Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

So - You Think You Are Fully Insured....?

The following information, gained from my own bitter experience after the marina who had been undertaking routine maintenance work to our boat, allowed it to sink whilst in their care, applies to all insurance, not just to marine insurance.

I was interested to note that our plight was referred to on the Canal World Forum under the thread title within General Boating, "A Cautionary Tale".

I was bemused to read on there, a week or so later, after all that had happened to us, that another contributor had posed a question asking what might be the best marine insurance option for their narrowboat. "" featured strongly in replies, with comments being made about them having been with the company for years, and had found them to provide a good service to them at a very reasonable price. Nobody seemed to be attaching much importance to the scope of cover on offer at the price.

I can now divulge that my own insurer, throughout our boat ownership years between 2006 and 2014 were in fact also, and I can agree that yes, their service was excellent in that I could go online, and with a few clicks of the mouse button, obtain instant insurance cover for our boat, renewed automatically each year, and at a very reasonable price. My cover throughout was "fully comprehensive".

What I hadn't bargained for was what would happen when I was forced to make a claim with them when our boat lay severely damaged in the marina, and the marina owners were ignoring my requests to provide their own details of insurance.

After discovering the fate of our boat after the work I had requested had been "completed" by the marina, I had prudently employed my own surveyor, who examined the damage as a consequence of sinking, which I had presumed would be fully covered by my own comprehensive insurance. His assessment of my situation was that the interior cabin required stripping out, drying, treating, and then rebuilding the water damaged areas with new materials. This type of repair also extended to water damaged engine components, and was in his opinion a minimum requirement to provide future reliable service.

Craftinsure passed my claim to their underwriters, which were Navigators & General, and they employed a very respected canal narrowboat surveyor Mike Carter, of Marine Surveys Ltd. I found him to be extremely helpful, and offered me all kinds of advice, but it was also his job to report back to my insurer with the intention of minimizing, or even negating my claim completely by interpreting the clauses within my own schedule of insurance cover to the letter according to the circumstances that surrounded it. What is known in the business as a "loss adjuster" I believe.

The Craftinsure Narrowboat Insurance Policy wording can be found here: Policy Wording.

I wonder how many of us even consider what might or might not be covered by our chosen insurance policies in the event of a major claim such as I was forced to make?

In the real world the claim on my own insurance above, (once accepted - and that is another part of my story that can be read in more detail), was interpreted from this wording and thus restricted any repairs to "reinstatement". In reality what that meant was that there could be no stripping out of the interior, repairs would be restricted to visible, non functional materials, not to putting right hidden issues that might lay under the floor due to being submerged. All cosmetic damage was irrelevant. In the engine bay, a full engine service was funded, but the submerged starter motor would not be replaced - just pulled apart, dried, lubricated and put back into service - much to the dismay of the good guys at Nantwich Canal Centre who had been employed by my insurer to undertake this remedial work. The submerged alternator actually worked once dry, so that was left in service untouched. The value of repairs to be funded by my insurer were just a fraction of those recommended by my surveyor. In short, no "new for old" replacements as that would be seen as betterment. All this was overseen by Mike Carter, who would force (downwards) adjustments in the schedule of works according to the requirements that would be acceptable to my claims handler.

All of this is what forced my decision to dispose of my boat as it stood rather than allow it to be fully repaired by the insurance company, as it was my opinion, backed up with that of my own surveyor, that, if repaired in this way my boat would be returned to me with the potential for an unreliable and costly future, due to further ongoing consequential failures. And why would I then want to spend a further £5000 of my own cash repairing the corrosion damaged hull which wasn't covered by insurance in any case?

So what happened about any possible claim on the marina's own insurance? When my own had paid out to me in "full and final settlement", their details were finally made available so a further claim was then made to them. This was however rejected out of hand due to my own insurer having already paid out. The result was that I was £ thousands out of pocket, and through no fault of my own. They even refused to refund the cost of my own surveyor because "my own insurance company had provided one". The best I can say of the outcome is that because the marina's insurer eventually accepted full liability, (once they were aware of my claim), Craftinsure refunded my £300 excess payment.

As none of the above was my fault, I had naively expected that everything would be made good to the standards of condition that my boat was in before the incident by an insurer. Not the case!

This article contains much useful information about the pitfalls that can beset a claimant of marine insurance. I recommend that boat owners read it before they might ever have to make a major claim on their own insurance. Click: British Marine Surveyors Europe Article On Yacht Insurance Claims.

Policy wording not only has to be read in detail before purchasing any insurance policy, but also be fully understood. Price should be a secondary consideration.

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