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Scuba diving carries inherent and unique risk—no matter how skilled or experienced you are at diving. To protect against pricey medical bills and other costs, it’s a good idea to secure divers insurance before hitting the water.
Here’s what to know about finding and purchasing decent scuba diving coverage.
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Why Get Dive Insurance?
Nobody is immune to the risks of diving. According to the Divers Alert Network (DAN) Annual Diving Report, the majority of diving incidents occur in shallow waters no deeper than 35 feet and the majority of diving deaths occur among experienced divers who’ve been certified for 16 to 20 years. Even the most meticulous and experienced divers can experience dangerous equipment failure or other mishaps that can have severe consequences. In any case, solid insurance is vital.
Medical treatment, medical evacuation and other expenses for divers who experience incidents while diving can be expensive—sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Having insurance for diving is a way to protect yourself from these sky-high costs.
Travel insurance can cover medical expenses and medical evacuation costs, but policies often exclude dangerous activities such as scuba diving. That’s why it’s often best to lock in separate coverage.
What Does Dive Insurance Cover?
Here’s what to expect from a good scuba diving insurance policy.
Coverage for Medical Bills
The most common expense covered by dive insurance is emergency medical bills. Medical emergencies associated with diving remain rare, but treatment tends to be specialized and costly.
Barotrauma, for example, is an injury caused by the change in pressure that divers experience while ascending or descending without appropriate safety measures. It most commonly affects the ears and sinuses and can lead to bleeding or rupturing. Pulmonary barotrauma describes this condition when it affects the lungs. This can sometimes lead to life-threatening lung overinflation injuries.
Perhaps the most famous dive-related medical risk is decompression illness (DCI) or decompression sickness (DCS). Colloquially known as “the bends,” this condition also stems from pressure changes. Nitrogen in the bloodstream and tissue in a pressurized environment expands if you ascend too rapidly, causing tissue damage as nitrogen bubbles expand.
While getting the bends can usually be avoided through carefully controlled ascents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “DCI can occur even in divers who have carefully followed the standard decompression tables and the principles of ‘safe’ diving. Serious permanent injury or death may result.” Flying in an airplane too soon after diving can also result in DCI.
Other diving-related medical risks dive insurance may cover include drowning, nitrogen narcosis, oxygen toxicity, immersion induced pulmonary edema and hazardous marine life encounters.
The exact benefits of your scuba diving insurance will depend on the insurance provider and the benefits package you purchase. With this in mind, keep an eye out for coverage for:
- Search and rescue coverage
- Extra transportation and accommodation
- Travel delay
- Lost diving equipment
Another element that varies according to coverage is the location or depth of the dive covered. Diving in some countries may not be covered and some types or depths of dives may not be covered. Make sure that your insurance policy matches your specific travel and diving plans.
Related: Best Travel Insurance Plans of 2021
Top Scuba Diving Insurance Options
A nonprofit organization, Divers Alert Network (DAN) has been supporting underwater safety for 40 years. Recognized by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) as “a leading dive safety organization and provider of dive accident coverage,” the outfit boasts impressive research and educational programming.
To enroll in DAN Accident Insurance, you first need to purchase a membership. An Individual Membership is $40 per year and a Family Membership is available for $60 per year. Once you’re a member, you can choose your level of insurance coverage: Master ($42/year), Preferred ($77/year) or Guardian ($118/year). These prices reflect the differences in benefits and deductibles for each tier. Prices may vary slightly by state.
Travel and liability insurances are also available through DAN but commercial diving is not covered.
DiveAssure is a dive-specific coverage option dedicated to safety, medical and travel dive preparedness. Like DAN, DiveAssure requires membership, but the membership fee is included in the price when you purchase an insurance package.
DiveAssure offers two policy package options: Gold and Platinum. Both include annual coverage options and no depth limit, but the Platinum package offers higher benefits. The Gold plan, on the other hand, offers annual or short-term coverage, making it a great choice for occasional divers.
The Gold plan costs around $99 and the Platinum plan is about $130. DiveAssure also offers Dive&Travel and Dive&Travel Plus packages, which cover non-diving related travel in addition to diving. With Dive&Travel coverage, the Plus option will get you increased benefits for problems such as lost diving equipment, lost baggage and travel delay. Both plans include coverage for Covid-19 quarantine expenses during a trip.
DiveAssure is also set apart by it’s unique “Liveaboard Rider” coverage, which provides travel insurance benefits related to liveaboard trips that wouldn’t be covered by a typical travel insurance policy.
World Nomads offers travel insurance that doesn’t exclude scuba diving and many other extreme or hazardous sports. They also have safety advice, downloadable planning guides and a worldwide Q&A community forum.
The World Nomads Standard Plan includes coverage for eligible medical problems, personal belongings, trip cancellation and certain activities, including diving. The Explorer Plan offers everything in the standard plan but with increased benefits and wider coverage options including commercial, cave diving and dive instructor coverage.
World Nomads is more suited to short-term coverage and does not extend policies for more than 180 days. Price quotes will vary depending on your trip details.
World Nomads coverage is well-suited for infrequent divers. Plans may include coverage if you contract Covid during your trip, such as coverage for medical expenses, medical evacuation and trip interruption.
Taking the Plunge
Always read over policy details carefully to determine which coverage is the right fit for your trip. Pay special attention to exclusions so that you’re not caught by surprise if you have to make a claim.
When you do drop beneath the surface, the right scuba diving insurance can keep your finances afloat no matter what happens.
Chauncey Crail’s work covering film, art, travel, personal finance, health, automotive, aviation, home improvement, small business and other subjects has been published by a variety of media outlets, including Forbes Advisor, Investopedia, Rolling Stone and Robb Report, among other publications.