Demont Insurance Agency Blog

Boat Insurance: At Sea Accidents

Whether it’s a small backwater runabout or a 100-foot mega-yacht, owning a boat for most of us means freedom. It is the freedom to explore the open seas or search for that hidden fishing hole. Tall sails to powerboats, one thing is certain, boat ownership comes with its own set of liabilities and exposures.

Fortunately, many insurance companies can provide the protection you need. Boat insurance can provide coverage for acts of nature, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Stolen boat? No problem. Fire, freezing, and lightning are also common perils covered by boat insurance.

But boat accidents are different. Often involving other objects, other boaters, and even riders on your boat, a boat accident can present multiple claim issues. Accidents are not limited to collisions with other boats. Common accident claims include grounding, striking submerged objects, and docking accidents. Understanding your coverage options will go a long way in determining what is and is not covered in each scenario.


There are few reasons why two boats collide. Not paying attention is common, especially while cruising as most throttles stay at a set RPM even with hands removed. Collisions at cruising speed can be the most destructive and dangerous collisions on the water. Without brakes, only a vessel’s turning ability may be enough to avoid a distracted boater.

If a vessel is unable to avoid a collision because the boat cannot turn in time, too much speed is the culprit. Unlike vehicles, the turning radius cannot be reduced by applying brakes. It takes some time for a reduced throttle to bring a vessel into a tighter, quicker turn to avoid a collision.

Finally, there are the blind spots. Since many vessels have blind spots, especially larger boats, navigation rules play an important role in avoiding collisions. Right of way rules are designed, in part, to assist larger vessels to avoid collisions.

Regardless of the situation, collision insurance covers boaters from physical damage. Most insurance policies cover the following:

  • Sails
  • Hulls
  • Engines
  • Furnishings
  • Personal items
  • Recreational gear
  • Equipment (permanently attached)
  • Electronics (permanently attached)

Boat insurance does cover your boat, but the final payment rendered will depend on your coverage terms. An agreed value policy will pay a stipulated amount. Replacement cost, or new boat replacement, will furnish you a vessel of the same kind. Actual cash value, on the other hand, will provide only the depreciated value of your boat.

Grounding and Submerged Objects

Maybe your depth finder is out of date or your mast breaks in half. Either way, you’ve grounded your boat. Low-speed groundings can cause little to no damage, and awaiting the incoming tide is all that it takes to get you motoring again.

Less frequent are strikes with submerged objects or fixed objects. Typically, submerged objects are impossible to spot unless the local authorities or fellow boaters mark them.

Obviously, low-speed contact with the sandbar or submerged object might not cause much damage. But increase your speed by just a few miles per hour, and the damage can be substantial. Significant repairs are usually the result, and in some instances, a boat can be determined to be a total loss.

Collision coverage covers your hull from damage caused by accidental contact. Such coverage is common in boat insurance policies and accounts for a smaller portion of premium then liability coverage. Since groundings and submerged objects may not always be avoidable, most insurance agents recommend the coverage.

Personal Injury

If for no other reason, maintaining insurance to provide coverage for injury to yourself and others is vital. Boats can be replaced. Lives cannot. Unlike vehicles, restraints such as seat belts are not required. Airbags, roll bars, and brakes do not exist.

As they say, it is not the crash that causes injury; it is the sudden stop. And in the case of boats, the boat’s sudden stop when running aground, striking a submerged object, or hitting another vessel can have the driver and passengers go airborne.

So, when traveling at even a moderate speed, severe injury can occur. There is where your liability coverage comes into play. In the aftermath of an at-sea accident, if injuries are sustained, medical costs and potential legal lawsuits could pile up. When building your insurance policy, begin with a foundation of bodily injury and liability coverage.

Other Considerations

Boat insurance is not mandatory. As great and experienced a yachtsman you may be, there will always be less skilled boaters at the helm. Obtaining uninsured/underinsured watercraft liability will guard against gaps in coverage by your fellow boaters.

Other considerations should include fuel spill or pollution liability coverage. Collisions can easily rupture fuel tanks or spill other environmentally damaging substances. Coverage for cleanup is typically excluded without adding this special endorsement.

Lastly, consider wreckage removal. In the most disastrous accidents, your vessel may become marooned. Most laws require you remove inoperable vessels from the water. Sometimes vendors such as Sea Tow can assist. But if your boat sinks, without wreckage removal coverage you could be sunk.

To learn more about boat insurance, contact the experts at or by phone at (850) (942-7760). Our licensed insurance experts will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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