Boaters across Pennsylvania this year will enjoy over 85,000 miles of rivers, over 70 lakes, and dozens of other manmade bodies of water. U.S. Coast Guard data shows that in 2016 there were 315,503 recreational watercraft registered in the state. John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), says that they want boaters to enjoy the water in a safe manner this year.
Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman issued a statement reminding boaters of the importance of insuring their watercraft, as automobile and homeowners insurance only applies to boats in certain instances. Boating accidents can have dangerous results that include property damage, injuries, and fatalities.
Homeowners and Auto Insurance Coverage
In most cases, a homeowner policy provides minimal coverage for boats, particularly with larger engines. Auto insurance will typically only cover those accidents that occur when the boat is being pulled by a covered vehicle and may not cover all types of claims. Boat insurance is highly recommended for protection from liability in the event of injuries, as well as to insure the boat in the event of damage, or even the theft of items from the boat.
Three Types of Boat Insurance
Keep in mind that your policy is likely to have a deductible amount that you will need to pay, after which the insurance coverage applies. There are three common types of insurance that may cover damage to your boat.
- Actual cash value: The insurer will pay you an amount that reflects the current market value of the vessel.
- Agreed amount value: The policy specifies an agreed upon amount that will be paid if the boat was a total loss.
- Replacement coverage: The insurer will replace the damaged boat with a similar model.
Mandatory Boating Education
The state requires that those operating a boat with an engine that is more than 25 horsepower possess a Boating Safety Education Certificate. This applies to all those operating a personal watercraft that were born after 1982. The education program requirement is designed to maintain safety for the operator and others out on the water.
Liability and Reckless or Negligent Operation
State law says that watercraft owners may be jointly or severally liable for damages to people and/or property that occur from the operation of the boat. Joint liability may apply when the boat owner allows another person to operate the vessel. Reckless and negligent operation of a boat is prohibited. Reckless operation is when the operator demonstrates willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the public. Negligent operation is when an operator does not adhere to their duty to act with reasonable care for the welfare of others.
A boating accident report must be completed for the PFBC in the following instances:
- A fatality occurs, or a person's whereabouts are not known after an accident
- A person is injured and needs medical treatment that extends further than simply first aid
- Property damage exceeds $2,000
The U.S. Coast Guard says the five most common causes of such accidents are inattentiveness, not having a lookout, a lack of experience, speeding, and alcohol consumption. Roughly 84% of those who drowned following an accident in a boat are not wearing life jackets. Mechanical problems with the vessel are another cause of accidents and owners are reminded to properly maintain their boat with assistance from a professional.