Will Homeowners’ Insurance Cover A Boating Accident? – Insurance Laws and Products


As the summer kicks off, many people are getting out on the
Delaware waterways and oceanfront in kayaks, jetskis, speedboats,
and other personal watercraft. With increased activity on the
water, there are inevitably more boating accidents as well as more
incidents of theft, vandalism, and other damage to boats. It is
important to understand your insurance coverage and the extent of
your liability as a boat owner, and ensure that you have full
insurance coverage for your boating activities in place before an
accident happens.

The law requires car owners to have specific car insurance, and
few people would consider having a car without it. However, most
states, including Delaware, do not require boat owners to have boat
insurance. Many boat owners do not think about insuring themselves
against the risks associated with owning a boat. Some boat owners
assume that their homeowners’ insurance will cover boating
accidents and damage to their boat but this is not the case.
Typically, a homeowners’ insurance policy provides very limited
coverage for personal watercraft.

What type of policy is it?

Homeowners’ insurance is designed to provide coverage for
damage to your residence, loss or theft of personal possession, and
some personal liability for harm to others. A homeowners’
insurance policy may provide coverage for some losses in relation
to your boat, but will generally not provide adequate coverage as a
boat owner. Each policy is different and you should read the
details of your own individual policy to determine your
coverage.

In many cases, people keep their boats or other personal
watercraft at their vacation home at the lake or beach. In this
situation, a personal watercraft may be covered under a secondary
homeowners’ insurance policy on the vacation home. A secondary
homeowners’ insurance policy may not provide the same level of
coverage for a boat as a typical primary policy. Once again, every
insurance policy is different and the specific terms and conditions
should be checked to determine coverage.

Individual insurance policies will differ in the type and amount
of coverage provided, and also in the amount of the deductible. The
deductible amount will affect how much you can recover in a boating
accident, even if the damage is covered by your homeowners’
insurance. Sometimes, in the case of smaller losses, it is not
worth claiming reimbursement from your insurance provider because
the loss is less than your deductible.

Although a homeowners’ insurance policy may provide a
limited amount of coverage for your boating activities, it is
always advisable to get a dedicated boat insurance policy for your
personal watercraft. A boat insurance policy should provide much
more better property and liability coverage for your boat and your
activities on the water.

What type of loss is it?

As a boat owner, you may face many types of unexpected financial
losses and liability, including:

  • Damage to your boat or other property in a boating
    accident.

  • Personal injury to yourself or other people in a boating
    accident.

  • Damage to someone else’s boat or property in a boating
    accident.

  • Damage to your boat while in storage.

  • Damage to your boat in transportation.

  • Theft.

  • Vandalism.

  • Weather damage (e.g. wind, hail, storm) to your boat while in
    use or in storage.

  • Falling objects.

  • Fire.

  • Explosion.

The type of loss is important to determining whether or not a
loss is covered by a homeowners’ insurance policy. Depending on
the individual policy, damage to a boat caused when a garage or
boathouse collapses may be covered while the medical bills of a
boat passenger injured in a collision may not. Some activities,
such as waterskiing or tubing, may also be excluded from coverage
in an insurance policy.

Homeowners’ insurance policies generally only cover minor
losses. Some losses that might be covered by a homeowners’
insurance policy are:

  • Loss of personal items on a boat e.g. a phone, cooler, or
    bluetooth speaker.

  • Theft or damage up to a limited amount (typically a maximum of
    $1,000-$1,500).

  • Some personal liability coverage if a small watercraft is
    involved.

If you are injured or your boat is damaged, you should check the
terms of your insurance policies carefully to determine if you are
covered for the loss. If another person is involved, you may also
be able to look to their insurance provider for reimbursement of
your expenses. Your attorney can review these policies with you to
help you to understand your coverage.

What type of boat or watercraft is it?

There are many different types of watercraft from single person
kayaks to large pontoon boats. Smaller, less powerful watercraft
are more likely than larger, faster watercraft to be covered by a
homeowners’ insurance policy. A large boat will be excluded
from both property and liability coverage in a homeowners’
insurance policy. Some insurers will, however, provide liability
insurance on smaller boats such as sailboats of 26 feet or less,
and powerboats with inboard motors of 50 hp or outboard motors of
25 hp. Some insurers will specifically exclude jetskis from
coverage under a homeowners’ insurance policy. You should
always check the terms of your own insurance policy to find out the
extent of your own coverage. Your insurance agent or attorney can
help you understand the details of the policy to find out exactly
what coverage you have.

If you have any type of boat or personal watercraft, you should
have a specific boat insurance policy that will provide both
property and liability coverage. You can often get a boat insurance
policy from the same insurance company that you use for your
homeowners’ or car insurance, although there are insurers that
specialize only in boat insurance.

Who is operating the boat?

Whether or not your loss is covered by insurance may depend on
who is involved in the accident. Before you get out on the water,
or allow another person to borrow or operate your boat, you should
be clear on who is covered by your insurance policy to operate the
boat. Another person may not be insured to operate your boat, or
the insurance coverage may be limited, even if that person has your
permission to operate the boat.

Some insurance policies (both homeowners’ and boating
insurance) have restrictions, such as minimum age restrictions, on
the people insured to operate the boat. When you are insuring your
boat or reviewing the terms of your current insurance policy, you
should ensure that anyone operating the boat complies with these
restrictions. You must also be in compliance with local laws and
regulations. In Delaware, it is illegal for anyone under 14 years
of age to operate a personal watercraft on Delaware waters, and
boat operators aged 14 and 15 must have an adult on board with
them.

Get insurance. Get advice.

If you own a personal watercraft, you should have boating
insurance to cover your losses in the event of damage or an
accident. It is not enough to rely on the limited coverage that
your homeowners’ insurance policy might provide.

If you have already been in a boating accident, or suffered
other damage to your boat, you should check all of your insurance
policies (homeowners’ and boating insurance) to find out the
extent of your property and liability coverage. Do not rely on
other people or insurance companies involved in the accident to
tell you about your insurance coverage. Other people and insurers
may be motivated to reduce the amount of any payout, and you may
not get the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to. A
good boating accident lawyer can help you understand your legal
entitlements, including insurance coverage and compensation, and
explain all the options available to you after a boating
accident.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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