Everybody Hates Insurance Companies…

We have had the same insurance brand for as long as we have owned Harmonie. Up until a few days ago, all was well. We sent them money and they… well… they took it promptly and efficiently. If you have been following, you know that we recently spent more than a month sitting up out of the water. TWO DAYS after we launched again, we get a notice from our insurance company that the underwriters of our policy were getting out of the boat insurance business, and any new underwriters would need a new out-of-water survey to get the policy reissued. Argh…

The only thing less fun than shopping for insurance is… hold on… I’ll think of it…

We have already had one salesman tell us that we should lie on our application to get a better rate. He’ll not getting a call back.

With the advance statement that I am not a lawyer, and the following is NOT legal advice….

Marine insurance is minefield of special legal terms, and words that mean something different than you might think. “Consequential Damages,” “Inherent Defect,” “Agreed Value,” “Salvage,” “Warranty of Seaworthiness” Without understanding terms like these, some of which appear in your policy, and some of which are “implied” legal standards, you are more than likely not going to have coverage that you actually think you are paying for.

Just as an example, my favorite is the “Implicit Warranty of Seaworthiness.” It doesn’t have to appear in your policy at all. In USA case law Federal courts have found it is “implied” to be part of the policy contract. Here is how it can work: Your boat has a serious fire that starts while cooking in the galley. You file a claim, with a totally reasonable expectation that it will be paid. The inspection process reveals that there is a serious flaw in the installation of a bilge pump hose–completely unrelated to the fire. Your claim can be denied because the boat was not maintained in a “seaworthy” state. Seriously. Oh, and if your boat sinks without an obvious external cause, that can be considered prima facia evidence that it was unseaworthy, sometimes called the “Calm, Sunny, Day Rule.” It is up to you to prove otherwise. Good luck with that.

It does seem to me reasonable for a claim to be denied if a lack of normal maintenance or good practice CAUSES a claim, but something totally unrelated to the claim really has no part in the equation of the payout, in my opinion. There are a few (very few!) policies that do explicitly waive a general warranty of seaworthiness. They are very much worth looking for. The alternative is having your insurance company crawl all over your boat after a claim looking for ANYTHING wrong that they can use to deny your claim.

It really is a minefield that even that legal creation a “reasonable person” has no chance of following without special knowledge and help.

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2 Responses to Everybody Hates Insurance Companies…

  1. Vincent Barkley says:

    Thank you for this entry. Do you have any recommendations of specific insurers?


    • Bill Kinney says:

      If you had asked last month we would have recommended Pantaenius USA, but we haven’t seen what their new policy looks like, so can not recommend them right now. We have 6 weeks to figure out our options… stay tuned for more as we sort through the details.


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