Hurricane Irma Boat Insurance Claims - What Do You Need to Know?

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

Why Should You Consider Boat Insurance?

South Florida is in many ways a tropical paradise. As such, boat ownership is quite common. However, living in South Florida does not come without its drawbacks. Massive hurricanes and tropical storms are so common the very concept has assimilated into mainstream South Florida culture. From sports teams to frozen drinks, it is clear that Floridians have embraced hurricanes as a part of life. Recently Hurricane Irma showed us that even if one of these massive storms misses us by a hundred miles it can still cause widespread damage and destruction. Many of the most common images of hurricane damage are that of upturned or damaged boats, many of which have washed ashore hundreds of feet inland as a result of storm surge. Therefore, if you own a boat in South Florida, it is especially important to know what kind of coverage options you have for your boat, and how the claims process works.

What Types of Coverage are Available and How Much Does Boat Insurance Cost?

When it comes to boat insurance the cost and types of coverage available will almost certainly depend on a variety of factors such as: the type and size of your boat, the boat’s age, where it is stored, whether the boat will be used at sea or inland, and of course the type of coverage you select. Insurance for a small boat may be similar to that of car insurance, while insurance for a larger boat may be more akin to homeowners’ insurance. Moreover, it is important to understand that just because you carry boat insurance does not mean your insurer will cover you for losses sustained during a hurricane. You can find cheap boat insurance, and you can find more expensive boat insurance. As with anything, you get what you pay for. You should keep a copy of your policy and understand the language and the types of losses your policy will cover.

What to do before a storm hits?

Storing your boat at a storage facility or boatyard is probably the best way to protect your boat pre-storm. If this is not possible, taking the boat out of water, bringing it to your property and placing it in a spot away from trees and power lines is a viable option. If you must keep your boat in a marina or in the ocean, there are a few things to consider. First try and keep the bow pointed toward open water or the least protected direction, this may minimize the effect of large waves from storm surge. Next, using longer docking lines and assembling the lines in a circular fashion around the boat may help prevent the boat from moving and will allow the boat to adjust with the varying storm surge levels. Finally, it is important to know that no amount of preparation can guarantee your boat will survive the storm without damage.

What kinds of coverage options are available?

Although Florida does not require you to carry boat insurance, given the volatile climate it is certainly advisable. For those that elect to carry boat insurance, there are several types of policies available. Some policies will only cover general liability claims, such as when the insured causes property damage or personal injuries to a third party. While other more comprehensive policies provide for physical damage coverage. All-risk physical damage coverage is the preferred policy when it comes to hurricane insurance. A policy containing physical damage coverage may reimburse for damage to the actual boat and its machinery, and its all-risk feature means that your boat will be protected from all types of hazards unless specifically excluded by your policy. There are also coverage options available for medical injuries aboard the boat, emergency assistance (such as towing, fuel delivery, etc.), personal property coverage, and uninsured boater coverage (which will cover damages to you and any passengers caused by another boater not carrying their own insurance).

What is the boat claims process?

If you have suffered a loss, you need to contact your insurer immediately. Your policy probably requires it, and a failure to do so often results in a claim denial. You need to carefully document all the damage your boat has sustained. You will benefit from have an expert prepare an estimate or evaluation of all damages to your boat including a determination of the cause of those damages.  Gather all information concerning your boat including the description (year, make, model) and registration because you’re going to need it when you report your loss. It is important that you gather this information as quickly as possible. 

Why would your insurer deny coverage?

It cannot be stated enough that most insurers are large companies that have their own bottom lines to protect, and if they can find a reason to deny your boat claim, they will. Boat insurance policies contain numerous exclusions.  Thus it is of utmost importance to exercise diligence in maintaining your boat. And remember to report your loss to the insurance company in a timely manner.  Additionally it is important to maintain a high degree of diligence and candor during the insurance claims process. If you are getting pushback on your claim seek advice from an experienced insurance claims lawyer.    

You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].