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Boat or Marine Insurance

You managed to save up enough to buy the boat you've been eyeing for years and can't wait to take her out for the first time. You load up your fishing equipment or water skis for a day of fishing on your pontoon boat or a day of watersports. Or maybe you own a cargo ship that transports goods on a regular basis.

Protect Your Investment

In any scenario, the last thing you want is for something to happen to your boat, passengers, or property. You could encounter anything from hidden sand bars to reckless boaters and anything else in between.

You need to protect your investment for peace of mind and to control any out-of-pocket expenses that may result if something happens to your boat, cargo, passengers, or bystanders. For most boat owners, this means exploring coverage options for liability coverage for watercraft.

Many boaters purchase boat or marine insurance to help cover the costs of unfortunate events. This article discusses different types of boat insurance, what's covered, and important things to consider when selecting a boat or a marine insurance policy.

What Is Boat or Marine Insurance?

Boat and marine insurance are similar, but marine insurance deals with commercial vessels. Boat insurance is for recreational boaters. Boat insurance helps you cover your losses if there's an accident and property is damaged or people are injured, depending on the type of policy you buy.

While your homeowner's insurance policy might cover a small boat under certain circumstances, other types of boats require actual boat insurance in order to provide an adequate level of protection. Like other kinds of insurance, you have options regarding the amount of your deductible and the liability limits.

Working with a reputable insurance agency can lead you the specific coverage options that work with your total financial situation. For example, they may be able to bundle your insurance policies, such as your umbrella policy, auto insurance, or homeowners policies with any coverage you need for your watercraft. This could result in cost savings.

What Does Boat Insurance Cover?

Boat insurance is similar to both home and automobile insurance. You have options regarding how much coverage you buy, but some of the most common types of coverage include the following:

  • Liability Insurance: Like homeowner's insurance, boat insurance can cover your liability when someone is injured while on your boat, like a slip and fall.
  • Bodily Injury: This covers medical payments and other costs for injuries you cause to others while using your boat, including medical bills and legal expenses.
  • Property Damage: This covers damage you cause to someone else's property, such as a boat or dock.
  • Collision Damage: This is similar to property damage, but covers the repair or replacement of your own boat if it gets damaged or results in a total loss.
  • Comprehensive: This covers your boat if it's vandalized, stolen, or damaged in some way other than in a collision.
  • Personal Property: You can add coverage for personal property on board, such as fishing gear.
  • Uninsured Boater: Like uninsured motorist coverage, this covers damages and injuries caused by uninsured or underinsured boaters.
  • Towing and Assistance: Also known as roadside assistance, this covers you if you need assistance with your boat or a tow back to the docks.

Limits of a Boat Insurance Policy

It's also important to note a few things that aren't covered by boat insurance. For example, your boat insurance won't cover damage that occurs while towing your boat to and from the water. This is usually covered by your car insurance, subject to that policy's limits.

Additionally, you can't expect to be covered anywhere you choose to boat. Your policy will provide details regarding the geographical limitations of your coverage. It may be possible to buy coverage for a one-time trip outside your normal coverage areas. You should also check with your insurance agent to see whether or not your policy covers things like hurricanes and other storm damage. An insurance agent can also make you aware of any applicable exclusions.

Types of Boat Insurance Policies

Your boat insurance coverage will also depend on the type of policy you choose. Insurance companies offer different policies based on the type of vessel you're insuring. For example, the coverage limits for yacht insurance are different than coverage for a sailboat, houseboat, or powerboat.

You can also select whether you want to insure your boat for its market value or an agreed value. An agreed-value policy covers the boat based on the dollar amount you and your insurance agent agree to upfront, which means you're covered even though the boat's value decreases due to depreciation. Market value takes depreciation into account and covers the cost to replace the boat at its current market value.

Additionally, unlike many other types of insurance, some boat insurance policies give you the option to suspend or lay up your insurance coverage for the periods of time you won't be using your boat. For example, you may be able to receive a premium discount for the winter lay-up period while your boat is stored during the cold winter months.

Obligations of the Insurance Company

The policy you sign serves as a contract between you and your insurance company. Therefore, you both have certain rights and responsibilities according to the terms of that contract. If you pay your premiums and abide by the other terms in the contract, the insurance company agrees to pay for losses covered by your policy.

Insurance companies must also abide by state insurance laws and act in good faith. You may be able to file a bad faith lawsuit if your insurance company does any of the following:

  • Fails to pay a legitimate claim
  • Refuses to defend you against someone else's claim
  • Otherwise acts unfairly

If you are unsatisfied with the resolution of your claim, you may have grounds to appeal to your state's insurance commissioner.

Get Help Navigating Your Boat Insurance Issues

While spending the day out on the water can be the perfect way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors, there's also plenty that can go wrong. You could incur physical damage to your personal watercraft due to vandalism, a boating accident, or loss of personal effects. You may need to file a claim.

If you're having difficulty with any of the following, reaching out to a local insurance attorney can help:

  • Proving your claim
  • Dealing with an insurance company who's not living up to their obligations
  • Other boat insurance issues

Working with an insurance attorney can help you understand all available legal options in your circumstances.

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