A recent WPBF News article detailed the theft of two personal watercraft vessels from a boatyard in Stuart. Luckily, the Stuart police have a surveillance video that captured the thief dragging a trailer containing the two vessels from the yard and seem close to finding the culprit.
However, what would happen if the theft was not able to be solved, and the two vessels were not recovered? The answer would surely be to file an insurance claim. While this may seem obvious, many people are unaware of the intricacies of marine insurance and that its rules are quite different from insurance on land.
Full Disclosure and Marine Insurance Applications
Marine insurance starts with the application. Unlike insurance on land, marine insurance requires full and accurate disclosure about the owner(s), the vessel insured and the operator(s). Additionally, information detailing boating experience and competency, intended use, the territory of the vessel and the location of mooring is also required of the applicants.
All this disclosure comes under the marine insurance concept of uberrimae fiedi (Latin for “utmost good faith”). Under this concept, a material misrepresentation on an insurance application is a basis for voiding the policy. This standard is very strictly upheld in the law surrounding marine insurance and numerous cases have held insurance policies void simply because the insured mistakenly or accidently forgot to include a disclosure on the application.
Most marine insurance policies for private pleasure crafts are “all risk” yacht policies, which essentially covers most perils with a few named exclusions. Many policies also provide for a hull deductible and a lower deductible for personal property (i.e., fishing gear) and some electronics. Make sure you read your insurance policy in this area carefully as some policies do not provide coverage for damage from wear and tear, mold, corrosion, etc.
Staying Within Policy Boundaries
Another marine insurance distinction that is often found in policies is the navigational limit. Some policies require that covered vessels be restricted to a certain navigational boundary (i.e. between the ports of West Palm Beach and Miami). Policies that contain these restrictions suspend insurance coverage when the vessel travels beyond the covered territory. For example, a craft with a navigational boundary limitation that travels to the Bahamas (if not covered in the policy) will have its insurance suspended until it returns to U.S. waters.
As with all legally binding documents, ALWAYS read before you sign. If you have questions or concerns regarding your marine insurance policy, contact an experienced maritime attorney for assistance.
Peter Hunt, J.D,. has been working with LaBovick Law Group for more than a year in the maritime and personal injury division. His main practice area of focus is transactional maritime law.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by David Castillo Dominici