Earlier this month, we discussed the role that alcohol can play in some cruise ship injuries, but it is important to remember that operating under the influence is also a common cause of recreational boating accidents. Two recent stories in separate areas of the country demonstrate how piloting a private vessel while intoxicated not only leads to boating accidents, but can also have fatal consequences.
On December 5, 2012, Florida Today reported that 36-year-old John Burns was arrested after crashing his 19-foot center console boat into a dock on the west side of Grand Canal. The boat then turned and crashed through mango trees and into the back yard of a home. Burns was charged with felony boating under the influence, BUI with property damage and probation violation. He was already serving felony probation for the most recent of his three prior DUI convictions for driving a car under the influence. Because his 4-year-old daughter was aboard the boat, Burns was also charged with child abuse.
“Boating under the influence and driving under the influence are equally dangerous,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission information coordinator Joy Hill told Florida Today. “They are equally illegal – they carry the same penalties.”
While Burns and his daughter were not injured in that drunk boating accident, the Associated Press reported that two men from Burlington, Iowa, were charged with felonies stemming from a collision on the Mississippi River in May that killed four people. On December 7, 2012, authorities charged 21-year-old Joseph Schier Jr. and 22-year-old Douglas Metcalf with boating while intoxicated causing a death and four counts of involuntary manslaughter, although no trial date has been set for the two men. Matthew House, Jacob Boyd, Caitlyn Atchley, and Blake Eakins were all killed in the May 19 accident in which two flat-bottomed aluminum boats collided nearly head-on. According to the AP, one boat had nearly 11 people on board, and all were thrown into the water. Last year, Iowa passed a law that lowered the blood-alcohol threshold for boating while intoxicated from .10 to .08—the same standard for driving a car.
As evident by the previous stories, an intoxicated driver can be prosecuted criminally by the state for boating while intoxicated. Also, under the law, the intoxicated driver can be responsible civilly to passengers that were injured or to families that lost a loved one due to the driver’s intoxication. With recreational boating accidents, there are many factors that need to be investigated and examined to see if an intoxicated driver is responsible for negligence under the civil law. It is important that you contact an attorney who specializes in boating law to determine what rights and options are available on the civil side.
Latti & Anderson LLP helps injured victims and families who have lost loved ones in drunk boating accidents for over 50 years. Our firm has secured several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for clients, and you can find additional information about recreational boating accidents on our website.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a drunk boater, it is critical that you speak to a maritime attorney before talking to anyone else. Contact our firm right now at (800) 392-6072 or fill out the form on this page to have our Boston maritime trial lawyers review your case.
Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime attorneys