Horse Escapes and
Causes Highway Collisions"
Perhaps this headline makes you squeamish because you wonder how the horse fared against the vehicles. But what about the occupants of those cars? Were they injured or killed? Who's to blame? In most cases the person at fault is the owner of the horse or pony that made its way onto the road and caused the accidents.
"Riders Lose $1,000's in Barn Theft"
"Tragic Fire Claims Lives of 40 Horses"
"Child Sustains Life-Threatening Injury When Kicked by Pony"
These are all headlines that make horseowners cringe. While we all (hopefully) take the necessary precautions to ensure that one of these scenarios doesn't happen to us, one should maintain the mindset of "never say never" because in today's society anything can and, if Murphy's Law holds true, will happen.
Are you absolutely positive that your insurance policy will hold up and pay out should you be sued? Do you know where in your policy it specifically covers your horses should you keep them at home? Are you wondering how you can be better protected and what it will cost you? Then read on while we discuss some of the different insurance policies, what they cover, who should purchase them and how much they cost.
The Purpose of Insurance
We've all heard about people trying to make money off their (or others) insurance company, but legally insurance is not designed to make money although people do try.
It's important to know that there are two kinds of insurance-property and liability. Property insurance protects you in case something happens to the structures (houses, barns, etc.). You are then compensated by the insurance company when damage due to fire, wind, earthquake, or another disaster occurs. Pure liability protects you when you or your company is legally responsible for anything which you or your employees caused, and you are sued and can legally be held liable.
What Kind of Insurance Do You Need?
Personal Horse Owner's Policy
And of course, don't forget that even at home, safely behind proper fencing and latched gates, your horse is still a liability due to "attractive nuisance" laws. An attractive nuisance is a potentially harmful object or condition of the land that has the ability to attract children. Swimming pools, tractors, and in some cases horses qualify as attractive nuisances. While we can all sympathize with children that love horses, it is unacceptable for them to enter your barn, fields or other property to "pet the pony" without your permission and/or supervision. The personal horse owner's policy will protect you against potential lawsuits in case a child trespasses and is injured.
While you may be thinking, "Whew, I board my horse at a facility so I don't need to worry," stop right there! While your boarding facility is (or should be) properly covered (and we will discuss those types of insurance later on in the article) you should still consider the personal horse owner's policy. Why? Well, let's run through this scenario. Bosco, your frisky Thoroughbred, enjoys his paddock by the road. He also enjoys kicking up his heels and has been known on occasion to knock a board down and escape the property. One day he knocks down that top board and before it's fixed, being a talented jumper, he sails over the now shorter fence. When it's realized that he is missing a search party ensues and finds him parading across the neighbor's newly landscaped yard. While some may accept your offer of helping to re-seed the lawn or replace the damaged plants, others may not be so kind. You and the barn could be held liable since the horse was a "known offender."
So how much will this personal horse owner policy cost you? A few quotes we received ranged from $150-$250 for the year for up to five horses. That means that for as little as $12.50 per month you could be insured for up to $300,000 per occurrence with an aggregate of $600,000. Of course the more you pay, the more you are covered with up to 1 million over 2 million. Just to clarify, an aggregate is the total amount for the full year. For example, if you had the 1 million over 2 policy, one claim could be made for 1 million dollars and the aggregate would provide an additional million dollars in coverage for that year should an additional claim arise. The maximum amount to be paid for any one occurance would not be more than 1 million.
Calling All Professionals
The first scenario is the person who owns the farm also owns the horse business (boarding facility, riding stable, etc.). To ensure proper coverage, a farm policy package which includes insurance on all structures including the dwelling, barns, indoor arenas, etc., and liability protection for themselves personally and as a commercial business which would include the aforementioned activities would be most appropriate. It is also important for them to have a care, custody and control policy. This protects them in the case that negligence leads to the death or injury of one or more boarded horses. That covers them not only at the home property listed under their farm policy but also if they should be hauling the boarded horses to an event away from the farm. Care, custody and control is important for any barn to have. Remember accidents and mistakes can happen. Someone new starts working at the barn and turns your precious (and expensive) Saddlebred mare out in the paddock along with another mare that is known for being ornery and aggressive. A fight ensues and your mare is kicked in the shoulder, resulting in an emergency trip to the nearest equine clinic and months of rehabilitation. If the farm doesn't have a care, custody and control policy you could wind up responsible for footing the pricey bill.
The great aspect of care, custody and control is that it can be purchased separately, which is ideal for trainers that lease a barn or indoor and don't own the property. While the property owners should have the appropriate property coverage the trainer will be unable to insure the property since they don't own it. This policy leaves them protected in case a mishap occurs due to negligence. The care, custody and control policy is priced according to the choices that you have in selecting your limits of the policy. For example, if you value ten boarded horses at $5,000 each the maximum amount the client will be reimbursed for one horse is $5,000. The insurance company may also place an aggregate amount, which is the maximum amount the company will pay in case of a full loss. It's important to note that money will only be awarded if the trainer or stable was negligent.
Barns that have high dollar horses will in some cases request that the client keep a mortality and/or major medical policy on their horses.
Independent trainers and instructors can also purchase their own insurance policy to protect them. This is primarily for people that do not own their own farm and who either teach/train at a farm who has a farm package and/or they teach clients at the client's facility. Some farms that have a farm package can add an instructor to their policy. The problem that can arise with this is that it only covers the instructor/trainer while they are at the farm they are covered under.
It should be mentioned that there are some companies that offer a mono-line commercial liability policy for individuals that rent a barn but don't own the property. Be sure to call around and inquire to see if you can find something of this nature.
Above and Beyond
Purchasing a Policy
We all know that accidents can happen any time, any place. That's why they are a called accidents-they were unintentional. What's not an accident is not having the proper coverage to back you up.
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