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Liability insurance for horses

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If you own horses, you already know they’re a significant financial investment: you need to feed them, stable them and care for them. To avoid costs related to lawsuits, you should also insure your horses. Having liability insurance for horses can protect you from financial losses.

Four Potential Scenarios

No matter how careful you are – and no matter how gentle your horse is – things can go wrong. Imagine the following scenarios:

  • You invite a friend over to go riding. Your friend assures you she’s an experienced rider, but even experienced riders can have bad days. She has trouble controlling the horse. It bolts and she falls off, injuring her head. The resulting brain damage may be permanent. Faced with massive medical bills and missed work, she files a lawsuit against you.
  • You take your horse to a show. While there, some rowdy audience members spook your horse. Before you can regain control of your horse, it runs over the judge and kicks a hole in the arena wall. Now you’re being sued for the injuries and property damage.
  • While you’re gone for the day, a child sneaks onto your property to pet your horse. The child goes behind the horse and is kicked, resulting in a serious injury. The child’s parents sue you for the medical costs.
  • You’re riding your horse on a rarely used rural road. A car drives too close to you and then honks, startling the horse and causing it to spook. The horse ends up damaging the vehicle. You believe the driver is at fault, but the driver denies having honked. Now the driver is threatening to sue you for damage to the car.

In these and in similar scenarios, having the right insurance coverage can make all the difference.

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Horses Can Cause Severe Injuries

Horses are large, powerful animals that can cause severe injuries to humans – even when they don’t intend to.

According to Ohio State University, 10-30 percent of all horse-related injuries are head injuries. In particular, injuries are common among riders: a survey of horse riders in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho found that 81 percent of riders had been injured at some point and 21 percent had been seriously injured – defined as either requiring surgery or hospitalization or leading to long-term disability.

However, you don’t need to ride a horse to be injured by one. For instance, horses have a powerful kick. Anyone in the path of a kick risks broken bones and other serious injuries. According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, horse kick injuries tend to be severe because they transfer a great deal of energy to a small area. These injuries are comparable to blunt stab wounds. Another danger is being trampled or stepped on by a horse.

Your Horse May Be an Attractive Nuisance

You might think you don’t need to worry about liability stemming from your horse because you don’t take your horse off your property, and you only invite people you trust onto your land. However, you could still have a personal liability problem due to your horse being an attractive nuisance.

According to Cornell Law School, an attractive nuisance is a dangerous condition on a landowner’s property that may attract children, posing a risk to their safety. In tort law, children who trespass may be treated the same as people who are invited onto the property. The attractive nuisance doctrine holds landowners responsible for exercising reasonable care to keep them safe.

A common example is a swimming pool. A child may see the pool and venture onto the property to go swimming. If the child drowns, the property owner may face a lawsuit for wrongful death and negligence – even if the property owner never invited the child onto his or her property.

Similarly, children who see a horse may be tempted to pet the animal. A child who does this is unlikely to know safe behavior around horses, meaning an injury is possible. Horse owners can take precautions against this risk by installing fences. However, since it may be impossible to completely eliminate the risk of injury, equine liability coverage is a smart idea.

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Property Damage Is Another Risk

You don’t just need to worry about injuries: horses can also cause property damage. Since they’re strong animals, property damage can be significant – as can the costs.

If your horse causes damage to someone’s car, stable or other building structure, you could be held liable for the cost to repair or replace the property. This is another reason to purchase horse owner liability insurance.

Homeowners’ Insurance Typically Excludes Horses

Since a standard homeowners’ insurance policy provides liability protection, you might think you’re covered for lawsuits related to your horse – but you’re probably not.

It’s true the liability insurance included in homeowners’ insurance typically covers lawsuits related to common pets, such as dogs – if your dog bites the neighbor or destroys someone’s property, you may be covered under your home insurance policy. However, many animals are excluded from coverage. Some dog breeds are often excluded, and your horse almost certainly is. This is why equine liability insurance is so important.

Equine Liability Insurance Provides Protection

You wouldn’t drive a car without liability insurance – and not just because liability insurance is a requirement under state law. You know a vehicle can cause severe injury and property damage. To protect yourself from lawsuits, you need liability insurance for your car. Owning a horse is similar.

While horses are usually gentle pets, they are nevertheless large animals capable of causing considerable damage to both people and property. Even if your horse is well-behaved, something could frighten your horse and lead to injury or property damage.

Lawsuits can be expensive. Even if the lawsuit only involves property damage, you’ll still face legal costs as well as the cost to repair or replace the property. Rising inflation and labor shortages mean repairs may cost more than they used to. If you’re facing a lawsuit involving bodily injury, the costs can be greater still. Medical bills in the U.S. can be jaw-dropping amounts, and someone who is seriously injured may need care for a long time. You may also need to pay for lost wages and for pain and suffering.

Securing Liability Insurance for Horses

If you’re a private horse owner, equine liability insurance provides important coverage for liability claims involving property damage or bodily injury caused by your horse. If a third party – i.e., someone other than you or your family – is injured or suffers property damage caused by your horse, liability insurance for horses can provide important protection.

If you operate a stable, breed horses or participate in other equine commercial activities, you may need additional coverage for commercial equine liability. Since coverage terms vary depending on the policy and since your needs may be unique, it’s important to review the policy with your insurance broker to know exactly what’s covered.

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

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