Drunk Boating Accidents: Fault and Injury Compensation two people on the front of a boat in Costa Mesa drinking alcohol

Every year, there are thousands of drunk boating accidents in the United States. These accidents often result in serious injury or death. In 2020, alcohol use was the leading cause of fatal boating accidents — implicated in 18 percent of the deaths over more than 5,000 recorded boating accidents.

In California, we love our boats. But what we don’t love — and can’t tolerate — is when someone is negligent while operating a boat and hurts someone else. And negligence is exactly what is involved when someone operates a boat while drunk.

If you have been injured in a drunk boating accident, it is important to understand who is at fault and what type of compensation you may be eligible for. This article will discuss the basics of drunk boating accidents and how to seek legal recourse if you have been injured. Keep reading to learn more, or reach out to an Orange County boat accident attorney to discuss your legal options.

Can You Sue a Drunk Boat Driver?

Yes, you can sue a drunk boat driver for fault and injury compensation. 

According to California law:

No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.” 

That means it’s against the law to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol in California. However, the fact that it is illegal means the drunk boater could be charged with a crime — that’s a criminal matter, not a civil one. 

The good news is that breaking the law highly suggests negligence. And you will need to prove that the boater who hurt you was negligent in order to recover compensation from them in California civil court.

Types of Drunk Boating Accidents in California

All drunk boating accidents are serious and put lives at risk, but not all drunk boating accidents are the same. Each type may determine whether you’re eligible for compensation, who is liable for your damages, and how to move forward if you sue.

Below, we examine some of the most common types of drunk boating accidents:

Recreational Boating Accidents

A recreational boating accident is one caused by boats used for pleasure or non-commercial purposes. These can range from sailing watercraft and motor-powered boats to human-powered vessels. 

Whether you were swimming, on a separate boat, or a passenger on a recreational boat, if a drunk boater on a recreational craft injured you, you likely have grounds to file a lawsuit. And the drunk boater is most likely to be considered the legally liable party in such a case.

Commercial Recreational and Passenger Boating Accidents

Boat tours, party boats, ferries, and similar watercraft have two types of people on them: Those who are on the job and those who are not. If the driver of a commercial passenger or recreational vessel is drunk on the job and causes injuries as a result, who is liable?

This is where drunk boating lawsuits can get tricky. While the intoxicated boat operator is almost certainly at fault for the incident, their employer may also bear some of the legal liability.

Commercial Vessels and Professional Fishing Boats

Commercial vessels and professional fishing boats only have professionals on board. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the dangers of drunk boating. A boat operator could be intoxicated on the job and cause an accident, or the operator of another vessel could be intoxicated and crash into a commercial fishing vessel.

In any case, if you are injured as a maritime worker, you may be limited to workers’ comp or a similar system meant for maritime workers, but there are instances in which you may be able to pursue personal injury compensation. Because personal injury compensation can provide much more comprehensive financial benefits than the alternatives, it’s important to speak with a lawyer about your options if you are injured on a professional vessel.

How a Costa Mesa Moving Vehicle Lawyer Can Help After Drunk Boating Accidents

While suing a drunk boat driver does not require legal representation, any small legal mistake can put your ability to recover compensation at risk.

For instance, due to California’s comparative negligence laws, the at-fault boater may try to place some of the blame for your injuries on you to reduce the amount of compensation they owe you. You need all of your compensation — not just some of it — and an experienced attorney can help you demonstrate that the accident was not your fault so you can get the full available amount.

Fighting legal battles over who is at fault is just the beginning of what a lawyer can do for you and your drunk boating accident claim. Your lawyer can take control of every aspect of your case so you can focus on recovering from your injuries. That might include gathering evidence, filing documents with the court, negotiating with the at-fault party and their attorney, calculating the value of your damages, and fighting for you in court.

That way, you can focus on your health with the peace of mind of knowing that a capable legal ally is fighting hard for every dollar you are owed.

Injured by a Drunk Boater? Contact a Trusted Injury Lawyer

No one deserves to be injured in any kind of boating accident, but when the accident was as preventable as one caused by a drunk boater, the situation is reprehensible. The law is about justice, and in this case, California law allows you to pursue personal injury compensation from those who would operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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