Posted 09-Oct-2019 16:30:25
Category: Broadstone Equine
Private Horseowners’ Liability Insurance
If you own or rent a house, or own a car, you have liability insurance, right? If not, you should consider coverage if you want to help protect yourself if, for example, legal action is taken against you when a visitor slips down your front steps, or you take your eyes off the road for just a second and cause an accident.
Something you might not have thought about: What about damages caused by your horse?
You board your horse, and after riding are in the process of turning your horse back out into pasture, and some high winds and blowing leaves send him spinning, yanking the lead rope out of your hands and bolting across the field. In his panic he gallops across the road and is hit by a passing car. The occupants of the car are injured, and the car is damaged.
You’re in the warm-up ring at a competition and your usually unflappable mount gets spooked, taking you by surprise. You hit the ground, and he gallops off to stabling in search of his stall. In the process he knocks down and injures a spectator.
A friend has been begging you for months to let her take a spin on your horse (“I’ve been riding since I was a kid,” she says). Unfortunately, she’s not quite as experienced as she claims, and when your horse ambles off into a slow trot, she slips off, bouncing in the dirt.
In these types of situations, and many others, you could be pursued legally and possibly held responsible for bodily injury and/or property damage caused by your horse. Depending on the extent of injuries or damages, the dollar figures for compensation could be significant. And in today’s litigious society even if the situation was an unavoidable accident, or the injured party was partially or even totally at fault, if they pursue legal action at the very least you’ll be looking for an attorney to defend you. At worst, you’ll be looking at a settlement or judgment against you.
And if you think a friend, or someone who understands that it really was an accident, won’t pursue you for compensation, keep in mind that they may not have a choice. If they have health insurance and their insurance company finds out the nature of the incident, the insurance company could “subrogate,” which means that while they’ll pay the injured person’s medical bills, they will then pursue you for reimbursement.
Or, if like millions of people, the person who was injured doesn’t have any health insurance or has inadequate health insurance, they may feel that they have no choice but to try to recoup their expenses through you, especially once they talk to a personal injury attorney, or realize they may be facing bankruptcy as their medical bills pile up.
Let’s face it, our horses are an important part of our lives--a hobby/pastime/addiction into which we happily invest our valuable time and money. But owning and working with horses are also potentially dangerous activities. No matter how careful you are, and how well trained and bomb-proof your horse is, not every situation is in your control and as the cliché goes, “accidents happen.”
That said, insurance exists to help mitigate these risks. First, if you have a Homeowner’s or Farmowner’s policy, check with your insurance agent to see what type of liability coverage you might have under that policy that relates to your horse and/or your equestrian activities. Be very specific when you talk to the agent, because some policies may cover while your horse is on your property, but not anywhere else. Or it may not cover if you compete the horse because money can be won, which the insurance company could consider a “commercial” activity, no matter how much you try to convince them that at the end of the day, you’re certainly not walking away with a bulging wallet.
If you get an answer from your homeowners policy agent that you are covered by your current policy, at home and away, at a boarding facility or on the road at a competition, great, just make sure to get that assurance in writing.
If you find out that no coverage exists under your current policy, or if the coverage is not as comprehensive as you want, then you will want to consider purchasing Liability coverage designed specifically for horseowners, often referred to as Private Horseowner’s Liability (PHO) policy. The application process usually takes less than five minutes, and depending on the coverage limits, the number of horses you own (or lease), and the insurance company that you place your business with, the annual premium could be as low as $150.
This type of policy is meant to respond in the event your personally owned show/pleasure horse (or potentially a horse that you are leasing) injures a third party or damages their property, and you are considered negligent and are pursued legally for the damages. Some examples of who would not be considered a third party (in which case the policy would not respond): someone who is a family member; or someone who is contracted (this does not need to be a formal, written contract) for performing services that involve handling or caring for your horse, such as your vet, farrier, trainer, riding instructor (or these people’s employees), or staff at the boarding facility, etc. In addition, lease situations also get complicated. These are just a few examples. You would want to check with your agent to get more details regarding the specifics of coverage.
In addition, typically this policy is also not intended to cover you if a) you allow your horse to be used as a lesson horse as part of your or another instructor’s lesson program; or b) you are a professional horse person who teaches, trains, boards, buys/sells horses, etc. In those cases, and potentially others, you would want to consider a Commercial General Liability policy, and possibly a Care, Custody and Control coverage. The agents at Broadstone can help you determine what coverage options are available and appropriate for your situation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you keep your horse(s) on your own property, a PHO policy may not be an appropriate policy for you, since with some companies it is intended for horse owners who board their horses on someone else's property. You will want to talk to an agent to discuss the details.
**These blogs are for basic information purposes only, and do not constitute advice from Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency. Contact our office directly at 888-687-8555 or info@BroadstoneEquine.com to speak with an agent for complete and current information regarding all coverages.
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