What Does My Florida Boater’s Insurance Policy Cover?

 In Maritime Law

boatsThe majority of us have an auto insurance policy or a homeowners insurance policy. However, these policies are quite different from boat insurance. Vessel insurance policies take some components and concepts from home and auto insurance, and fuses them together. For instance, if someone is injured onboard your vessel, the boat insurance policy will cover you from liability. However, if your vessel is damaged beyond repair, boat insurance may sometimes give the vessel owner a choice between the replacement cost of the vessel or a stated cash value that was agreed upon when the policy was put into place.

Damages your boat insurance covers

Similar to auto insurance, vessel/ boat insurance coverage typically includes bodily injury, property damage and physical damage. Bodily injury aboard a vessel works much the same way that an auto insurance bodily injury operates. This component of the policy covers any harm that may happen to others aboard your vessel or another vessel after an accident. Moreover, property damage covers any damage that your vessel may cause to docks or other vessels. Lastly, physical damage coverage is especially important if your vessel runs aground or hits something.

Another component to vessel insurance is a comprehensive coverage policy that protects against theft, vandalism, fire and flood. Furthermore, personal property coverage will protect personal items, such as fishing gear and scuba equipment. Interestingly enough, many insurance policies are also offering roadside assistance packages, vessel towing packages and uninsured boater insurance coverage.

What’s unique about vessel insurance?

One of the unique aspects of vessel insurance is that certain policies may allow you to suspend coverage for specific periods of time when the vessel is not being used. This is particularly important if you and your family use the boat seasonally. However, it is important to review the policy coverage dates on vessel insurance to determine if the boat is covered. For example, it may be the case that the vessel is only covered from May to October. If you were to use the vessel in November while on vacation, any incident that occurs involving the vessel may not be covered because of the policy restriction.

In the unfortunate event that your vessel is damaged, it is important to understand the difference between an agreed value and a market value policy. Almost all boaters can agree that vessels depreciate! As a result, the value of the vessel when the insurance policy first goes into effect can be very different at the end of the life of the policy. In an effort to make vessel insurance policies more competitive and easier to deal with, insurance companies tend to utilize agreed value policies. With an agreed value policy, the vessel owner and the insurance company agree to a fixed value of the vessel from the start.

Trailering your boat

Moreover, trailering a boat also comes with its own unique issues. Not many people know that when your boat is being trailered by a vehicle, it is the policy of the vehicle trailering the boat that overrides the vessel insurance policy. Simply put, your auto insurance policy is the only policy that will cover your vessel. If you trailer your boat frequently, it is important to talk to your insurance agent about having sufficient amount of coverage for your boat on the towing vehicle.

Traveling with your boat brings up another interesting component of vessel insurance. Many boaters are unaware of the navigational limitations on their boat insurance policy. For example, vessels up to 26 feet are typically covered solely within inland or coastal waters of the United States and Canada. For larger vessels, insurance companies tend to define geographical boundaries that a vessel owner uses the vessel in. For instance, if a vessel owner frequents the Bahamas, the insurance policy would include that geographical area within the policy coverage. For boaters that don’t frequently leave inland or coastal waters, some insurance companies offer one-time trip coverage. For this type of coverage the vessel owner would need to consult with their insurance agent on a case-by-case basis.

If you or someone you know has been denied insurance coverage after suffering a loss, it is important to contact someone that is knowledgeable about boat insurance policies. Likewise, if you’ve been injured aboard a boat it may be wise to consult with a maritime attorney to determine if your medical bills can be covered by the boat insurance policy.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Tom Curtis

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