Dealing with boat insurance issues

MARINE insurance is one of the most important things to be in control of when you use your boat as much as an average tournament angler does, especially when you factor in long trips, competitions, fatigue, rain and incompetent drivers!

You are more likely to have an accident on the way to the boat ramp than once you are there, and there are some important factors that are handy to know both before and after any accident occurs. Trust me, when dealing with insurance companies you need every bit of ammo you can have!

The brutal fact is that insurance companies are just like casinos; they never lose. Despite all the ads saying how nice they are, they’re there to make money, not give it away. Insurance policies are like helmets; sure, you can buy a cheap one that meets the standards, but it’s probably made in China – bugger wearing that if your noggin is headed for the pavement!

I made the mistake of going for a market value policy and once my 115 four-stroke engine was accidentally removed by a sleepy driver, I began to regret it. When I purchased the policy the company told me I’d be insured for more than I had paid for the boat so I thought I was on a winner. But once they tossed the market value of a 2006 115 four-stroke motor at me I was bitterly disappointed, as this was no longer enough to replace the motor with a new one, and there was no chance of finding a second hand one in as good condition.

The biggest factor which comes into play with a market value policy is depreciation if the item is a write-off. This is especially so with electronics. Basically, they give a 15-year life span to all electronics. So for a five-year-old sounder that was originally $2000, they will only give two-thirds of what it cost (or $1333.33), again not enough to replace it.

I soon realised that insurance companies are only liable to put you back in the same position that you were in financially before the accident, whether it was your fault or not. Sounds obvious, but it’s not until you are in this situation that you realise what you already have is not always financially replaceable!

The best way to beat this is by opting for an agreed value policy. Sure, it’s more expensive, and the boat may need to be assessed, but this sort of policy will basically replace everything for its agreed value. Here’s a few tips about boat insurance I learnt the hard way. Hopefully, they will help you avoid the sort of issues I had!

1. Fault or not at fault
It does make a difference to how you are treated. Make sure you go through your marine insurance regardless of fault as you don’t want a car assessor assessing damage on a boat. You will pay an excess but it’s a lot cheaper than car excess.

2. Take your time
Take your boat home after an accident if you can. Make sure you inform the insurance company immediately but you need to do your own assessment of the damage and take as many photos as you can. It helps to be looking at photos if an assessor is asking you questions about damage. Your boat will not get fixed straight away. It may take months but it is important to take your time and don’t rush things as it isn’t appreciated by the people you will deal with on the phone.

3. Honesty is the best policy
If you lie you will get caught out. Insurance assessors are great detectives and will question you until you slip up. Dishonesty will cost you.

4. Keep a good paper trail
Document every speck of info you can, including who you spoke to and when, and make sure you get everything in writing.

5. Keep it to yourself
The final point is to keep your claim information to yourself and don’t talk about it on blogs or Facebook etc.

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