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New Illinois law to punish boaters for injuries, deaths


Here in Illinois, taking to the waterways in a boat or jet ski is one of the most common-and fun-recreational activities that the state has to offer. However, just like any other activity, people participating in it have certain responsibilities to consider. For one, they should not engage in boating activities if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Cook County and Chicago personal injury lawyers are quite familiar with the dangers of taking part in boating activities while impaired. Much like an impaired driver on the road, boaters under the influence can cause serious harm to others. This was evidenced by the death of a 10-year-old in Illinois; the boy, who was being pulled behind his family's boat on a tube, was run over and killed by an impaired man operating his speed boat.

In memory of the boy, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 1479, which will punish individuals under the influence who cause injuries or death while operating a watercraft. Impaired boaters could potentially lose their boating privileges and license for a year. Anyone suspected of being drunk or taking drugs will be subjected to blood, urine and breath tests by the police to determine drug or blood alcohol content. The law will take effect on January 1, 2014.

Last year, 17 people lost their lives and 77 others were injured in boating accidents in Illinois. This is an alarming statistic, knowing how many Illinois residents love boating activities. Operating a watercraft while impaired can cause debilitating damage like neck, brain and spinal injuries or death to other people on the water. Aside from the penalties as a consequence of the new law, errant boaters may also be civilly liable for any injuries that occur.

In such a situation, an injured party may be entitled to compensation, especially if a boater's negligence is proven. Compensation can help in addressing a victim's hospitalization and medication expenses as well as emotional distress and lost wages. If the accident results in a fatality, a Chicago and Cook County victim's family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the boating accident victim.

Source: KFVS, "Safe waterways for Illinois' boaters," Arnold Wyrick, July 24, 2013

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