Maritime Insurance Law

Denied Boat Claim? Hire an Attorney Who Knows About Federal Maritime Insurance Law

Sometimes, Insurance companies make mistakes when denying or underpaying boat insurance claims.1 Since I practice insurance law and own more boats than a family of four can be on at the same time, I often get calls from frustrated friends and acquaintances complaining about the bad adjustment of their boat claim.

Boat claims are different. The nomenclature and law differ from other areas of property insurance law. Generally, coverage for a boat is considered marine insurance. Marine insurance contracts are governed by federal maritime law.2 In the absence of an established maritime rule, courts apply state law to interpret disagreements under maritime insurance policies. Most of you just want to get paid your claim to get your boat repaired and do not care about these maritime rules.

Maritime insurance policies are interpreted to a throwback of days when English common law applied rules. Thus, old English maritime common law insurance law rules may apply when disputes occur. I often explain this to owners of yachts and smaller boats when they are not being paid what they think is fair. For some reason, insurance company adjusters often think attorneys will not understand maritime law and challenge these wrongful denials and underpayment. The law is not that different from federal or state maritime law that unfair results should occur.

Why do accidents occur at sea?

Specific Transit Insurance Policy
Specific Transit Insurance Policy

Why boaters need insurance

Just as car accidents can result in significant losses, so too can boat accidents. A financially stable boat owner could jeopardize their savings if they were involved in a waterway crash and did not have the right insurance to cover their costs. Even when boaters have insurance, they may find that their policies do not cover the forms of harm they sustained in their accidents. When getting a boat and looking at insurance, it can be helpful for an individual to talk to an admiralty and maritime attorney about what liability issues may impact them if their vessels are involved in collisions.

Dealing with insurers after boat accidents

Having insurance is the first step to protecting a boat owner from financial ruin in the event of a collision. Ensuring that their insurer pays out on their policy when needed is another step many boat owners struggle with after crashes. It can be difficult and time-consuming to file a claim for insurance to recover losses after a boat accident, and insurers are not always willing to approve claims that may lack sufficient evidence or support. Getting an insurer to pay out a claim can take legal persuasion, and when challenges arise a boat owner can rely on their relationship with their admiralty and maritime attorney for support.

Do not accept denials of boat claims without getting second opinions. Merlin Law Group attorneys can provide maritime insurance law interpretation and help you obtain what you are owed.

Types of boat insurance coverage

Many of the types of insurance coverage that boaters seek parallel those sought out by motor vehicle owners. They can include but are not limited to:

  • Liability to cover the costs of losses suffered by others on a policy holder’s boat
  • Collision to cover the costs of a boat accident
  • Property to cover the costs of damage done by the policy holder’s boat
  • Uninsured boater coverage to cover costs caused by boaters without insurance
  • Comprehensive to cover additional harm done to a boat

Insurance does not prevent accidents from happening on navigable waters. It provides financial assistance for those who suffer losses from incidents that result in personal injuries and property-based harm.

Top 10 Maritime Lawyers 2021 in USA

Boat Insurance Claims

Boat Insurance ClaimsEvery boat owner has heard the old saying that the two happiest days are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell the boat. While this statement is not true for most boat owners, it is no doubt true that owning any type of watercraft involves many unique responsibilities. When a boat sustains damage and a boat owner must file a claim on his or her boat insurance policy, it should, in theory, be a smooth process. The keys words are “in theory.”

In practice, insurance companies frequently drag their feet, deny or try to defend themselves against worthy claims. In these situations, it is essential to have a dynamic, experienced attorney on your side. Consider The Fell Law Firm. While based in Richardson-Plano, we represent clients across the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond in the full range of bad faith insurance claims.

Marine Insurance Claims Lawyers Serving Boat Owners Across Texas

Our law firm has represented clients facing all types of bad faith claims. In marine insurance claims, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to claim that the boat owner damaged the vessel in an attempt to collect insurance money. This is particularly the case if the boat owner is still making payments on the vessel.

At The Fell Law Firm, attorney Gregory Fell and our team will review your insurance policy, the nature of your claim and begin working to help you recover full compensation under the policy. Each of our lawyers has meaningful trial experience, which is critical in giving our clients leverage in their claim. As we say, we have “Small Firm Values and Big Firm Fight.” This means we regularly take cases to trial when insurance companies refuse to treat our clients fairly. This approach has helped policyholders in all types of situations obtain a fair outcome.

10 Common Causes of Injuries in Boating Accidents

Maritime Insurance Law
Maritime Insurance Law

What to Do If You Are Involved in a Boating Accident

boating accident is usually a frightening experience, and it can be difficult to know what to do or how to respond. Knowing the steps to take after a boating accident could help you save someone’s life, as well as helping you protect your legal rights. The laws in South Carolina allow boat accident victims to pursue a claim for money damages, but it is up to the victim to protect those legal rights.

Our South Carolina injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm can help you to pursue a claim and advise you on every step that you should take to obtain compensation, but there are things you should do immediately after an accident happens to protect yourself both medically and legally.

What to Do After a Boating Accident

If you are involved in a boating accident and the boat is still afloat and you are aboard, then the first thing to do is to determine whether you or anyone else needs medical attention.

If anyone has fallen overboard, then you should assist the victim back onto the boat when possible. If the vessel has broken apart or is sinking, then climbing on floating debris and signaling for help is advised. You should have a life jacket on or accessible at all times to help you to stay afloat in the event of a boating accident. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that 70 percent of boating accident fatalities result from drowning.

Provided that everyone is still on the boat, the priority should be keeping the boat out of harm’s way while providing medical assistance to those on board. The boat should be moved out of the path of oncoming vessels, and then first aid should be provided to injured people. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately to let them know that an accident occurred, the location of the accident and what medical assistance may be necessary.

In addition to making sure everyone aboard the vessel is OK, you should also check to determine if anyone aboard other vessels involved need assistance. You should never leave the scene of a boating accident, especially if anyone is in need of medical help.

Even if you do not initially believe that you were injured in the accident, it is still a good idea to see your doctor following a boating accident. Sometimes the shock of being involved in a boat wreck can mask symptoms of a serious injury. So, you and your loved ones should error on the side of caution and seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Make sure you mention to the physician that you were involved in a boating accident, as they may want to run specific tests or perform certain procedures.

Boat without insurance, accidents and lawyers
Boat without insurance, accidents and lawyers

Gathering Information About the Boat Accident

Once ascertaining that everyone is OK and out of immediate danger after the boating accident, you will next need to obtain essential information from those on the other vessel as well as from any witnesses to the accident.

Information that you should gather at the accident scene includes, the:

  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the boat operators involved in the accident.
  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the passengers involved or aboard any of the vessels in the crash.
  • Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have witnessed the accident from shore or from other vessels.
  • Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident.
  • Insurance company names and the insurance policy numbers of those who were involved in the accident.

You may wish to take photographs of the damage to the boat and the location where the accident occurred. Getting this evidence from the scene of the boating accident can be helpful if you later need to prove that the other boat operator was responsible for the accident.

Reporting the Boating Accident

Reporting a boating accident to the U.S. Coast Guard is a good idea because an accident report from the Coast Guard may be used to help shed light on how an accident occurred. In many cases, reporting the accident is also required by federal law.

Under the federal law, a boating accident report must be filed if:

  • Someone is killed
  • Someone is injured badly enough to need medical care beyond the most basic first aid
  • There is damage to the vessels or to property that equals or exceeds $2,000
  • There is a complete loss of a vessel or a vessel is destroyed
  • Someone disappears from a vessel under circumstances that indicate an injury or death has occurred.

You may also be required to file a boating accident report with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources or other state agency responsible for regulating boating.

When providing the report, it is important that you offer accurate information, but you should not volunteer unnecessary information or speculate about the cause.

Even if you believe you caused the boating accident, you should not offer apologies or accept responsibility for the crash. Determining who caused the accident must be done by taking into account all of the facts, and you do not want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim. In fact, you should consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can assist you in making the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation.

Making Insurance or Injury Claims

After a boating accident, it is also important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved. You should notify your insurer, regardless of whether you or another boater was to blame, as you may need to turn to your insurer to make a claim for damages.

If the other boater was negligent, careless or broke the rules in a way that led to the boating accident, you may be able to take legal action for compensation. This could provide you with payment of medical bills, as well as compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and wrongful death.


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