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Boat Insurance — Common Coverage Issues

Thu Apr 30th, 2020 on     Insurance Claims,    

Experienced Insurance Law Firm in Miami, FL

Florida has the second-longest coastline in the United States, and — in conjunction with its year-round warm weather — has become a hotspot of marine activity, particularly personal watercraft: small boats, yachts, and more.

The high volume of seaborne traffic, as well as the nature of watercraft use in Florida (i.e., highly tourist-oriented) makes it rather dangerous to operate a boat without sufficient insurance coverage.

Despite the fact that responsible Florida boat owners may purchase and maintain boat insurance coverage, they often find that the policy once marketed as “comprehensive” is more limited than they originally thought.  This is certainly not helped by the fact that boat insurance providers are known to engage in underhanded tactics to avoid having to payout — they will interpret ambiguous language in a way that narrows coverage, or will underestimate the damages.

Given the financial risks posed to boat insurance policyholders by an insurance denial (or even an underpaid claim), it’s important that they consult with a leading firm for guidance on how to secure the benefits they are owed under their policy.

We encourage you to contact Ver Ploeg & Marino, P.A. for assistance.  We are a Miami insurance law firm with extensive experience helping boat insurance policyholders fight back against insurance companies.

Specific “Perils” May Not Be Covered

Boat insurance coverage can differ significantly from plan-to-plan.  Though some plans are considered “all risk” plans — in other words, they cover all perils that could potentially cause damage to your boat, such as natural disasters — many boat insurance plans only cover certain specified perils.

For example, there are boat insurance plans that cover floods and fires, but may not cover hurricanes.  In other cases, a boat insurance plan may cover all natural disasters, but may not cover third-party criminal activity (i.e., damage caused by vandals).  You should have a qualified attorney conduct a thorough evaluation of your insurance plan’s language before submitting a claim (and before challenging an adverse decision made by the insurer).

Given the variety of perils that a boat could be exposed to — particularly in Florida, where marine natural disasters are not uncommon — it’s critical that you attack the insurer relentlessly to secure the coverage guaranteed through your plan.  Though some plans are marketed as comprehensive, insurers often push for interpretations that favor broad exceptions and coverage “holes.”

Towing, Emergency, and Clean-Up Expenses

Many policyholders do not account for the potential losses they could be exposed to by virtue of the “rescue” and associated services they may require to get their damaged boat up-and-running again.  These services are not merely for peace of mind.  In fact, a policy that covers such services could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential losses.

For example, if you collide with another boat and oil and debris contaminate the water, then you could be held to account for the damage caused by that debris.

Many plans only ambiguously cover emergency expenses, such as towing and clean-up expenses (i.e., to clean up the oil spill and debris caused by a collision).  These can be significant liabilities in some cases, so if your boat insurance policy does not cover it, then you could be left in a dire financial situation.

Location-Based Coverage

Boats, unlike cars, are exposed to significant risks even when not in use.  For example, a boat that is not docked properly could uncouple from its position during a storm and cause damage to boats parked nearby.

Insurers understand that these risks exist, and so have tailored some plans to avoid having to pay out when the boat is docked and not being actively used.  The language in these plans can often be ambiguous — for example, the plan may cover damage caused to the boat while docked, but only if it’s “in use.”  Whether it’s being used is a complicated question, however — if you are on-board but using the boat for a social event and not taking it out, then that could arguably be considered not in “active use.”

Under these circumstances, the assistance of a boat insurance attorney becomes incredibly valuable.  A skilled attorney has encountered edge-cases many times before and understands how to challenge the insurer’s interpretation effectively.

Contact VPM Law for Comprehensive Assistance

If you have submitted a boat insurance claim and have been denied, received an offer that significantly misrepresents the real losses, or have otherwise had the claim mishandled by the insurer, then we encourage you to contact the team here at VPM Law for guidance on how to proceed.

We help clients challenge the adverse decisions made by their boat insurers, and in the event that the internal administrative processes fail, we are ready and willing to pursue litigation against said insurer.

VPM Law is a Miami insurance law firm with a deep bench of insurance litigators who have experience both in and out of the courtroom, helping to successfully resolve challenging insurance disputes — including boat insurance disputes.  This willingness and ability to take a case to trial, if necessary, has earned us a reputation among insurers.  Insurers understand that they must make reasonable settlement offers or risk litigation.

We work closely with clients from beginning-to-end, giving us insight into their goals, concerns, and expectations.  This empowers us to make aggressive strategic decisions that are in alignment with our client’s values.

Ready to speak to an attorney at VPM Law?  Contact us to request a consultation.

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