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Liability Insurance for Horses

Mane Points

What are the chances that your horse will bite, bump, kick or throw a visitor? How likely is your horse to get loose at home and cause an accident or other damage? What are the odds of having a traffic accident when you're pulling a trailer?

Your answers to these questions may be "slim," "not likely," and "about 100 to one." But you're probably not willing to bet that your horse will never be the cause of injury to anyone.

Liability horse insurance can be important. How much insurance coverage does a horse owner need?

People who own horses naturally have an additional liability exposure, says Bill Safreed, a commercial underwriting manager and farm insurance expert at Nationwide Insurance.

"Whenever big animals are around people, accidents can happen, and they can be serious," Safreed warns.

"It may not be a common occurrence, but it's something you have to anticipate."

Basic liability coverage in some farm- and homeowner insurance policies may limit your protection to $100,000, which might seem sufficient. But as million-dollar jury awards grow in the United States more people are being enticed to take legal action for even minor injuries. You never know when someone with an inclination toward legal action might cross paths with your horse.

Safreed's advice is to carry higher limits of liability coverage.

"Basic limits should be increased to reflect the assets you need to protect," he advises. Boosting your liability coverage to $500,000 or more is relatively inexpensive, he adds, but worth the extra security. "When people ask me how much liability insurance they should carry, I respond by asking how much they can afford to lose."

While many states do have some "limited liability" laws to protect horse owners, in many cases you can be liable for damage done by your horse, even if you are at a boarding stable or at a horse show. Even people who board their horses are liable for damage a horse does, unless the stable owner can be proved negligent, such as by not fixing a fence or letting a known biter near the public.

Often you will be asked to sign a waiver at shows or other horse-related events. According to legal experts, the waivers generally hold up in court unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as a stable putting a novice rider on a known problem horse.

Most insurance companies recommend an umbrella liability policy, which is the most economical way to raise your overall liability protection. Umbrellas are available in increments of $1 million, and you can usually get $1 million of coverage for $150 to $200 per year, depending on where you live.

When considering a personal umbrella policy, also consider placing your car, homeowner's or farmowner's policy with the same company. This helps to coordinate coverages and can be less expensive. Most insurers offer discounts to policyholders with more than one coverage.

Before adding an umbrella coverage, you have to carry certain liability limits, such as $500,000 on your farmowner policy or at least $300,000 on your homeowner policy and at least $300,000 per person per accident in bodily injury liability.

Umbrella coverage will support legal costs you may incur, and because of an umbrella policy's higher limits, you're less likely to suffer loss of personal assets.

©Southern States Cooperative, Inc., Reprinted from Mane Points magazine, with permission of Southern States Cooperative, Inc.