I had a chat with my 'bottom feeder' (lawyer) friend about the limits of personal liability seapuppy brought up.
Caveat Emptor! This information is provided only for general knowledge and is not to be considered absolute legal determination (I'm no attorney). It is just to give you a broader understanding of your rights and your legal liabilities, according to Bob (not his real name, either).
Yes, we we're drinking beer!
Ok. That out of the way.
When you have insurance, you usually have a personal liability coverage with 'X' $ amount of coverage. When you 'contract' with your agent/broker, you purchase the policy with the intent to have adequate coverage. Most states have mandated minimum amounts of liability coverage. It is also an 'expectation' of the policy holder (you), that if you are found liable, the amount awarded for compensation is limited as well.
Here's the good part- I'll use the example seapuppy mentioned:
You are in an accident, say, you hit another boat, person, dock, bridge, etc. Oh ya, and you sink, and/or spill contaminants in the water. And there has been determined that no 'criminal' act or intent was found.
Your insurance company has two major obligations and responsibilities to you:
1. They are YOUR agent. They are required to represent you in any litigation with the other involved parties (private or Gov't). They goal is to litigate a settlement within your coverage limits. They will 'disclose' this amount with the 'other side'.
2. If the complaintants (the other parties) have made claims 'exceeding' your coverage limitations, then your insurance carrier is on the hook, not you.
Keep in mind that when you purchase insurance, you disclose to the agent/broker what you intend to cover (boating) and they are aware of all the liability potentials that go with that activity. when they offer a policy, they know the risks (to them) financially. They also know the laws and liability requirements for operating a vessel in the waters where you intend to boat.
So, according to 'Bob', the probability of you being 'taken to the cleaners' in a civil complaint (not criminal, remember), is not going to happen. It's another 'urban legend' type information that just keeps living on.
Now I would expect your insurance carrier to either dump you or really increase your coverage and premium costs.
Hope this helps,
95 Max 2300SC
Nine Mile Falls, Washington
"If you look like your passport photo, you probably need the trip"