Impaired Boating Case Shows Dangers of Drinking and Canoeing

Canadians understand that impaired driving is dangerous and unethical, but too few realize that impaired boating can have equally dire consequences. Every summer in Ontario, boating accident lawyers receive dozens of calls about serious injuries from impaired boating accidents. In rare cases, these accidents can even result in deaths.

A recent Ontario criminal case illustrates just how dangerous impaired boating can be, even in man-powered vessels like canoes. The case also established guidelines for criminal impaired boating cases involving those vessels.

In April 2017, the defendant, David Sillars, took his girlfriend’s eight-year-old son, Thomas Rancourt, out on the Muskoka River in a canoe. A breathalyzer taken hours later showed that Sillars had been drinking, and a blood test showed traces of THC. The canoe tipped during the excursion; Sillars struggled to dry ground, but Thomas was swept away by the fast spring current and died. 

Sillars was charged with four offences under Canada’s impaired driving laws. Last month, he was convicted of all four. He is likely to spend between two and 10 years in prison. The case established that impaired driving laws extend not only to power boats but to rowboats, kayaks, dinghies, canoes, and other man-powered watercrafts.

“In the eyes of the law, then, being drunk while paddling an inflatable dinghy is the same as being drunk while driving a pickup truck,” wrote the National Post’s Brian Platt in his report on the case. “Smoking a joint and paddling a canoe is equal to smoking a joint and driving a car.”

Some Canadians, perhaps even some boating accident lawyers, will take issue with impaired driving laws extending to canoes. Drinking and paddling, they might argue, does not pose the same risk to the community as drinking and driving. However, the Sillars case shows that impairment on the water can have devastating, life-altering consequences.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Thomas Rancourt’s grandmother, Donna Posnikoff, following the verdict. “I wish I was going home and celebrating Thomas finishing Grade 4 today. But I’m not. I’m going home, thinking that people cared about Thomas, and his life mattered. It’s just been such a sad, hard two-and-a-half-years,”

“Alcohol and water don’t mix,” added Thomas’s father, Jamie Rancourt, according to the Post. “I’m hoping people are going to smarten up.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a boating accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced boating accident lawyers can help you understand your legal options and make informed decisions as you pursue compensation.

I was injured in a boating accident – do I have a claim?

This year’s summer has been marked by record temperatures. With the Civic Holiday gone, you’ve had the chance to engage in some recreational boating and soak up the sun. But what started as a peaceful and relaxing long weekend turned into an unfortunate boating accident. You’ve sustained injuries, and you’re wondering if you have a claim. Here are some things to consider:

Has a boating accident occurred?

In Ontario, liability for injuries that occur while boating are governed by the Marine Liability Act. Boating accidents encompass a broad area of law and can include accidents resulting from boating, jet skiing, scuba diving and even swimming and fishing accidents where a boat is involved.

What are the extent of your losses?

Losses stemming from a boating accident can go well beyond the actual injury itself. Have you missed work or are unable to return to your place of employment? Are you suffering from severe and ongoing pain? Do you have out-of-pocket medical expenses? If so, you may have a compensable claim.

When did the accident occur?

One of the first things you should be asking yourself is when the accident occurred. All boating accidents have a two year limitation period. This means that you have two years from the date of the accident to file an action to recover damages. If you are bringing the claim on behalf of deceased relative who died as a result of the accident in question, you have two years from the date of their death. These limitation periods are crucial, as missing a limitation deadline can result in you being unable to recover damages for your losses. If you are uncertain of when the limitation period began, contact a lawyer immediately.

Who was involved in the boating accident?

A very important consideration is ascertaining who was involved in the boating accident. Anyone acting carelessly can potentially be held responsible for damages ensuing from their negligence. If you were a boat operator, there is a possibility you could be exposed to liability as a result of any injuries your passengers or the passengers of another vessel sustained. You may also have a claim against a third-party for contributory negligence.

If you were a passenger, you may have a claim against more than one party. In accordance with the Marine Liability Act, liability for losses you have sustained can be apportioned depending on the parties at fault. You may have a claim against the operator of the boat you were on, the operator of another vessel involved in the accident, or the owner of a pier or dock where the accident occurred.

Who is your insurer?

Do you have an insurance policy? If so, it is important to check the wording of that policy. Not all insurance policies cover injuries or losses resulting from boating accidents. In the event your policy does address boating accidents, not all types of resulting losses are necessarily covered. It is important to understand the extent of your coverage, and if possible, seek reparation from your insurer in addition to filing a lawsuit.

Contact an Oakville Personal Injury Lawyer at Will Davidson

At Will Davidson LLP, our personal injury lawyers in Oakville have been representing individuals for over a decade. Will Davidson LLP has been representing clients for over 90 years. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident contact our office today. With our office conveniently located on Cornwall road our lawyers are well equipped to assist you with your needs. Call us today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

Request a free consultation