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question about boat insurance liability

Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
These days people frequently sign stuff--agreements--that they barely read if even read at all. (Who can actually read and comprehend most of this stuff anyway?) When something goes wrong and there are damages, they hire a lawyer to turn what most people clearly see as a "drinking glass" into a "glass ashtray," right before your eyes, so they might escape paying!! So, don't count on one (signed release) actually working for you in the end. It's typically a race as to who gets to don the status of "the victim", IMHO. Most likely, that would be the person(s) who suffered from the accident.
Last edited:
Jan 22, 2008
Catalina 2005 36 MK II (1656) Lake Texoma
Good day all,

I have been practicing law for over 30 years. The best advice has already been given: consult a lawyer in your own state AND make sure your boat insurance, personal insurance and umbrella insurance provides coverage for commercial activities. Most personal insurance policies have a "business use" exclusion.

Most states consider boats under a certain size to be personal property and therefore any damage to the vessel or injury to persons or loss/damage of personal items occurring as a result of "business use" will be excluded.

Also consider that if your 22' boat is maintained on land, any claim of negligence occurring while the boat is on land is legally different than negligence on navigable waters. Federal law controls over state law in Maritime claims. State law controls "on land" negligence claims.

Consider that many states find it against public policy and will not enforce a waiver/limitations of liability contract which results in a commercial business being release from any liability for its own negligence.

Finally, as has been previously stated, you will get sued if something happens. You may be found liable and if so, the question is, who pays the judgment? Who pays the lawyer representing you is also a question to consider. The insurance company's "duty to defend" you in a lawsuit is different than its "duty to indemnify" (pay a judgment or settlement). Your insurance policy is simply an asset that provides coverage (payment to an injured person) in the event the injury arises out of a covered claim. Insurance policies do not limit liability or responsibility. They simply transfer the risk of paying the injured party.

Hate to be a downer, but I have represented andsued insurance companies my entire career.

Just something to think about.

Jay Acquaviva
s/v Doctor's Orders
Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
Thanks for all the replies. What I have in mind is more like renting out the boat half time of the month and we split the monthly expense 50/50. The boat will be a catalina 22 of the 70's vintage, so under $3k value. I'll be the sole owner and I'll take care of all maintenance, so I guess I shouldn't call it a boat partnership really, sorry about the confusion.
I was in something similar last year, except I was the renter. Boat was a catalina 30 and since the owner rarely had time to use it, so he rented it out to 3 individuals, each one gets one week. Owner took care of all maintenace, insurance, etc. We didn't have to buy any equity in the boat, just signed a lease form and pay each month, lease was for 6 months. Sadly, he sold the boat.

So what I want to do is similar to that, except it's just two people. My only concerned is that if he or his guest gets hurt and sues without me being onboard, will I still be liable? Sounds like I will.
Be careful about the "renting out" part of your idea.

I co-own a boat with a good friend who originally introduced me to sailing. I bought a boat and he sold his. After a little while (where we sailed together often), we discussed the idea of a co-owned boat. Neither one of us really wanted to give up sailing, but the costs and time we had to sail was not enough to justify the costs individually.

We bought a boat together, equal ownership, we have insurance that names us both on the policy, and we share all expenses. We have agreed that We will never:
1) Loan the boat to someone else without one of the owners being present
2) Never use the boat for any commercial use (this changes the whole ball game in terms of insurance, boat inspection and certification, etc.).

Our insurance policy will allow our (grown) children or wives to operate the boat (wives never will, but my son took it out once -I have more gray hair for it).

We both have umbrella insurance policies as well to further protect us individually.

Our partnership works well because we like to sail together, although I sail a lot kore than my partner and single-hand 90% of the time. I also do a majority of the work on the boat, but I enjoy that aspect of owning a boat.

I am prepared, if the time ever comes, to buy out my partner, but for now, the partnership works well for us.