You are not allowed to drink on a boat in Maryland if you are the person driving the boat. Drinking while boating is illegal for the same reason it is illegal to drink and drive a car: alcohol impairs your judgment and reflexes, and you are more likely to cause an accident while intoxicated.
If you know or suspect alcohol played a role in your accident, a Maryland boat accident lawyer can help you file a case against the responsible party. You may be able to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit to seek fair compensation.
Maryland Drinking and Boating Laws
Md. Trans. Code § 21-902 clearly states that it is illegal to “drive or attempt to drive any vehicle,” including boats, while under the influence of:
- Any drug(s) that may impair judgment
- Any controlled substance
According to the statute cited above, the penalties for drinking and driving include:
- A fine of hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on what substance you were caught using
- Months or years in jail, again depending on the specific nature of the offense
- More severe consequences for those with prior convictions
If someone causes a boating accident while intoxicated, another law—Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code § 5-101—states that you can file a legal action against the drunk driver within three years of the accident date.
Such a legal action would allow you to collect compensation for losses related to the accident, such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages if you missed work.
For legal consultation, call (410)777-8960
Why Is Drinking and Boating Illegal?
Alcohol and other substances can have a major impact on how your brain works. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the more you drink, the harder it becomes to:
- Keep your vehicle moving in a straight line
- Control your temper
- Control the fine motor skills you need to drive safely
- See and hear clearly
- React fast when an unexpected danger crosses your path
- Multitask, so you might have trouble focusing on both where you are going and what your hands are doing
The NHTSA discussed these factors in terms of how they impact car accident rates, but their analysis is just as relevant to boating and watercraft accidents. You are not allowed to drink on a boat in Maryland because there is too great a chance that the alcohol will cause you to lose control of the vehicle and hurt someone.
You are legally considered intoxicated when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08, but your judgment and motor skills start to suffer well before that. It is much safer to abstain from alcohol before operating any vehicle.
Boating Safely in Maryland
There are many steps you can take to ensure a safe boating experience for yourself and everyone around you. Some of the more basic steps include:
- Refraining from drinking and boating
- Arranging for someone else to operate the boat if you plan on drinking
- Always paying attention to your surroundings
- Maintaining a respectful distance from other people, watercraft, and animals
- Wearing a life jacket in case of emergencies
- Being especially careful around people who are (or appear to be) drunk
Even if you do everything right while on the water, there is no guarantee that the people around you will be as courteous and careful as you. Immediately after a boating accident, you will want to:
- Get yourself to a safe location. This may mean waiting on your boat for help to arrive or getting as far away from your boat as possible, depending on the damage you took.
- Call the Coast Guard to come help you and investigate the crash.
- Collect evidence as you wait for the authorities (e.g., take pictures of your damaged boat and get the contact information of the boat operator who hit you).
- See a doctor about your injuries and receive any care you need.
Getting Justice After a Maryland Boating Accident
If you or a loved one were injured by a drunk boat operator, you can promote boating safety by filing a legal action that:
- Holds the at-fault party responsible for their inexcusable behavior
- Allows you to collect financial compensation from the liable party’s insurer
- Sends a clear message to other boat operators: that driving drunk will not be tolerated in Maryland
Taking legal action, however, may be easier said than done. No matter how much you might want to pursue a case after a boating accident, it is completely understandable if you do not feel up to the task.
Fortunately, you do not have to file your legal action alone. You can instead hire a lawyer who charges nothing up front and who can:
- Answer all of your questions about the legality of drinking and boating and what your rights are following an alcohol-related accident
- Collect evidence that proves the at-fault party was intoxicated at the time of the crash
- Determine the monetary value of all the injuries you sustained because of the drunk boating accident
- Negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company for a settlement that covers everything you lost or will lose because of the collision
- Go to court and try to get a jury award for your boating accident injuries
- Handle all of the paperwork, including demand letters and pretrial settlement agreements
You should know that insurance companies are often reluctant to pay fair compensation. They might try to undervalue your case or blame the accident on you.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer can protect you against the insurance companies. Your legal representative would confront the insurers for you and fight hard to ensure the liable party does not get away with their reckless actions.
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Were You Injured by a Drunk Boat Operator in Maryland?
Adam M. Smallow wants you to know that you are not allowed to drink on a boat in Maryland if you are also operating that vessel. If you were injured by an intoxicated boat operator, call (410) 777-8960 and let us evaluate your case for free. We charge no attorney’s fees until after we win compensation for our clients.