BoatUS Reputation: Settlement Disappointing for Live-Aboard Sailor

If I was clever with a graphics program, I would change the logo, substituting “Boaters’ Premiums” for “Boating.”

The final installment of Courtney Kirchoff’s narrative with BoatUS is published, and I invite you to read it here.

I am confident that BoatUS believes they’ve discharged their obligation towards Courtney Kirchoff. They wrote her a check for what they consider “fair value” of her vessel/home.  What they failed to do is compensate her for the real costs associated with acquiring a new home/vessel.  No, that was not their obligation – they were only on the hook for the value of the vessel, regardless of claims demonstrating that real costs to return her to status quo were significantly higher.

Why do they do this?  Isn’t it better business to “do the right thing” rather than only that which is required?  Of course it is.  But BoatUS is a savvy corporation.  They know that boaters will soon forget this incident.  Owners looking for a deal on insurance will continue to ask for quotes.  BoatUS also has an eye on their corporate bottom line, believing that Courtney’s damages are more tolerable than returning a quarterly report of slightly less profitability.  Perhaps their position is more accurately expressed this way:  BoatUS believes they would suffer unacceptable financial damage if they paid the honest costs of Courtney’s claims.  However, it is perfectly acceptable with BoatUS if Courtney suffers financial damages and uncompensated costs.

BoatUS does this because they can.  Practically speaking, Courtney has run out of leverage.  She’s blogged, hired an attorney, rallied boaters by the thousands – and to be fair, received token additional compensation as a result.  But that’s all she’s got.  The company can afford to refuse her honest compensation because they know she’s out of leverage.  She won’t litigate – it’s too costly.  And that’s okay with BoatUS.  They are not interested in doing the right thing by compensating the real costs.

Courtney was ashore when her boat was struck repeatedly and damaged by a negligent boater.  When the claim was made, BoatUS stepped in and. . . made sure they protected their own interests.  They were not willing to compensate a fair amount for the honest loss Courtney incurred.  Now she needs a new home, and it’s going to cost a good bit more than her BoatUS settlement to get one.

Next time you go shopping for boat insurance, remember this.

  1. I have stayed out of it until now but I must confess I had Boat US at the time of Hurricane Andrew and they performed with flying colors. They were prompt and cut me a check immediately to fix my Watkins 27. No I did not have the same problems as Courtney but I don’t think any insurance company would have done better. Don’t ask me to relate the horror stories I heard about All State and the boats they covered at the time. I guess what I want to say is don’t tar a company because of one incident. By the way did she have insurance? In the state where she lives do they have no fault insurance? If she did have insurance could she have gone to her company?

    • Thanks for your reply, Mike. Your comment is important to building a complete picture of BoatUS. I do not believe BoatUS is completely evil, and I am happy to hear that you received good service. However, I do believe they – and most other insurance companies – are guided by the wrong value. If their business is covering loss and accepting risk, then that’s what they should do. They need to stop looking at their bottom line, and compensate real loss. If they did that every time, they would never have to advertise again.

      I am unclear if BoatUS was Courtney’s insurer or the other boater’s, and I haven’t checked to see if Washington is a no-fault state.

      Hurricane Andrew and the four storms that passed over Florida in 2005 were on my mind as I wrote this: State Farm and All State were profligate claims avoiders – they never complained when they were accepting premiums all those years, but they were certainly not willing to pay when the time came. Absolutely immoral.

      I’m afraid Courtney isn’t too impressed with BoatUS’s record of great service to others. And while their record is genuinely a good thing, I expect that the only way they can impress Courtney is to pay out a fair claim.

      Thanks again for your comment and sharing your experience.

  2. Jan Sopoci said:

    I wonder if she has any chance for additional recompense directly from the other party, via small claims court? Every little bit helps…

  3. Good question. I can’t imagine what the answer is.

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