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June 2004 Vol. 30, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Readers Report on Equipment Insurance

is your homeowner’s or renter’s policy good enough?

from the June, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the last issue of Undercurrent, we explained changes in the equipment insurance offered by DAN and DEPP and also pointed out how homeowners policies in many cases cover equipment, so the policies may be redundant.

While scores of Undercurrent subscribers have told us how happy they are with their policies, a few have had problems. These are a few cases to illustrate what gets covered -- and what may not.

Easy Reimbursement

When subscriber Roger Gross put in a claim for his videocam housing, DAN "responded exactly the way you would want," he reported. "No stall, no unnecessary paperwork, no suspicions. Paid for replacement of the camera and repair of the housing. Quick payoff with a smile."

Andy Malbin (Tampa, FL) submitted repair estimates for two flooded cameras and reports that DAN's policy paid each claim, minus the $250 deductible. "Quick turnaround, no complaints," is how he describes the service.

Ron Johnson was on the Belize Aggressor. "As I was setting up my Ikelite housing for my Nikon Coolpix 5000, I was observing another passenger's gear and not paying as much attention to the Oring seat on the camera housing and one strobe as I should have. I jumped into the water, and the divemaster handed me my camera system. Five feet down, I saw the housing filling with water. When we returned I called DAN, and they referred me to the carrier, Fireman's Fund. They required an affidavit detailing the loss and a repair estimate," he says. "They acknowledged receipt and forwarded a check within six days."

After Don Neff's digital camera flooded in Costa Rica, he faxed the repair ticket to DAN's Fireman's Fund claims agent to prove it was unrepairable and included a receipt for a new camera body. His check arrived within a week. "The $214 cost for the insurance saved thousands of $$$ for me," he writes.

Gabriel Peñagaricano (San Juan, PR) has filed two claims with DEPP, one for a shattered prescription mask and one for a stolen computer, and says, "on both occasions the service has been excellent." Although the DEPP policy provides replacements rather than reimbursement, they accommodated Peñagaricano when he purchased a replacement mask and reimbursed him for his out-ofpocket expense. Peñagaricano also notes that DEPP's website allows insureds to add or delete covered items. But it's a good idea to get confirmation. Nils Jacobsen (Lighthouse Pt., Florida) ran into a snag when he tried to add coverage on his Nikonos V via e-mail. The DEPP staff failed to put the additional amount into their database. But when he put in a claim for the flooded camera, he was able to produce his original email, and that was enough to resolve the matter.

For proof of ownership, she sent them a photo
of herself underwater with all the missing
gear and received a check for $2,500.

David Nixon contacted DEPP in February about his flooded digital camera. He was told to ship the camera and housing to a third party where the housing was pressure- tested and the camera was promptly replaced with a newer model. "One telephone call and shipping to the repair site," was the extent of claim process for Nixon, who adds, "this was probably the easiest claim I have ever experienced." However, Nixon reports, "I did notice in DEPP's fine print that there is a trigger point of two claims within 12 months that could result in reduced or canceled coverage." By the way, David Nixon notes that DEPP insurance can be reduced or cancelled after two claims within 12 months, so be careful about what you submit when.

A Catch-22 in Bonaire

But Paul Costa (Aurora, CO) discovered a Catch-22 in the DEPP coverage when he reported the theft of gear from his car in Bonaire. DEPP denied his claim because the car was left unlocked, although he had been instructed to keep it unlocked by the rental agent. And Barb Seamon (Strongsville, OH) found that dealing with DEPP "was such a hassle it was almost not worth it." During a trip to Micronesia, she had lost a dive light and the close-up lens for her camera. DEPP required a letter from her live-aboard confirming the loss. They wouldn't accept a letter from the dive shop which organized the trip and chartered the entire boat. Eventually she received a replacement lens, but no light. With no explanation from DEPP, she says, "I assumed they used the loss of the light as the 'deductible'."

Will Homeowners Insurance Cover You?

Undercurrent subscriber Bob Cottle, a State Farm agent in Cicero, IL, points out that State Farm's homeowners' policy covers personal property such as scuba gear "owned or used while anywhere in the world." This coverage is included in basic homeowners' premiums and can be added to renters' and condo unit owners' policies. Another subscriber told Undercurrent that State Farm had replaced flooded video cameras twice -- even though the cause of flooding was "operator error" -- with no increase in premium from either loss.

Mike Gutterman relies on a special State Farm policy just for his camera equipment. "They have a serial number of all my Nikonos bodies, lenses, and strobes," he notes, and covered repairs on flooded cameras twice. "They paid full amount, no deductible, immediately with no questions asked," says Mike. His policy costs about $70 per year for up to $3,000 of coverage.

Maureen Christensen (Portland, OR) and her husband cover $18,000 worth of underwater photo and video gear with a rider on their Allstate homeowners' policy. When she flooded her camcorder in the Caymans, she recalls, "Allstate came through beautifully, actually giving me enough to buy two new camcorders (because the price had come down so much) and a new housing."

When GEICO requested proof that Anita Seifert actually owned the equipment she had reported as stolen in New York City, she sent them a photo of herself underwater with all the missing gear and received a check for $2,500. USAA asked Mel Coudos (Pacifica, CA) if they could try to find a replacement for his lost video light. But after a 30 second conversation, they agreed it couldn't be replaced and sent a check within a week, never questioning how the light was lost.

On the other hand, Farmers Insurance fought Richard Martin's claim for stolen equipment "every step of the way." After six months of supplying Farmers with receipts, pictures, and serial numbers, as well as sworn statements from divemasters, hotel owners, and boat owners, Farmers "finally relented and agreed to replace the gear." At first they offered to reimburse him for the depreciated value of the original items, even though his coverage was supposedly for full replacement value. It wasn't until he threatened to call in attorneys and the state commissioner's office that Martin got a check.

Bob Cottle explains that State Farm's full replacement procedure is to depreciate lost items and pay that actual cash value ASAP. When the items are eventually replaced (no later than two years after the claim) the policy holder is reimbursed for any additional expense. Cottle further points out that typical homeowners' insurance limits, deductibles, and exclusions will apply.

Even with homeowners' coverage, you may want to consider insuring your dive gear separately. After making two small claims against his homeowner's policy within three years, Steve Cohen was advised by his agent that another claim "could give my carrier an excuse to drop me." Since then he took out DAN's equipment insurance and has had one claim which was handled "courteously and professionally" in less than three weeks. "I'm not sorry that I changed," says Cohen.

While there are lots of options out there, it seems there's no perfect insurance policy. Each diver needs to wade through the all the terms and conditions to find the most suitable coverage.

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