Published reports from the U.S. Coast Guard show that boating deaths and injuries increased for the second consecutive year in 2006. Aside from the disturbing trend in boating deaths, the biggest change was actually in the amount of property damage, $43 million in 2006 as compared with $38 million in 2005.
These statistics should serve as a powerful reminder to all watercraft owners to review their insurance coverage. Owners of canoes, small sailboats, and small engine powerboats generally have limited coverage for physical damage included with their homeowner’s insurance policy, but liability coverage has to be added as a policy endorsement. Physical damage coverage is typically equal to 10 percent or less of their home’s property value. If you find the coverage limits offered by your homeowner’s policy to be insufficient, you’ll likely need a separate boat insurance policy.
Since no coverage exists under a homeowner’s policy for larger boats, yachts, jet skis and wave runners, a separate boat insurance policy is a must. Coverage for physical damage includes the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment up to pre-determined amount. Such policies also provide additional protection for:
- Injuries to another person
- Damage to someone else’s property
- Legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission
- Injuries to the boat owner and other passengers
Even though you may have solid insurance coverage, the Insurance Information Institute (III) offers the following suggestions to help you avoid having to file a claim:
- Check weather forecasts before heading out.
- Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
- Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
- Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of boat. Keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.
- Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell.
- Don’t overload. Distribute weight evenly.
- Don’t stand up or shift weight suddenly in a small boat; and don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales.
- Be sure you bring paddles or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.
- Make sure that every person on board wears a life jacket.
- Never operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.