Inland marine is one of those insurance terms that creates considerable confusion and consternation among the majority of the population not working in the insurance industry.
Consumer: “Inland marine? Huh? What, you mean like insurance for boats on rivers and lakes?”
Insurance Agent: “Well, no. I’m talking about property that floats around like portable equipment and tools and such.”
Consumer: “So only property that floats in the water of a lake or river?”
Insurance Agent: “No, it doesn’t have to literally float in water. In fact, it has nothing to do with water.”
Consumer: “So ‘marine’ has nothing to do with water?”
Insurance Agent: “Not in this case, because we’re talking about inland marine insurance here.”
Consumer: “You insurance people are strange.”
The inland marine terminology harkens back to the early days of insurance when most of the insurance protection was for seagoing ships and cargo shipments. Marine insurance. Then people became interested in insuring property moving about on dry land, so naturally the insurance professionals of the day took the common insurance term of the day – marine – and added “inland” in front of it. Voila.
Inland marine insurance is actually a very common commercial insurance coverage that provides insurance protection for wide and varied risks including the likes of contractors equipment, builders risk, transit, and electronic data processing equipment. What many insurance consumers fail to realize is that inland marine insurance has useful application for their personal risks. Case in point – my college student daughter’s Macbook computer.
A typical homeowners insurance policy may have some coverage for electronic equipment such as computers, but any coverage that exists is limited in terms of covered causes of loss, dollar amounts covered (i.e., sub-limits), and is subject to deductibles. This typical coverage does not suit a family of multiple notebook computers, which are portable and subject to a variety of hazards including accidental breakage or mysterious disappearance. The solution? Have your homeowners insurance agent add these high value specific items of property to an inland marine coverage endorsement on the policy. There will be an additional premium charge, but it can be well worth it for the added coverage. With each computer (or smartphone or tablet) specifically scheduled (that’s another insurance term – I could just say “listed”) on the insurance policy, each now has its own insurance limit, broader coverage, and often no deductible.
My daughter called me last weekend with her tale of woe. In the icy and snowy state of Wyoming (Go UW Cowboys!), she fell on the sidewalk outside her apartment building with her Macbook in her arms. Despite her best efforts to protect the Macbook from the fall, it suffered a cracked screen and some unknown internal damage that now causes it to spontaneously power itself off at random intervals. I contacted my homeowners insurance agent, gave her the serial number of the broken Macbook to verify that it was indeed one of the computers scheduled on my policy, and explained the incident. She filed the claim and as of this morning the insurance company is issuing a check to cover a replacement of the Macbook. No muss, no fuss. No Macbooks floating on an inland river or lake. Just insurance coverage properly matched to the loss exposures of one family with a fleet of Macbooks, half of which are in the hands of clumsy college-age daughters.