What if I am Injured by an Intoxicated Boater?

With summer in full swing, many people are spending their weekends or vacations at various lakes around the state.  Arkansas is lucky to have an abundance of lakes to fish, ski or just ride around in a boat.  While spending time on the lake can be a lot of fun, people should take precautions to keep themselves and their families safe.  Wearing sun screen and staying hydrated are two things that people should do while on the lake, but it is also important to be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters and to make sure that you are not on a boat being operated by an intoxicated person.  According to the 2014 U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, alcohol use is one of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents involving a fatality.

Although Driving while Intoxicated gets a lot of press, remember that Boating while Intoxicated is also a crime.  Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-65-103 is a criminal statute that prohibits operating a motorboat while intoxicated.

5-65-103. Driving or boating while intoxicated.

(a)

(1)  It is unlawful and punishable as provided in this chapter for a person who is intoxicated to operate or be in actual physical control of a motorboat on the waters of this state or a motor vehicle.

(2)  It is unlawful and punishable as provided in this chapter for a person to operate or be in actual physical control of a motorboat on the waters of this state or a motor vehicle if at that time the alcohol concentration in the person’s breath or blood was eight hundredths (0.08) or more based upon the definition of alcohol concentration in § 5-65-204.

(b)  The consumption of alcohol or the possession of an open container of alcohol aboard a motorboat does not in and of itself constitute probable cause that the person committed the offense of boating while intoxicated.

(c)  An alcohol-related offense under this section is a strict liability offense.

Much like the criminal implications of boating while intoxicated are similar to driving while intoxicated, the civil law implications are also similar.  The State of Arkansas requires that a $50,000 occurrence policy be kept on any boat with over 50 horse power, so it is worth exploring a possible claim if you have been injured by an intoxicated boat operator.  It is easy for anyone to apply the same common sense used when out of the water and is applied to intoxicated drivers of vehicles.  If someone wants to drink alcohol, they should have a designated non-drinking operator.  If someone operates a boat while intoxicated, they should be held accountable.  The rules apply to everyone that is on the water. If you have been injured because of an intoxicated boat operator, call the attorneys at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.  We would love to speak with you and help you in any way we can.

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