YES! YOU REALLY DO NEED BOAT INSURANCE
Florida is the #1 boating state in the U.S. by any metric. With warm weather most of the year, Florida has more than a million registered boats according to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association. This does not include the many, many thousands more unregistered vessels or transient vessels that pass through state waters every year. Considering the sheer numbers of boats alone, it shouldn’t be surprising, and the statistics will tell you, more boats on the water means more boating accidents.
For anyone who owns a boat in Florida the magnitude of the accident
risk becomes apparent as soon as you reach the boat ramp for your first 4th of July weekend, Labor Day weekend or Memorial Day weekend. On these busiest boating weekends of the year, boat ramps and waterways are packed. On these heavy boating weekends to say the least, there is a broad spectrum of competence of vessel operators ranging from true experts to first time operators. With extreme differences in the competency of vessel operators anyone, even the most seasoned navigators, can easily find themselves in the midst of a bad event if they are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person.
With the risk so apparent, the need for boat insurance would seem obvious. However, one of the most frequently asked questions we get when working on the purchase or sale of any vessel is "do I really need boat insurance?".
Let me be clear. Everyone who owns a boat needs to have boat insurance!
Even though boat insurance is not required here in the state of Florida (like automobile insurance) banks holding your boat loan require it; marinas storing your boat require it; and many boating events are now beginning to require proof of insurance for participation. And before you ask, no, your homeowners policy does not provide any meaningful insurance coverage for your boat. For instance, homeowners policies do not contemplate coverage issues like salvage, wreck removal, or pollution liability.
Here are just some of the main reasons every boat owner needs adequate insurance for their vessel:
- Accidents. With more than a million boats in Florida, and with operators having varying degrees of competence, accidents will happen. Some are minor, but the truth is that many accidents every year cause serious injuries, and even death. Vessel insurance can off-set medical bills and other property damage.
- Litigation. Lawsuits arise in many different circumstances. Passenger injuries, injuries to other boaters, collisions, salvage claims, storms, fire, etc., all can lead to litigation Without vessel insurance you are left to fend for yourself in a lawsuit and you will undoubtedly spend more in one lawsuit than you would for years of boaters insurance.
- Theft. Boat insurance can help cover the cost of replacing your boat if it, or the engine is ever stolen.
- Property damage. Boat insurance can cover repairs and/or replacement if your boat is damaged in a storm, or by vandalism.
- Unknown events. If your boat is moored at a dock slip, or sitting idly in a storage facility, there is still a chance your boat could be damaged by lightning or another boat crashing in to it or someone could be injured as the result of some freak accident when you are not around. Boat insurance can protect you even if a loss occurs when you are not using the boat.
Without insurance you face a terrible risk of losing your investment (ie. your boat) and perhaps a significant chunk of your other personal assets if you are involved in litigation resulting from an accident or other bad event.
So how do you know you are buying the right insurance? Boat insurance policies are normally flexible and can be tailored to your needs to ensure you get the right policy at the right price. The broadest policies available are all-risk policies. These policies usually include coverage for losses due to specific perils such as fire or sinking or failed parts.
Liability only policies are normally much less expensive since they provide no coverage for damage to your boat, but usually only provide coverage for liability to others. Liability only policies are frequently the best choice for vessels that are not worth that much.
Agreed value policies give you the option to insure your boat for an agreed amount in the event of a total loss, while actual cash value policies do the same but generally provide a lower payout.
No matter what type of policy you choose, be certain you understand what your boat insurance covers and what it doesn’t cover. Does your policy cover your trailer? Your electronics? Your outboard motor? Towing AND salvage? (there is a BIG difference) Your fishing equipment? Your coolers? What are your navigational limits? Do you get a credit storing your vessel over the winter? Are you covered for anyone, including children, operating your vessel?
At the end of the day the reasons for buying boat insurance are not that different from the reasons for buying homeowners insurance. Yes, chances are good your house is not going to burn down, your valuables won’t be stolen in a robbery, your house won’t be washed away in a flood, but there’s still a chance something COULD happen. The same principle applies to your boat. Something COULD (and probably will) happen and when it does hopefully you will be calling your insurance company to file a claim, instead of calling our office to find out what you can do to protect yourself because you didn’t buy vessel insurance.