How Boat Insurance Can Help You Seas the Day
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy of A&B Insurance|
It’s that time of year again when boaters of all stripes take to the water. Unfortunately, summer is also the time of year when more boat accidents and sinking's occurred. While we at A&B Insurance can’t help you become a better boater, we can help you find the right coverage for your boat at the best rates.
Since Florida doesn’t require boat insurance, many boaters think they don’t need it. This is the quickest way of cruising into troubled waters. Should you be involved in a collision, or have a passenger on your boat get injured, you could quickly find yourself being sued. While the state doesn’t require insurance, that doesn’t limit a boat owner’s liability in case of an accident.
Statistics Don’t Lie
It should come as no surprise that Florida leads the nation in the number of registered boats. What does surprise most Floridians is that it also leads the nation in the number of boating accidents: 261. It also led the nation in boating deaths in 2017 with 67 being reported. The leading cause of death in boating accidents is drowning. Statistically speaking, the chance of any boater in Florida being involved in an accident on the water is 1 in 1,018. The reason the incidence is so high is obvious when you also take into account there is no requirement for a boater to have any license or instruction to operate a boat.
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The only requirements to own a boat of any size in Florida is to register and title the vessel. The only exceptions are boats under 16-feet in length that are not equipped with a motor, such as a canoe, kayak or small sailboat. Unlike a motor vehicle, the state does not require boaters to show or indeed carry any insurance whatsoever to operate a vessel in Florida. As a rule, the only time boaters are required to insure their vessel is if they acquire a loan to finance a boat, and the insurance mandated by the lender is only to cover the value of the boat should it sink or be stolen. Most marinas also require boaters who rent slips to show some proof of insurance, since any vessel tied to their docks has the potential to catch fire and cause damage to marina facilities.
Do You Need Boat Insurance?
When people ask me if their boat needs to be insured, I ask them a few questions:
1. How much is your vessel worth? – This is an important question that needs to be accurately determined if you want to insure your boat against loss. This is what’s known as the vessels ACV or actual cash value. Just because you bought your boat for $30,000, doesn’t mean it has an identical insured value. ACV needs to take into consideration a number of factors, such as the age of the vessel, wear and tear, and replacement value. For some vessels, arriving at an accurate ACV will require a marine survey. Get the ACV wrong, and you could wind up holding the bag should your vessel be lost, sunk or stolen.
2. What kind of boat is it? – There is a big difference between the amount of damage a small sloop can do when compared to that of a high-speed powerboat. Depending on the size, horsepower and tonnage of a vessel, there is not only the possibility that a boat can cause damage to other boats in case of an accident, it can also cause considerable property damage. Should your vessel cause damage to a dock, boathouse or other landlocked property, you will be held liable.
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3. Is the boat going to be kept on a trailer or in the water? – Boats that spend most of their time on a trailer are not as likely to wind up damaged or sunk when they are not in use. Boats that spend their downtime tied to docks and moorings are another proposition. While Florida is also the hurricane capital of the country, it doesn’t take Force 12 winds to damage or destroy a boat. Wind and waves produced by thunderstorms, which are an almost daily occurrence in Florida during the months of June, July, and August, are sufficient to do serious damage to any boat. Even if your boat is securely tied to a dock or mooring, that doesn’t mean that every nearby vessel is. Should another boat break free of its mooring or drag anchor and drift to become entangled with yours, it can beat your boat to pieces or even cause it to break free of its mooring only to collide with other boats.
4. How often do you plan on taking your boat out? – This is actually a trick question. Most boaters believe that the less time they spend on the water, the less their risk of winding up in an accident. The opposite is actually true. The problem with on-again, off-again boaters who only take their vessels out on rare occasions, is that they lack the on-the-water experience of more seasoned boaters. This makes them much more susceptible to winding up in a collision.
5. How much are you worth? – While this too sounds like a trick question, it’s not. When it comes to assessing liability, one needs to take into consideration what an opposing attorney will do should you wind up being taken to court if involved in an accident on the water. As I pointed out earlier in this blog, there is no limit on a boat owner’s liability in case of an accident. While you may wish to save a few dollars by opting for minimal liability coverage, this could later prove to be a mistake should you find yourself in court.
6. What would you do if an uninsured boater collided with your boat? – Just as most prudent drivers carry uninsured motorist protection on their auto insurance policy in case of an accident and possible injury resulting from colliding with an uninsured motorist, so too should a prudent boater carry liability insurance. Even if a boat accident is not your fault, the amount of time and money you could wind up spending to defend yourself should an accident occur, can add up fast.
7. What Kind of Boat Insurance Do I Need?
This is the real question you need to ask your insurance agent. Depending on the answers to the questions above, a reputable insurance agent or broker will be able to determine the best coverage that fits you and your boat. This could be anything from liability only, to an All-Risk policy that covers everything from liability, theft, and sinking, to grounding, lightning, fire, and vandalism. Get it wrong, and you could wind up in serious financial straits should you wind up in a boat accident. Get it right, and you will have everything you need to seas the day.
Diane Tait is owner of A&B Insurance in Jacksonville, Florida.