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Saturday, May 12, 2012

When I Realized I Really Screwed Up

It was a couple weeks ago and I was researching maritime law on the computer in the restaurant at Bahia del Sol. A cruising friend in the marina walked up to me and with total seriousness said, 
“This is going to end very badly.”
She was talking about the accident.
I knew right then I had screwed up royally.

If I hadn’t been stupid, things might not have taken a turn for the worse.
If I hadn’t been naïve, feelings might not have been hurt.
It is ridiculous to think that just because “we’re all cruisers” that we all think the same way. 
"Good faith" doesn't mean the same thing to all people.

What I did wrong:
When the liable party told me that their insurance agent agreed to review Hotspur’s case, I should have gotten their agent information immediately. I should have followed them to their boat to get it. This stupid error of mine may have cost us peace of mind and harmony our last two weeks in Bahia del Sol.

Should you be involved in a cruising accident, I have listed a few suggestions below that just might keep all hell from breaking loose. The last thing you want to have to worry about after an accident is how your repairs are going to be paid.

LESSON #1 - Insurance information

If your boat has been damaged by another and they have insurance, get their agent’s name, phone number, email address, etc… Get it immediately. Don’t wait.

And then… make that phone call. Right then. Don’t delay. Don’t make excuses and tell yourself that everybody is on the same page.

If I had done what I am advising you to do, things might not have gotten hairy ugly.

LESSON #2Paying Out of Pocket

This is advice for anyone who has caused damage to another boat. If you want to settle out of pocket (maybe you are self-insured or maybe you don’t want anyone filing a claim with your insurance company), remember… you want to entice the party that has suffered damage to accept your tantalizing offer. Do this very quickly following the accident… a day or two is sufficient. Eight days later is too long.

DO bring a few written estimates from local repair shops. It not only shows you care about the speedy recovery of the other vessel, but it may give you some bargaining power.
DON’T show up empty-handed and complain about how expensive your own repairs are costing you.

DO tell the damaged party what you will do – what you can do. Bring cash – and be serious. If the repairs on average cost $3,000, for example, consider bringing $1,500 to the table. It may not be accepted, but it might. Putting that cash on the table just might be persuasive enough to seal the deal or move it forward in a positive direction.
DON’T show up empty-handed and tell the other party that you won’t pay to repair their boat.

DO be creative. If you have some experience in fiberglass, suggest that you might do the repairs. Or maybe you know someone who will do you a favor.
DON’T show up empty-handed and without solutions. Remember, you want to be a problem solver!

LESSON #3 - The uninsured, the self-insured and those who refuse to pony up their insurance info

Don’t panic if you are damaged by a party without insurance.
If you have boat insurance now, go check your policy. Some policies cover uninsured vessels – much like uninsured motorists in auto insurance. Go check it now.

If the liable party has read my LESSON #2, you might be okay. If they read it, but chose to follow all my DON’Ts, then you may have to go to the port captain or the police.

Really think about this before you approach the authorities, especially in foreign countries. If it’s only a few hundred dollars, maybe it’s not worth the hassle. No telling what might happen. But, if it’s thousands – you may not have a choice.

Likely, the liable party will not wish to go to jail or have their boat impounded. However, you may be stuck where you are until a resolution is reached.

LESSON #4: - Having liability insurance

Hotspur always had liability insurance while in Mexico. First, it’s the law there. Second, it is super easy to obtain online and it’s very affordable.  We've used and

When Hotspur was ready to leave Mexico, we checked all around for basic liability insurance coverage in Central America. What we failed to realize was this:
If your boat is 10 years old or older, many insurance companies require a hull survey less than 2 years old before they will offer coverage in certain parts of the world.
Hotspur had just been hauled out in Guaymas in Dec/Jan… if we had known we could have had a survey performed then.

What happened to us could happen to anyone.
What happened to the vessel that hit us also could happen to anyone.
I think being self-insured is risky.
But many cruisers choose to travel that way. Like us in El Salvador.
Even though liability insurance wouldn't have helped us in the case of another boat hitting us, had we had full coverage we could have handed our little problem over to our agent and washed our hands of the details. Instead, we had to be in the hairy middle of it - and I regret that more than you will ever know.

Hotspur just returned to Mexico for repairs and the insured’s agent recommended we meet one of their surveyors here. And…
we purchased liability insurance online before we left El Salvador.
I can breathe again!

1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear about your troubles, it is almost enough to make you a cynical person. Do not let them bring you down, keep up the better half of humanity and believing that people will do what is right.

    SV Akupara