The State of Florida requires all motorized boats and non-motorized boats over 16 feet in length to be registered and have a tag. What it does not require is insurance.
But heading out onto the water without adequate insurance is never a good idea. Not only do boat insurance policies protect the owner’s investment – including repair and replacement costs if the vessel is damaged, stolen or destroyed – but most policies also offer liability protection for injury that includes bodily injury, liability and medical expenses.
The boating accident attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know when boat owners/operators lack insurance coverage, it can be difficult for injured passengers to obtain compensation. There is the option of holding the owner/operator directly responsible, in which case a judgment could result in wage garnishment, frozen bank accounts and asset seizure in order to pay the judgment.
For those opting out of boat insurance coverage, consider the following information from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):
- Florida is No. 1 in the nation for recreational boating accidents.
- Collisions with fixed objects or other boats are among the primary causes of accidents.
- Property damage from reportable boat accidents (over $2,000 or resulting in injury or death) totaled $11 million in 2009.
- There is one boating accident for every 1,020 registered boats, and there are close to 1 million registered boats in the state.
While the number of total registered vessels has declined by almost 100,000 in recent years, the number of reported boat accidents has climbed by nearly 19 percent during that same time.
While the state doesn’t require insurance, boat owners who have not yet paid off the vessel may find insurance is required by the bank before they will extend the loan.
Most of the time, this insurance has to be purchased separately from homeowner and auto insurance. Homeowner coverage may extend to small vessels with a very small engine or no engine. However, policies usually won’t cover boats that are $10,000 or $20,000. The only time an auto insurance policy would cover a vessel would be when it is being towed behind a vehicle on the roadway.
While boats require separate policies, many insurers offer cross-sell discounts if you carry other types of insurance with the same company. Additionally, many carriers will offer discounts on boating insurance if operators agree to undergo boater education safety courses, which is not required by state law unless the operator is born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.Types of Florida Boat Insurance
The type of insurance offered to Florida boaters varies depending on the circumstances. Here is a general list encompassing some of the most common options:
- Watercraft medical payments coverage. This will cover or help cover medical costs if someone suffers an injury as a result of an onboard accident.
- Watercraft liability coverage. This will cover medical bills and other expenses of injured parties in the event of an accident. It will also cover the costs of repair or replacement of another person’s damaged boat or property.
- Emergency services. This will cover the cost of towing, labor or delivery of fuel, battery or oil in the event the boat breaks down.
- Uninsured watercraft coverage. Similar to uninsured motorist coverage on land, this policy would help to pay for one’s own injuries, as well as injuries sustained by one’s family or any passengers, in the event you are involved in an accident with an uninsured boater. Considering boating insurance is not a requirement by the state, uninsured watercraft coverage is especially wise.
- Agreed value option. Your insurer will reimburse you for the value of a destroyed boat based on what it was worth at the time the policy was written, as opposed to its current market value.
- Additional boat equipment coverage. This coverage will reimburse you for the cost of expensive accessories, such as navigation gear, anchors and life jackets.
Keep in mind some policies contain navigational warranty provisions, meaning they will not cover the vessel if it travels beyond certain geographical boundaries. Other policies allow for “lay-up” periods giving operators the option of suspending coverage when the boat is not in use. If the operator chooses to take the boat out of bounds or out during a lay-up period, he or she may not be breaking the law, but they are certainly taking a risk with their personal and financial safety.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.