Alcohol-Related Boat Accident

Alcohol is a significant factor in boating accidents throughout the state of North Carolina. In one case, a boat’s driver died after the boat hit a dock and caused him to be ejected from the boat. Two other passengers in the boat suffered scrapes and bruises but did not suffer serious injuries. The injured passengers stated that the driver had been drinking before the accident and that the driver was speeding when pulling the boat up to the dock.

Unfortunately, people who choose to operate a boat while intoxicated create a serious risk for themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the water. What are your options if you have been injured in an alcohol-related boating accident?

Boating While Intoxicated

Have you been injured by a boat operator whose intoxication caused the accident that resulted in your injuries? If so, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit in the Charlotte region. Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is illegal in North Carolina. North Carolina law states that no person can operate any vessel while underway on the waters:

  • While under the influence of an impending substance, or
  • After having consumed sufficient that the person has a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher

There is a special commission set up under North Carolina law to enforce the Boating Safety Act. Specifically, the Wildlife Resources Commission enforces the law against boating while impaired. According to North Carolina courts that have interpreted this area of the law, enforcement officers have a right to stop a boat for inspection at any time. The inspectors do not have to have a reasonable suspicion that the boating operator has committed a crime or other infraction. There is not any requirement for a wildlife protector to stop someone's boat and inspect it.

There is No Implied Consent for Boat Operators

There is a difference between DWI and BWI charges, however. Those who choose to drive in North Carolina give automatic implied consent to submit to a blood test for alcohol impairment. On the contrary, boat operators do not give implied consent to submit to blood or breath alcohol tests. This can make it more difficult to prove that a boat operator was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Boat operators receive a statement that they have a right to refuse a blood or alcohol test and that such refusal is admissible at trial.

Without implied consent, a law enforcement officer will need to obtain a search warrant before drawing blood for a blood alcohol test when boat operators refuse a breathalyzer test. Additionally, DWI and BWI crimes have different sentencing structures. Boating while intoxicated is a Class 2 misdemeanor under North Carolina law punishable by up to a $250 fine.

Proving Liability in a BWI Accident

As mentioned above, since boat operators do not give implied consent for alcohol testing, proving that they were intoxicated can be difficult. Suppose you were injured in a boating accident, and you suspect or know that the boating operator was intoxicated. In that case, we recommend writing down all of the reasons you suspect alcohol was involved. Be sure that you tell the law enforcement officer who arrives at the scene to suspect that the boat operator is intoxicated. If you saw the operator drink alcohol, write down how much alcohol he or she consumed and any other evidence of intoxication.

If the operator did submit to a blood alcohol test that shows that his or her alcohol level was over the legal limit, this will help your case. To obtain compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached his or her duty to act reasonably under the circumstances.

Operating a boat while being intoxicated breaches the duty the boat operator owed to his or her passengers. When you prove all of the elements of a personal injury case, you will be entitled to financial damages for your injuries. Successful plaintiffs may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages for their injuries, including medical expenses, lost income, damaged property, and pain and suffering.

Consult With a Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or your loved one has been injured in a drunk boating accident, it is crucial that you discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence demonstrating that the defendant is liable for your injuries. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.

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