Should You Reduce or Cancel Your Liability Insurance?
When finances are tight, people sometimes consider canceling or reducing their liability insurance coverage. Watch out – this could be mistake.
What is Liability Insurance?
Liability insurance as to equine activities is designed to protect people from certain unintentional situations where someone is injured either on your property, from an act that occurs around your horse (such as a bite or kick), when your horse gets loose, or from acts that occur when someone rides your horse.
Policies exist that protect people who stable horses on their own property, horse owners who board their horses off premises, and equine industry professionals such as riding instructors and boarding stables. Examples of liability insurance policies include: homeowner’s insurance, commercial general liability insurance, farmowner’s insurance, equine professional liability insurance, individual horse owner’s liability insurance, and several others.
If someone brings a claim against you, and if your liability insurance policy covers that claim, the insurer will defend the matter at its expense and/or pay settlements or judgments (up to limits set forth in the policy). The company’s rights and obligations vary and are explained within the policy.
Risks of Reducing or Eliminating Coverage
Those who cancel or reduce their liability insurance do so at great risk. For example:
- Legal Expenses. If a claim or suit is brought against you, but you have no insurance, can you pay the legal fee for your defense? Defense costs could potentially be tens of thousands of dollars, and there is never a guarantee that you will win.
- Liability. What if your state law makes you automatically liable for an equine-related incident? In Michigan, for example, Michigan’s Animal Running at Large Act imposes strict liability on horse owners or keepers for certain property damage caused by a horse “running at large.” If your horse becomes loose and damages a large truck, are you ready to pay the repair costs? Your liability insurance might take care of this, sparing you the expense.
Over the years, people have raised several reasons to justify canceling or reducing their insurance. As explained below, these reasons are largely based on myths.
- “My state’s equine liability act makes insurance unnecessary.” As of June 2011, 46 states (all but California, Maryland, Nevada, and New York) have some form of an equine activity liability act. A careful review of the laws will reveal that none was designed to permanently end all liability. People can, and do, file lawsuits. And even if an equine statute justifies dismissal of a case, who will pay for your legal defense? Liability insurance remains important.
- “I have a liability release so I need no insurance.” It is true that most states have enforced waivers or releases of liability when properly drafted, presented, and signed. However, a well-drafted release is never a substitute for insurance. People who sign these documents sometimes sue. And even if the state has enforced releases in the past, there is never a guarantee that your document will succeed. Also, releases can be powerless against certain types of legal claims.
- “Nobody will sue me if I’m not insured.” Some lawyers will not sue uninsured people. Some will. When an uninsured person loses his case, and an enforceable judgment issued, the winning party might seek to collect the judgment by seizing and selling off the losing party’s property.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.
Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:
National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants.
U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability.
IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”
National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics.
Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”
2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”
November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”
Honors & Recognitions
Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:
"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee
"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council
"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership
"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council
"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association
"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association
What our Equine Law Services can Provide
Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.
Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).
Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals, businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.
Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.
Representing and advising insurers on coverage and policy language as well as litigation;
Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.
Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.
Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners.
THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER
Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.
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