Boat Insurance 101-Liability

It’s late February, and the boat show season is half over. I have been at many of the boating/outdoor sporting shows this season talking to fisherman about their boat insurance and what their insurance needs are. What I have found surprised me, and actually scared me.

There are a great many of your fellow fisherman out there on the water that don’t have any insurance at all. They are out there on the busy waterways mixing it up with all the other boaters and they either don’t have any insurance, not enough insurance, or the wrong insurance.

These are some of the responses I heard when I asked the question “why don’t you have insurance on your boat?”

“It’s only a 18’ Tracker worth about $2000, I don’t need insurance on that.”
“ I never fish anywhere where there are other boats around.”
“I only go out on the weekdays when all the crazy boaters are at work.”
“I’ve been boating for 17 years and have never even had a close call on the water.”

Let’s address just one of these answers, and look at the issues surrounding it.

“It’s only a 18’ Tracker worth $2000.”

That may be true, and maybe you can afford to lose $2000 if your boat is totaled. Let’s say someone steals it, or you hit a piling and do more than $2000 worth of damage to the boat. Or it burns up because of a short in the battery while hooked up to the battery charger.

The down side is, what can you buy for $2000 to get you back out on the water? Not much. Have you looked at the costs of boats out there today? Even the used boats are high.

But the more important issue of not being insured is, not protecting yourself and your assets. You might only have $100 dinghy, but if you hit someone on the water and hurt them you are going to be in trouble without a good insurance policy to protect you.

You cannot control the actions of others. You could be running down the lake at a controlled speed doing everything right, when all of a sudden some other boater cuts in front of you and they have the “right of way”. There is a collision and someone is hurt. Now you are liable for their injuries and the damage to their boat. If you at least had a liability only policy you would be covered. Without it, your home, your truck, your car, everything you own could be taken to cover the damages. Even your wages can be garnished to pay for the damages. An ambulance ride alone costs over $1000.00 today.

We live in a aggressive legal climate these days. The proper boat insurance policy can keep you and your family protected and out of the court system. Check your policy today and see if you have enough coverage to protect your family. If you are unsure, call a reputable boat insurance company and get some answers. If you are not insured, make some calls and get covered. It will make your boating and fishing season much more comfortable knowing that you covered. Peace of mind actually can lead to more fish in the boat.

Editor's Note: Bob Miska has been in the boating industry for over 20 years. He has been involved in the boat insurance field since 1996. Bob currently is the president and principal owner of RMA llc. which does marine insurance consulting, investigating and claims adjusting. Bob is an avid fisherman and enjoys all the outdoor activities. Bob can be reached for questions by email at: