Do I need boat insurance in Connecticut?

Although Connecticut law does not require a boat owner to purchase or maintain liability insurance, it is simply prudent to purchase one. As the number of boats and personal watercraft on Connecticut waters increases each year, there is an increase in boating accidents, often resulting in serious personal injury and financial loss.

Many small boat owners believe that their homeowners insurance protects them from liability for damage caused by the careless operation of their boat. While this generally applies to small boats powered by outboard motors under 25 hp, more powerful boats are excluded from this coverage. These boats and personal watercraft such as jet skis or wave runners and personal watercraft require boat insurance for the owner or operator to be protected.

As with the operation of an automobile in Connecticut, if a boat is operated by the owner’s husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter, the presumption is that it did so as a family boat and the owner will be held liable, although he or she was not operating it at the time of the damage. This law provides another incentive for boat owners to properly insure their boats.

There are many so-called discount insurance companies that advertise low rates for boat insurance. Before insuring your boat with any of these companies, you need to determine the coverages and the amounts required.

If you are a homeowner with an excess policy, you must obtain sufficient liability insurance for your boat to meet the requirements of your excess policy. Generally, your boat coverage requires limits of $300,000 to $500,000. Boat insurance premiums typically depend on many factors: coverage, location of the boat, use, size, age, condition, type of propulsion and experience of the owner.

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Note that, according to the US Coast Guard, an average of six people die in boating accidents a year in Connecticut. The main cause of boating accidents: alcohol consumption.

Owning and operating a boat is serious business and to avoid personal liability you should insure your boat with adequate coverage. It is best to contact an agent or company with experience in boat insurance. With recent damage from hurricanes and tropical storms, many insurance companies refuse to cover boat buyers. In Florida, for example, it has come to the point where boat sellers require confirmation from prospective buyers that they can purchase insurance, just as home sellers require preapproval letters from banks showing that the buyer has been approved for the loan needed to purchase a home .

And in the event of an accident, ship operators must follow rules very similar to those following a car accident. Operators must remain at the scene of the accident and, if possible, assist other vessels or persons involved in the accident without further endangering their own vessel or persons on board. The operator must provide the name, address and Vessel Identification Number to the other boat operator(s) or the owner of the damaged property.

Finally, the operator must notify the nearest law enforcement agency and report the matter in writing using a form provided by the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, Boating Division, within 48 hours of the accident.

In the meantime, don’t neglect the life jackets. They may not be required by law to be worn by adults (except during the period 31 October – 31 May). – Children under 12 must wear one at all times, unless below deck or in a closed cabin) but like buying boat insurance, it just makes sense.

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John F. Wynne Jr. is a partner in the New Haven-based law firm Buckley Wynne & Parese. He can be reached at 203-776-2278 or [email protected].