By Dan Bookham for WorkBoat magazine, August 2022
After being an avid reader of Workboat for many years it’s my distinct honor to be joining my colleague Chris Richmond as a contributor to the monthly “Insurance Watch” column. For my first go around I figured it makes sense to start with revisiting a basic topic: How to read your insurance policy.
Once you get past various legal notices, billing options and marketing messages, insurance policies have five parts: Declarations, insuring agreements, conditions, exclusions and endorsements. The smart mariner will take the time to review each of these in order, as they define the rights and responsibilities that come with the coverage you purchase.
Declarations. This is the what, where, when, by whom and for whom, price and coverage period of the policy. Check to make sure the named insureds are correct, any lenders are shown and that the right coverage lines are in place.
Insuring agreements. These explain the coverage you’ve bought in detail. An “open perils” policy covers everything except those areas covered in the exclusions (more on that below) while a “named perils” policy is for a list of specific things. Depending on the appetite of the insurer, certain additional perils can be agreed to and listed, usually by endorsement (again, more on this below).
Conditions. The insurer uses this section to outline what you must do to collaborate with them and in turn what they will do to help you get paid or to defend you in the event of a loss. This section also lays out how to file a claim. Pay close attention to the conditions, ideally before you are scrambling to file a claim, as following the ‘rules of the road’ in the policy will expedite claims handling and ordinarily lead to a smoother resolution of any call on your insurance coverage.
Exclusions. While the word itself fits certain stereotypes of insurance, this section is actually driven by logic and common sense. You can’t deliberately sink your boat or burn your warehouse and expect to get paid, and you can’t expect your Hull and P& I coverage to respond to an automobile accident. Exclusions exist to ensure your policy remains affordable, that it covers reasonable risks associated with the appropriate operations and that exposures outside the realm of insurability aren’t subject to your policy.
Endorsements. These can be used to expand or limit coverage, either at your request or at the discretion of the insurance company. Because a policy is a contract these serve as customized amendments that allow the coverage you buy provide a better fit to your unique operations. Here’s where your agent can really earn their salt and why working with agents or brokers with marine experience can make a real difference in the coverage you call on when the chips are down.