journal, too, detailing your injuries’ effects on your ability to work and care for yourself.

Responsible boating saves lives

Just like you’d designate a driver in a car for a night out drinking, so should boaters designate a non-drinker to operate the boat. An agreement beforehand to drink responsibly can help reduce the chances of a dangerous BUI accident.

Do you need help after a BUI accident?

If you’ve been harmed in a California boating under the influence accident with an intoxicated driver, call Ernst Law Group today at (805) 541-0300 for a free consultation.