young man drinking beer while driving a boatTennessee may not have a coast, but it still hosts some of the nation’s most scenic waterways, from the banks of the mighty Mississippi to long lakes and fish-filled Appalachian rivers. When the weather is warm, people from across the state take to the waters to relax and let loose. Unfortunately, the sense of freedom afforded aboard a vessel can lead people to make poor decisions. Although Tennessee law prohibits operating watercraft under the influence of drugs and alcohol, some people endanger their safety—and the safety of everyone around them—by boating under the influence.

Tennessee’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Almost everyone knows that it is a criminal offense to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, Tennessee extends its expectation of sober driving to watercraft operators, too. State law empowers the Coast Guard, Wildlife Resources wardens, and other law enforcement officers to investigate reports of unsafe and reckless boating.

If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a watercraft operator is intoxicated, they could ask the operator to consent to a field sobriety examination or breathalyzer test. Anyone with a presumed or actual blood alcohol content (BUI) above 0.08% could:

  • Have their boating license suspended for six or more months
  • Face fines between $250 and $2,500
  • Be jailed for up to 11 months and 29 days

Although boating under the influence is a Class A misdemeanor, penalties rise for repeat offenders. While BUIs are not felony offenses, negligent watercraft operators could be liable for any injuries or property damage caused by their misconduct.

Boating Under the Influence Puts Everyone in Danger

Boating accidents can have catastrophic outcomes, especially when alcohol is involved. A negligent watercraft operator could jeopardize their own safety, as well as the safety of:

  • Their passengers
  • Other boaters
  • Swimmers
  • Sports fishermen
  • People working or standing on docks
  • Anyone along the shoreline

When boating accidents happen, they can cause or contribute to serious injuries, including:

  • Bruising
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Twisted muscles and tendons
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Drowning

The consequences of a watercraft accident can be far-reaching, causing immense physical and financial pain. You might have to pay exorbitant medical bills or be responsible for massive amounts of property damage caused by another person’s recklessness. Fortunately, state law affords BUI victims the right to legal relief. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Tennessee drunk boating accident, you could be entitled to significant compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

Establishing Liability After a BUI Accident

Even if you have been injured in a Tennessee boating accident that was clearly not your fault, you must still have compelling evidence of negligence to file a successful personal injury claim.GriffithLaw can help bolster your claim by:

  • Investigating the accident. We can investigate the circumstances of your accident and injury by reviewing how, when, and where the incident took place. If the vessel operator refuses to admit wrongdoing, we could subpoena critical evidence, including marina surveillance camera footage and the boater’s text message history, cell phone photographs, and call logs.
  • Reviewing law enforcement reports. Tennessee has “implied consent” laws for watercraft operators. If a police officer or Wildlife Resources official believes that a boater could be under the influence of alcohol, they can order the operator to submit to a field sobriety examination or breathalyzer test. We can review the responding officer’s report to argue that the boater was most likely intoxicated when they caused the accident.
  • Speaking to eyewitnesses. GriffithLaw can interview any potential eyewitnesses, including passengers and anyone who might have witnessed the accident from another watercraft or the shore. Even if law enforcement was unable to ascertain the watercraft operator’s blood alcohol content level, an eyewitness could recall that they saw an individual consuming alcohol or noticed the vessel conducting unusual or unsafe maneuvers.
  • Assessing your injuries. Some injuries are difficult to diagnose, while others require continued care. GriffithLaw regularly consults medical experts who can help you assess your injuries and evaluate your immediate and long-term medical needs.
  • Filing a claim for compensation. Our experienced attorneys can help you file a claim against the boat owner’s insurance policy, a negligent marina that allowed boaters to consume alcohol on its premises, and anyone else whose misconduct contributed to your accident and injuries.

Contact Us Today

Boating under the influence is a serious criminal offense that can lead to devastating and even life-altering injuries. GriffithLaw believes that nobody should have to bear the burden for another person’s poor decision. If you have been injured in a Tennessee boating under the influence accident, you should not have to suffer.

Please send GriffithLaw a message online or call us at 615-807-7900 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.