How Do Boat Insurance Claims Work?

Boat Insurance Claims Processes and Repairs

Most boat owners will never have to file a boat insurance claim. However, for the minority of those that do there is little insight on how to navigate the process properly to make a more informed decision. This article is for that minority. 

Boat Insurance Claims

To begin, there is most likely a whirlwind of questions going through your head such as “should I file a boat insurance claim or fix it on my own dollar” if I do “is my premium going to go up or will I get dropped if I do” to “will my boat lose value if I file a boat insurance claim or will I get deemed a salvage title”. If you do decide to move forward with filing a claim there are a host of other questions that arise; “do I have to use a boat repair shop affiliated with my insurance company or can I pick my own”, “does the insurance company write the check to me or to the boat repair company” and many more. 

To begin, let’s assume that either you or someone close to you is responsible for causing damage to your own boat and you are wondering where you should go from here. First, we need to identify the scope of the damage to your boat. There are two ways to go about this which is to either call a reputable boat repair shop that offers mobile services or you need to call a marine surveyor to assess the damage. Total Boat Repair responds to these calls on a weekly basis and our policy is to charge a small estimate fee but we waive that fee when our customers decide to move forward with the repair. This estimate is going to give you not only a professional opinion but it will also give you some solid figures of what you are looking at to pay someone to have the boat repaired to its original condition. Now, you can use that estimate and compare it to your deductible to start making some informed decisions. 

Next, if you decide to move forward with filing a boat insurance claim, what are the repercussions if any? While we can answer this directly in a blanket format as each insurance agency operates differently and takes multiple variables into consideration, we can only speak for our past interactions with customers who have filed a boat insurance claim. Our experience has seen that most of our customers have had an increase in their premium after filling. While others have been dropped completely after the claim was fulfilled and lastly we have seen others experience absolutely no change. It is recommended that each customer contact their insurance carrier and seek direct input. 

Now, if you choose to move forward with filing a claim will your boat lose value? This needs to be answered on two fronts. First, the only loss of value in a boat is created by the perceived value of the boat. Meaning, if you damage a boat and it is repaired to it’s original condition or better (done with better materials and techniques than the manufacturer used) the value of the boat is determined by the potential buyer, he or she may see it as an upgrade and increase the value or they may see it as a blemish and detract value from the boat. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you have a 26’ Pathfinder Tournament boat and Maverick Boat Group (MBG Manufacturer) made 500 of them that year, your boat was damaged and needed a major repair to the hull. I would assume that your boat would be valued slightly less than similar models being sold due to the heavy supply versus the demand added by the fact that your boat was damaged versus non-damaged boats on the market. However, let’s say that you have a hybrid 25’ Pathfinder Tournament boat and they only made ten of them that year, your boat although it was “damaged” would retain value and possibly increase in value if the demand supercedes the supply. 

The other part to answer is will my boat be deemed “salvage” or “a loss” on it’s title. This is a common misconception in the boating world as they think of boats titles being similar to vehicle titles and that they follow the same rules in regards to vehicles being “totalled” however this is not the case. Most states do not have a program in place to record such accounts with boats as they do vehicles. For instance, let’s say you hit a bridge in your boat causing major damage. You file a claim and have the damage repaired by a boat repair shop, the boat is returned to you and you keep on boating. At no time during that process does the insurance company call the bank that you financed the boat with and have them send the title to your state titling representative to stamp “Salvage” on the title and then have them send it back to your bank. This is for the most part considered good ethics that if your boat has suffered damage and has been repaired then it is up to you to pass that information along if and when you decide to sell your boat.  

Now, let’s say that you decide to move forward with filing a claim. This is typically how the process will work as there may be some variation from carrier to carrier. You call in and file a claim, they will ask if you have a boat repair facility in mind to complete the repairs, they rely heavily on you doing this versus them because if for some reason you are unhappy with your repair they can always fall back on “well you picked them out”. So, do your diligence, ask around, read reviews and testimonials, pick someone who is licensed and insured along with a great reputation. Once you find them, reach out and they should partner you through this process as we have done with so many customers throughout the years. The estimate should be next which will identify the scope of repairs. You send the estimate to your insurance claim handler/adjuster and they will evaluate and either approve, reject or question the estimate. Some carriers may force you to get three estimates but this is infrequent. Once approved, the insurance company will send you a check for the total amount of the repairs estimated. The check will most often be written to you. You will keep in contact with your insurance claim adjuster until the repair is complete. It is in the insurance companies best interest to close the claim quickly. It is in your best interest as the boat owner to stay in contact with the boat repair facility to ensure there isn’t any further damage that they uncovered during the repair process. If they have, this needs to be communicated to the carrier for additional funding. This is common amongst many structural fiberglass boat repairs because you cannot fully inspect the damage until you start removing the damaged fiberglass laminates which could uncover other damage caused that is not initially seen on the boat’s surface. 

Once the boat is fully repaired and returned to the customer, the claim will be closed and the waters are yours to be enjoyed again. If at any time in the process you need advice or suggestions with your boat repair, please don’t hesitate to contact Total Boat Repair as we pride ourselves on proven quality results that are delivered on-time at a fair price.

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