What Boat Owners Need to Know to Protect Themselves and Passengers

The most recent data from the Coast Guard showed that boating fatalities in 2012 totaled just over 650, which was the lowest recorded number in history. From the prior year, boating accidents had lowered from more than 750. Injuries from boating accidents decreased by nearly three percent.

For 2012, the fatality rate with boating accidents was about five deaths per 100,000 vessels. This showed a decrease of nearly 13 percent from the prior year’s data. Property damage related to boating accidents was less than $40 million. Experts said they were pleased to see the fatality rate decrease. They plan to continue stressing the importance of life vests and safety measures. Alcohol was cited as the main contributing factor in boating accidents that ended in fatalities. Inattentive operators, inexperienced operators, machine failure, improper lookout and high speeds ranked as the next most common contributing factors. About 70 percent of all accident victims who died by drowning, and nearly 85 percent of those deaths happened to people who were not wearing life vests.

These numbers should remind people that no boat or watercraft is completely safe, and it is important to review insurance coverage. People who own sailboats, canoes and engine-powered boats usually have coverage under their home insurance policy for physical damage. However, coverage is very limited. If they want liability insurance, this must be added separately as an endorsement. Adding physical damage coverage gives owners about 10 percent or less of a home’s value. When coverage limits from this type of policy will be insufficient, it is important to add boat insurance separately.

There is no coverage under a home policy for yachts, large boats, wave runners, jet skis and similar watercraft. This is why separate boat coverage is so valuable. The fittings, machinery, hull and furnishings are all included with physical damage coverage. They are covered up to a predetermined amount, and these added polices offer protection for the following:

– Damage to another person’s property.
– Injuries to other people.
– Injuries to boat passengers or the boat owner.
– Any legal expenses resulting from another person using the boat without permission.

Even if a person has good insurance coverage, there are several tips experts provide to assist people in avoiding the need to file claims:

– Let another person know that a boating trip is planned, and give an estimated return time.
– Check the weather before planning a boating trip and before heading out.
– Carry at least one fire extinguisher, and keep it handy and in good condition.
– Check the electrical system, steering, fuel, engine and exhaust before heading out.
– Do not overload the boat, and always make sure weight is evenly distributed.
– Make sure the vessel has a horn, bell, whistle and appropriate navigation lights.
– Do not operate a boat or allow anyone else to operate one under the influence of alcohol.
– Ensure all passengers wear life vests at all times.
– Do not shift weight or stand suddenly in a small boat.
– Do not allow people to ride on the gunwales, seat backs or on the bow.
– Make sure oars, fresh water, a tool kit, a first aid kit, flares, a radio and a flashlight are kept on the boat at all times.

To review an existing home insurance policy for a better understanding of coverage for a boat or to learn more about separate boat insurance, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.