Finders keepers it ain’t

The term ‘finders keepers’ is about as judicially substantive as the nursery rhymes, songs and writings from centuries ago where the term first appeared. Nautilus Insurance

It’s an entertaining phrase but doesn’t stack up in a courtroom. Nautilus Insurance

The last time we had floods that washed all manner of items including boats and pontoons into Moreton Bay and beyond, a number of social media warriors asked whether they were entitled to keep things they had ‘found’, including one person who thought an aluminium dinghy might now be his.

Without contemplating for even a moment about how he might feel if the positions were reversed – if he had lost the dinghy rather than found it – he used terms such as “finders keepers” and “salvage” in an effort to justify his claim.

Perhaps using social media to ask legal questions of unqualified people is a good enough indication of the person’s intellectual capacity in the first place.

However, as an overview, you can’t automatically keep something because you ‘found it’ and that’s before we even enter into considering what ‘found’ might mean.

As a responsible citizen, you have a moral and a legal obligation to seek to find the original owner of anything you are claiming that you have now ‘found’.

You can’t just hitch it up and take it home. Nautilus Insurance

Similarly, if you are on the water and find a boat drifting free, the first thing before rushing in to recover it, is to consider the capabilities of yourself, your crew and your vessel to undertake the rescue plan you are considering.

Apart from the safety factor, you could also be jeopardising your boat insurance policy if your vessel and motor are not designed to undertake such a recovery.

Logically, many marine rescue groups have the training, the equipment and the vessels built specifically for undertaking such rescues and recoveries.

Back to your ‘find’ and ownership claim – in many cases, formally contacting police and reporting the find may be your most logical first step.

They have access to resources that can increase the odds of finding the rightful owner and facilitating the return of the asset.

In a related vein, that pontoon or boat you ‘find’ might not technically be the legal property of the registered owner.

A finance company, another person, a company, the insurer of the vessel – any number of entities could potentially have a lien or legal right over that property before the ‘finder’.

And it’s not only boats and pontoons – kayaks, canoes, tenders, expensive safety equipment and a myriad of other items might be doing laps of our waterways for some time.

Our responsibility as boaties is to seek to ensure they are returned to their rightful owners and to minimise the likelihood of them causing damage to other vessels in the meantime.

Contacting the authorities therefore is your first step. Nautilus Insurance

In terms of salvage law, it’s a complicated process and it varies from region to region, as do the laws.

Even back in the swashbuckling pirate days around Key West on the southern extremity of America and the Bahamas, there were strict rules.

Rescuing the crew of stricken vessels was in many cases a mandatory precursor to being allowed to undertake the rescue of the goods it was carrying, and in turn secure a right to ownership of a proportion of them.

So, if you want to head down this line, you would perhaps be best advised to consult a maritime lawyer, because you can rest assured that if there is an item of value missing and it’s in your possession, then someone is going to campaign the option of getting it back.

In terms of your own vessel affected by floods and rainfall events, what is covered and what may not be covered in terms of losses will be interpreted in accord with the terms of insurance as defined in your insurance policy’s Product Disclosure Statement.

Similarly, any special conditions and excesses should always be explained clearly in your insurance policy’s PDS.

If you need further information, you can contact Nautilus Marine Insurance on 1300 780 533 for any boat insurance requirements.

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