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Milwaukee BWI defense lawyerAs the weather continues to warm up during the summer, more and more people will be spending time on boats and enjoying the many rivers and lakes in Wisconsin. Boating can be a fun and relaxing activity, and it often involves the consumption of alcohol. However, boat operators should be aware that the same laws apply to them as to drivers of motor vehicles. This means that if a person operates a boat while they are under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances, they could face criminal charges of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s OWI laws apply to those who operate motorboats. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08% is in effect for boat operators, and a person may be charged with a criminal offense if a chemical test shows that they were above this limit while engaging in the operation of a motorboat. The legal limit for commercial motorboat operators is .04%. Boat operators may also face criminal charges if they have any amount of an illegal controlled substance in their system, and those who are under the age of 21 may be charged if they have a BAC higher than 0.0%

Operating a boat while under the influence is commonly referred to as boating while intoxicated or BWI. A person may be charged with this offense if they exceed the legal BAC limits or if they refuse to take a chemical test for alcohol or other substances. The penalties for BWI include:


Summer in Wisconsin is a popular time for boating on Lake Michigan, the many lakes in Waukesha County, and other bodies of water in the area, especially during a year when many people are turning to outdoor activities. Just remember that when you go out on the water, there are things that you, your family, and your friends can do to stay safe and avoid being injured in a boating accident or causing one yourself.

How to Stay Safe While Boating in Wisconsin

Boating safely is not difficult as long as you follow a few basic guidelines. Some of the best ways to promote and ensure safety while on the water include:

  • Wear a life jacket. Most fatalities in boating accidents are due to drowning, and even if you are an experienced swimmer, you could find yourself incapacitated to the point where you are unable to stay afloat on your own. Make sure you always wear a life jacket while boating and that you have enough life preservers on board for all passengers.
  • Keep your boat well maintained. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, equipment or machinery failure is one of the top five contributing factors in boating incidents. Inspecting, maintaining, and repairing your boat regularly can ensure that it stays safe to operate.
  • Avoid operating a boat after consuming alcohol. In 2018, alcohol was a contributing factor in around 15 percent of boating incidents. Operating a boat while intoxicated poses a clear danger to you, your passengers, and other people on the water, and intoxicated passengers and swimmers may also be at risk of drowning.
  • Make sure boat operators are experienced. Operator inexperience is another of the top five factors in Wisconsin boating accidents. Make sure anyone operating a boat is safety certified and knows how to control it properly so you can avoid accidents due to driver error or poor decision-making. 
  • Do not overload your boat. Carrying too much weight or too many passengers can put you at greater risk of an accident, and this is a significant contributing factor in fatal boating incidents in Wisconsin.

What Should You Do After a Boating Accident?

In Wisconsin, you must report any boating incident that results in injury, death, or significant property damage to law enforcement as soon as possible. You should also do what you can to make sure everyone is safe and seek prompt medical attention for any injuries. As with any accident resulting in injury, it is important to gather evidence as soon as possible, including 911 transcripts, police reports, witness testimonies, and photographs of the accident and any injuries. A personal injury attorney can help you collect and preserve this evidence to build a case against any at-fault parties that gives you the best chance of receiving compensation for your damages.


Boating Accidents in Wisconsin

Posted on in Boating Accidents
Wisconsin injury attorney, Wisconsin accident lawyer, Wisconsin boating accident attorneyAccidents don’t just happen on land, especially in places like Wisconsin, where there is an abundance of waterfront property and watercraft for travel and recreation. There are over 600,000 boats registered in Wisconsin alone, and during the summer, there are hundreds of thousands of additional boats that navigate Wisconsin waters from neighboring Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.  There are multiple fatalities and even more injuries every year as a result of boating accidents, and in many boating accident cases, the operator of the boat at fault may not have taken any safety courses. The fact that so many people are maneuvering large vessels in limited spaces, often times without proper training or safety classes, means that boating accidents happen with regularity. This often leads to civil litigation in order to recover compensation for any serious injuries suffered in the accident on the water. Common Boating Injuries There are many potential legal claims that arise from boating-related incidents, including property damage claims. Personal injuries claims arise most often, however, and in a number of different ways. Often there is a collision between recreational watercraft, like jet skis, or a collision between one recreational watercraft and one boat. Many boating personal injury claims arise from accidents, illness or death sustained as a result of improper safety measures on a cruise ship. No matter what the circumstances were that gave rise to your personal injury claim for a boating-related injury, it is guaranteed to be extremely complex, as maritime law comes with many additional considerations not present in land based actions. Special Concerns When Bringing Boating Claims When accidents occur that involve maritime law, there are often complex and unique legal issues. Some legal actions will involve only Wisconsin law, if they occur entirely within the borders of the state and in Wisconsin waters. However, sometimes accidents occur outside of Wisconsin’s borders, or in between Wisconsin and bordering state, and in these situations, other state laws and even federal laws can be implicated in a subsequent lawsuit. Finally, if your boating accident occurred out at sea, there may even be international legal implication. We Can Help You Today

For all of the reasons set forth above, personal injury claims that arise as a result of boating accidents are more complex than ordinary personal injury claims, and it is critical that you contact an experienced Milwaukee personal injury attorney who can traverse not only Wisconsin law, but other state’s maritime laws and even federal laws when necessary.  Call us at 414-271-1440 or send us an e-mail today for a consultation.

Source: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/crashinfo.html
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