Shark attacks: If you’re not with Jason Statham, an insurance policy may be the next best thing

August 28, 2023

If you are brave enough to have bought a ticket to Jason Statham’s latest action thriller, Meg 2: The Trench, then you might be familiar with what it would be like to take on a band of oversized, murderous sharks and other sea creatures in the pursuit of ocean research.

While hopefully you haven’t encountered a 50-ton, prehistoric shark—like that in Meg 2—while wading in the shallows of the Atlantic Ocean on a recent family vacation, it may be possible that you meet some of its smaller, more modern relatives as the summer wraps up.

The likelihood of a bite

Due to dramatic legislative and conservation efforts over several decades—the 70s, 80s and 90s—now 30 or so years later Americans are seeing the resurgence of shark populations in American coastal waters.[1] Environmentally, this is great. However, for Americans this increases fears of an attack when stepping into the water at the beach. If Jason Statham is not there to protect you, then what can you do? The answer: Get insurance!

While shark attack-specific insurance coverage seems to only have been recently introduced in geographically specific areas, such as Australia,[2] there are other insurance tools you can potentially use in pursuit of financial recovery in the event of a shark bite.

According to the International Shark Attack File—the world’s only scientifically documented, comprehensive database of all known shark attacks—from 2020-21, those most likely to experience a shark attack were either engaged in surface recreation activities such as surfing, water skiing, windsurfing, and boogie boarding or those engaged in activities like swimming or snorkeling.[3]

Insurance protections

If you are planning on going away on a beach vacation, especially if you plan to participate in any of the above-listed activities or go scuba diving or cage diving (which also are notable high-risk activities according to the ISAF),[4] you may want to consider purchasing a travel insurance package. Depending on the plan, it may cover medical bills in the case of any injuries related to a shark bite. However, some standard travel insurance plans may not include such coverage due to the inherent risk of injury unless you purchase additional adventure sports coverage.

As an added precaution, you always could buy life insurance in preparation for an event like this. However, in the rare and unfortunate chance that you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, and the insured was the victim of a shark attack who ultimately passed away, there may be additional considerations that impact whether an insurer will pay the death benefit.[5] The payout might depend on the answers to the following questions:

Was the insured participating in a high-risk activity at the time of the shark attack? In such cases, life insurance claims have been denied.  

Are you a professional scuba diver? You may need to check the policy to see if there are specific exclusions for scuba diving,[6] or, if the insured had added a hazardous sports exclusion rider that would impact payment of the death benefit.

Was the insured throwing chum into the waters they were swimming in to attract sharks to the area, or trying to pet a passing hammerhead (as an example)? Intentionally provoking or engaging in behavior that led to the animal attack also could jeopardize the payout of a life insurance policy.

Hopefully, if you do find yourself in such a predicament, you have health care coverage to aid in payment of medical bills. And if you really want to be careful, and you happen to have accident insurance coverage, you may want to check with your insurer about whether a shark attack would be considered a covered accident before getting into the water.  

All this aside, please remember that a Megalodon shark remains to be unseen, and the chances of being attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3.75 million.[7] For the most part, sharks and humans can peacefully coexist in coastal waters—no insurance policy or Jason Statham needed!

[1] Christina Maxouris. Americans are spotting more sharks in the water. Here’s why that’s a good thing. CNN, July 29, 2023.

[2] Surfer insurance against shark attacks an industry first. Insurance Business, May 4, 2016. 

[3] Victim activity during shark attacks. International Shark Attack File–Florida Museum (last visited Aug. 25, 2023).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mary Van Keuren. How will life insurance pay my beneficiaries? U.S. News, Aug. 21, 2023.

[6] Ana Reina and Adam Hardy. What Is a Death Benefit? Money, March 30, 2023.

[7] Kelly McLaughlin. The chances of getting bitten by a shark while you’re swimming at the beach are surprisingly low. Insider, May 26, 2023.

Danielle Caswell, Esq.
PIA Northeast | + posts

Danielle Caswell joined PIA Northeast as associate counsel in the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2023. She earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University and her law degree from Brooklyn Law School with a particular focus on intellectual property, information, and media law. Prior to joining PIA, Danielle was an associate at a law firm in New York City where she focused primarily on intellectual property and entertainment-related transactional and litigation matters.

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