I had an accident while hauling my boat. What coverages apply?
Last updated: January 1
If you're a boat owner, you likely do all you can to avoid an accident while your boat's in the water. But the reality is that you could also have an accident on dry land, while hauling your boat. Depending on what property is damaged, you may find that boat, auto, homeowners or umbrella insurance coverage could come into play.
A boat policy typically helps cover physical damage to your boat, whether it's on the road in or in the water, up to the limits of your policy. A boat policy typically won't provide coverage if you are found liable for damages that occur to another vehicle or person while you're hauling your boat. That coverage may come from your auto policy.
A boat policy may also cover physical damage to your hauling trailer. However, you generally need to purchase separate coverage specifically for trailers and other boat accessories, and you may be subject to a deductible if you have a claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Not all insurers offer optional boat trailer coverage on a boat policy, so be sure to ask your agent about available options.
If the vehicle you used to haul your boat and trailer is damaged in an accident, it likely would be covered (up to the limits of your policy) by your auto insurance. Likewise, if another driver's car is damaged or the other driver is injured and needs medical treatment, and you're found liable, those expenses likely would be covered by the liability coverage in your auto policy. Anyone injured in your vehicle would likely be covered by the medical payments coverage portion of your auto policy. All coverages in your auto insurance policy are subject to coverage limits, and some coverages may have a deductible.
Is my trailer also covered by auto insurance?
You may be required to schedule (specifically list) the trailer on your auto insurance policy and pay extra for collision and comprehensive coverage limits that apply to your trailer. If your trailer is not listed on your policy, you may have limited coverage or no coverage at all. You're your policy or check with your agent to understand if your boat-hauling trailer is covered by your car insurance policy.
If your trailer is damaged in a collision, collision coverage may help pay for repairs. If the trailer is stolen or damaged by something like hail or vandalism, your comprehensive coverage may help pay for repairs. Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage each have a deductible you'd have to pay toward repairs after a covered claim.
Finally, if you cause an accident while you're towing your trailer and it injures someone or damages their property, the liability coverage on your auto insurance policy may help pay for the other party's expenses.
A homeowners policy may help protect your watercraft and related equipment such as furnishings and trailers (typically up to $1,000 if the loss is caused by a named peril, such as theft). But, if you have a boat insurance policy that includes coverage for both your boat and the boat trailer, that would come into play first.
It's important to keep in mind that your homeowners policy probably won't offer protection if your watercraft or trailer collides with someone else's vehicle.
Be sure to check your policy or contact your agent with any questions about how your homeowners policy might help protect your boat and boat trailer in different scenarios.
You may also want to consider purchasing a personal umbrella policy (PUP), which provides liability protection above the limits stated in your auto, homeowners or other policies such as boat. If you're found liable for damages caused by an accident while you're hauling your boat, a PUP may help protect your assets if, for instance, you are sued for more than your regular policies cover.
If you have a boat, you probably want to take measures to protect your watercraft and minimize your own liability. Talk to your insurance agent to be sure you have your desired protections in place. Then, go out and enjoy your boating adventures.