Liability for damage during a storm? - Page 11 - SailNet Community
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post #101 of 121 Old 05-13-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

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Originally Posted by VanIsland View Post
So do I still haveto inspect their lines.
Checking your neighbor's dock lines is one thing. Running around an anchorage checking mooring lines is another- this would not be a reasonable expectation.
However, if this happened a month ago, you've discussed it with the other party and the other party's insurer has already brushed you off, I think you have no alternative other than to contact a lawyer.
"How you're looking at it" is irrelevant. You can make all the legal arguments you want in your head- you need an attorney to make pertinent arguments that will end up giving results. $10-20k in damages certainly justifies the expense. The longer you wait the less compelling your case would seem to be.

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1977 C&C 30 Mk 1 hailing from Port Clinton, Ohio

Last edited by msmith10; 05-13-2012 at 02:05 PM.
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post #102 of 121 Old 05-13-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

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... $10-20k in damages certainly justifies the expense. The longer you wait the less compelling your case would seem to be.
That cost is unlikely to justify a court case. The legal fees involved in taking a suit to court will run that much, maybe more. Pretty bad odds if the most you can hope to to recoup your legal fees.

So a lawyer and a suit wont happen. Situations like this are the reason to have your own insurance, as the OP stated he did not, he is out-of-luck.

Not fair, but that life.

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post #103 of 121 Old 05-13-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

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Originally Posted by VanIsland View Post
so 6 years later here I am.
New family into sailing, all excited by it, meet some very very helpfully sailors in our marina that helped us learn the ropes

Then a year later, the bottom fell out, the entire family is devastated.
Simple and to the point
We had our sail boat at a public marina for over a year.
A month ago there was a storm.
A boat owner that has two sail boats moored in open waters, one new and the other older that has a for sale sign. The older boat broke free, wedged itself between the dock and our stern. Their outboard pounder our boat so hard that it knocked off their outboard into the ocean. We got estimates ranging from $20,000 to $10,000.

Unfortunately or stupidly we do not have insurance. Their insurance company wrote off their boat and instructed the surveyor to tell us that the cause of damages to our boat was, yes........ “Act of God” and we are SOL.

My thinking is
1. If it is an act of god then why did their insurance company pay for their damages?
2. If they are claiming that it is an act of god and they took ever reasonable precaution against the storm. Did they take the same amount of care on their older boat as they did on the newer one?

Any advice is appreciated, every time I thick about this whole situation, I feel sick to my gut. Already lost a lot of sleep and it may be the end of my sailing days.
Where the moorings owned by a marina or the owner of the boats? If it was a marina, was it the same marina you keep your boat at?
If so, the marinas insurance company may at least hear you out. I'm not saying anyone else is liable, but, it's worth looking into.
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post #104 of 121 Old 05-13-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIsland View Post
so 6 years later here I am.
New family into sailing, all excited by it, meet some very very helpfully sailors in our marina that helped us learn the ropes

Then a year later, the bottom fell out, the entire family is devastated.
Simple and to the point
We had our sail boat at a public marina for over a year.
A month ago there was a storm.
A boat owner that has two sail boats moored in open waters, one new and the other older that has a for sale sign. The older boat broke free, wedged itself between the dock and our stern. Their outboard pounder our boat so hard that it knocked off their outboard into the ocean. We got estimates ranging from $20,000 to $10,000.

Unfortunately or stupidly we do not have insurance. Their insurance company wrote off their boat and instructed the surveyor to tell us that the cause of damages to our boat was, yes........ “Act of God” and we are SOL.

My thinking is
1. If it is an act of god then why did their insurance company pay for their damages?
2. If they are claiming that it is an act of god and they took ever reasonable precaution against the storm. Did they take the same amount of care on their older boat as they did on the newer one?

Any advice is appreciated, every time I thick about this whole situation, I feel sick to my gut. Already lost a lot of sleep and it may be the end of my sailing days.

It's important to understand the basis for insurance, something that seems to be missing from a lot of the posts in the original thread. (BTW, a new thread would probably get a better response, and many won't read to the end to see the new issue)

Without insurance companies in the picture, the law is fairly straight forward...

If you damage your own property, you are responsible to pay for it if you chose to, or you can throw it out, sell it, whatever. It's yours, its your fault, its your problem.

If you damage someone else's property, either directly (bad driving and hitting there car) or indirectly through negligence or incompetence (you parked on a hill without setting the break and the car rolled down into someone else's car) you are responsible to pay for repair or replacement. It's your fault, not theirs, and they should not take the loss for your actions.

If your property damages someone else's due to an "Act of God" or "Force of Nature" you are not responsible under the law, stuff happens that is out of our control. A tornado picks up your car and smashes it into someone else's car. No one is at fault, it was an odd and unforeseeable circumstance that couldn't be avoided. You both are responsible only for the damage to your own vehicles.

Insurance is simply paying someone else a little at a time, so that if the need arises, they can make the large payout for you in the even of damage.

There are two kinds of insurance, generally called liability and comprehensive. They both have different rules.

Liability is basically saying "If you owe anyone else money due to damages to their person or property per the law, the insurance company will pay for you instead." This protects you from having to make a large payout to someone else, but doesn't offer you anything to repair or replace your own property, that's your responsibility. If you get in an accident, liability will pay for the other car, but not yours. This is required on cars in most states to protect the other drivers as most people do not have the cash to pay for repairs or replacement of a $50,000 vehicle.

Comprehensive, on the other hand, is only to pay for your own property, and has no bearing on payments to other people for their loss. These policies can have various provisions or restrictions, which also influences the price the companies charge for the coverage. These can cover "Act of God" type incidences, or cover you if the other guy is at fault, but doesn't have insurance and has no way to come up with the money owed. These various "options" all effect the price of the insurance, as the possibility of payouts goes up.


So in this case, I do not think you will get anywhere with the "but you payed for their boat" argument, as they are under different policies. If this falls into an "Act of God" category, and the person would not be responsible for damage to your boat under the law without insurance, then the other guy is not responsible to pay you, so the insurance company also does not need to pay you for them.

Under their comprehensive coverage though, they have been paying a little every month so that if something happens which is covered under their comprehensive policy, they will get paid for the damages. If there policy covers "Act of God", then they get paid for there loss on the comprehensive coverage, but you still get nothing because under the law, you are not owed anything.

I think the only place you have a case to argue this is should this event be classified as an "Act of God" or not? I'm no expert on this subject, but it seems to me that high winds that are normal for an area do not qualify. If the "storm" hit 50 mph winds, and its normal to see that much wind 6 - 10 times a year, I wouldn't think that qualifies. To me that would mean you should be prepared for that high of winds, and this would go to negligence.

If however, the storm had 100mph winds, and winds above 70 only occur once every 10 - 20 years, then yes, this could likely be considered as an "Act of God".

So I think the important thing is to find out how bad the storm was, how unusual or usual that is in your area, and what insurance companies are allowed to classify as "Act of God". Then you can decide if you have a case. (That shouldn't take to long looking around the net.)

Also, be very careful of using the word "STORM" in any communication about the incident, written or verbal as that brings up images of hurricanes, tornados and mass catastrophe, especially to the average non-boating desk jocky at the insurance agency. Was it really a "STORM" or was it "seasonably expected winds that should be accounted for when securing a vessel to a mooring ball" or some such non-catastrophe image inducing Verbiage.

If you think you have a case, write it up as factual and unemotional as possible (and without the word "STORM") and send it to the insurance company. If that doesn't help, pay a lawyer for an hour or two to write up something on letterhead with lots of legal words to send to the insurance agent. As stated before, insurance agencies can loose a lot more then they save if you go to court, even if they win. This shows your serious, and you don't need to higher a lawyer long term or even get a really good one at this point.

HOWEVER: As I said, I am no expert at this, but I do feel I have a decent understanding of insurance and wanted to share it. I night be wrong. Don;t take this as legal advice. Your mileage may very, use at your own risk, blah blah blah. Others will likely correct what I said, listen to them as I'm sure they know more, or at least it will all be their fault then!

Oh, and good luck, I hope this one bad incident doesn't put you off boating forever!

S/V Lilo
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post #105 of 121 Old 05-14-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

It is one thing to get a bunch of people on a sailing forum to say "Yeah, he should have tied up his boat better." It is a whole different matter to make that argument well enough that a judge (who probably doesn't know anything about boats or what a "spring line" is) will conclude that actionable negligence was involved. All I can say is, good luck (because I think you're going to need it).
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post #106 of 121 Old 05-14-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

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Originally Posted by T34C View Post
I'd say you have a good argument. Your neighbors boat hit yours and caused damage. It should be their responsibility no matter what the cause.

If a powerboat makes a wake near a marina they are responsible for any damage that the wake may cause. If your cars rolls down your driveway and hits the car across the street, it is your fault weather you had the parking break set or not....
That is not exactly how the law works. What you are describing is strict liability. In the US, there must be negligence.

Here is an example. I am driving a powerboat through a marina at a safe speed. All of a sudden, I have my first ever epileptic seizure that I had no reason to think I was at risk of having. I cut your boat in two and send it to the bottom.

Do I have any liability? No.

If I had my 10th such seizure, then I am negligent for operating a vessel in my condition.

This case in the OP seems ripe for a negligence claim, but it depends on the exact circumstances. If the cleats pulled out through no fault of the boat owner, then no liability, etc.
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post #107 of 121 Old 05-15-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

Van, I am sure that if you are in the US part of this will depend on your state and what the state laws are. Other than that, SPEAK TO A LAWYER.

I know insurance companues have paid for damages when a boat broke free from a mooring in a storm, so whether that guy or his insurer are responsible probably depends on the details, and you have to ask, is it worth paying $100-150 to consult an attorney rather than taking a $20,000 loss all by yourself?

You may also find that the insurer changes their tune after they get a letter on an attorney's letterhead citing the reasons that they are responsible and of course, if he has to bring suit, they'll have to pay his fees as well.

Find a lawyer with insurance experience, preferably boating experience. Your local marina or repair yard may be able to refer one to you, or your ex-insurer or a local agent may know one. Have a short conversation.

The storm may have been an act of god, but failing to secure the boat and inspect the mooring was an act of negligence. No god needed.
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post #108 of 121 Old 05-15-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jzk View Post
That is not exactly how the law works. What you are describing is strict liability. In the US, there must be negligence.

Here is an example. I am driving a powerboat through a marina at a safe speed. All of a sudden, I have my first ever epileptic seizure that I had no reason to think I was at risk of having. I cut your boat in two and send it to the bottom.

Do I have any liability? No.

If I had my 10th such seizure, then I am negligent for operating a vessel in my condition.

This case in the OP seems ripe for a negligence claim, but it depends on the exact circumstances. If the cleats pulled out through no fault of the boat owner, then no liability, etc.
I am no lawyer either, but have had to deal with them and the courts in cases where I was sued or sued someone. In the above case I think you would be liable for the damage, even if the cause was out of your control. That is what liability insurance is for.

In any case I agree the OP should have an initial consultation with a lawyer. You could probably explain your case over the phone and they would tell you if you should pursue the case. The law get complex with required court filings and associated paper work. You may be able to collect your legal fees as well as damages.

If the boat was not well secured, seems you should get paid to fix your boats damages.
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post #109 of 121 Old 05-16-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

Yes, the main thing to remember--once again--is that internet legal advice is worth exactly what you pay for it... NOTHING!
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post #110 of 121 Old 05-16-2012
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Re: Liability for damage during a storm?

There is a lot of bad legal advice/explanations in this thread. Go talk to a lawyer. It is a common insurance strategy to simply deny liability at first to see if you go away. You will probably not have to go to court- 99% of insurance claims are settled. You will need a lawyer. The $$$ involved is not at all too low to get a lawyer involved.

Go see a lawyer - the sooner the better. It shouldn't cost you a penny and you could recover your losses.
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