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Intoxicated boaters are a water hazard

As we head into the long Labor Day weekend, it's a good time to review the consequences for boating under the influence.

All 50 states have laws on their books forbidding intoxicated boating. These laws were designed to keep those out on the water safer. The federal government also has its own laws prohibiting boating under the influence. Law enforcement personnel can, and do, stop boats on the water to make sure that boaters and passengers are safe.

More than 50 percent of the total number of boating accidents can be linked to drug or alcohol use, and alcohol is the primary contributor toward fatalities involving boats, the Insurance Information Institute determined. The U.S. Coast Guard stated that incidents of BUI increase boating deaths by roughly 34 percent.

Those who operate any watercraft after using drugs or drinking alcohol can face very serious criminal charges if someone gets hurt or killed due to their negligence. But that is not the only consequence an intoxicated boater could face. Civil litigation filed by injured parties or the survivors of the deceased can result in large settlements or judgments against the boat operator and their insurance company.

The U.S. Coast Guard takes the position that "alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land." Agents attempt to reduce or prevent intoxicated people from operating boats and other vessels.

Different factors may diminish a boater's mental and physical abilities out on the water. Things like sun, heat, glare,wind, noise and the boat's motion in the water can take their toll on boaters, causing "boater's fatigue.'' When drugs and alcohol are added to the mix, the ability to safely pilot a boat is diminished.

If you are injured this Labor Day weekend or a loved one is killed due to an intoxicated boater, remember that you have the legal right to pursue financial compensation for your injuries and/or losses.

Source: Findlaw, "Boating Under the Influence Basics," accessed Sep. 02, 2016

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