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Alcohol-Related Boating Accidents, Liability & Victims' Rights


BoatThroughout the summer and nearly year-round, residents across Los Angeles and Southern California are able to capitalize on warm weather and enjoy a range of boating activities. While fishing, water sports, and boating on local lakes or the open ocean can certainly be an enjoyable time, it is important to remember that there are always risks when on the water. These risks can be exacerbated when boaters prioritize alcohol over safety.

With thousands of miles of shoreline and inland water, California sees a number of boating related injuries. In fact, statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard rank the state second in the nation when it comes to boating accidents. In 2016, there were nearly 400 recreational boat accidents statewide, as well as close to 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Common causes of these accidents included:

  • Negligent boat operation
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Operator inattention
  • Excessive speed
  • Inexperienced boaters / unfamiliar conditions

While boat accidents can be caused by many factors, the data shows that alcohol is a leading cause of injuries and deaths in boating wrecks. In California, over a third of all boating accidents involve an operator who is under the influence of alcohol.

Just as operating a motor vehicle is considered a negligent and dangerous act that places others at risk of suffering preventable harm, boating under the influence is also cause for concern. Fortunately, there are laws in place that ensure drunk boaters are held accountable for their misconduct and liable for any injuries or deaths they cause. Here are a few things you should know as a victim:

  • Drunk boating is a crime – Boating under the influence (BUI) is a criminal offense in the state of California. This means that individuals who operate a vessel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or .08 or higher can be charged with a crime and exposed to serious criminal penalties, including fines and potential terms of imprisonment.
  • Victims have rights – While boaters can face criminal penalties for operating a boat while intoxicated, these criminal cases do not provide victims with the compensation they need to cover their damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering incurred as a result of an alcohol-related boat accident. To recover financial compensation victims must exercise their right to pursue civil legal action through personal injury or wrongful death claims.
  • Civil liability – When pursuing personal injury or wrongful death claims, victims and families have an opportunity to hold drunk boaters liable for damages they suffered. In order to effectively establish liability, victims must prove negligent and intoxicated boaters more likely than not caused harm as a result of their intoxication. This can be difficult, especially when insurance companies work aggressively to dispute claims from victims and pay as little as possible. As such, working with proven lawyers can provide victims with the experience, resources, and representation needed to create a successful case.

Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Biren Law Group have experience representing victims harmed by negligence in a range of accidents, including boat accidents. We also have experience protecting the rights of maritime workers who have been harmed by employer negligence. If you would like to learn more about our experience handling these cases, or wish to discuss your potential case personally with an attorney, contact us for a FREE consultation.