Markel Minute – Things To Consider For An Equestrian Facility Owner/Manager

Monday, November 30, 2015
Posted by Geri Hollander

Geri Hollander, Claims Manager with Markel in the Primary Casualty Division for over 21 years.

Geri Hollander, Claims Manager with Markel in the Primary Casualty Division for over 21 years. Like many Markel employees, she has a passion for horses, is horse owner and a dressage rider, who trains with 4* event rider Lainey Ashker.

What is liability insurance and do I need it? Liability insurance is insurance designed to protect a policyholder against claims alleging that one’s negligence or inappropriate action resulted in bodily injury or property damage to another.

In this mini-series, we will offer some points to consider for

  • facility owners
  • trainers
  • boarders.

First up will be facilities owners/managers.

Do you have adequate limits of liability?
Injuries resulting from equestrian accidents can be quite severe. Consider the value of claims for multiple fractures, concussions and even paraplegia. Medical bills for current and future injuries, plus lost time from work can be significant. Depending upon the size and usage of your facility, we would suggest a liability limit no less than $1 million. Greater exposures may warrant higher limits or an excess/umbrella policy, offering greater protection.

If you rent your facility, does your lease require you to name the property owner as an additional insured on your policy?
Read your contract carefully. Most owners will require this and failure to do so could lead to an action for breach of contract.
Read your lease carefully and know what you are agreeing to.
Make sure  it specifies exactly what you are leasing. The property should be defined and along with it, any equipment that may be included. Know who is responsible for maintenance of common areas, fences, systems, equipment, etc.

Do you have equine liability signs posted?
In order to be protected by equine liability statutes, proper signs must be posted that are visible to everyone. Make sure the proper statutes are referenced.

Do you have proper waivers?
Waivers should clearly indicate what you are asking a person to do. Risks should be clearly spelled out in large enough font so people understand exactly what they are signing. All visitors should sign and date the waiver. Waivers should be part of your boarding contract as well. If you have minor children riding, have the parents sign a waiver on their behalf. While in most states, a parent cannot sign away the child’s rights, they certainly can waive their claim for medical bills.

Do you have a solid boarding agreement?
Every boarder should sign and date the agreement and it should specify the time period for which it is in effect. Alternatively, a new agreement should be executed annually. Clearly spell out the rules and consistently enforce them. Consider whether dogs are allowed on the property and whether you have a no smoking policy.

Do you allow trainers to teach from your facility?
Make sure they have their own liability policy. Consider requiring them to name you/your facility on their policy as an additional insured. As for a certificate of insurance to verify they have the policy. Consider whether you need a contract/written agreement with them covering what the scope of their work is.

Do you need care, custody and control coverage?
Regular general liability policies generally do not cover personal property in your care, custody and control. Horses are considered “property” so consider the value of the horses you board when you talk of liability limits. Are you responsible for boarders’ property? Did you spell this out in your boarding agreement?

Boarders should have their own insurance, but could you be liable for damage to their property? What is the value of the tack in your tack room? Do you have security measures in place? If not, make your boarders aware of that and again, spell it out in your boarding contract. You should also have in your boarders' file their insurance information and contact.

Keep good records!
Boarding contracts should be signed and dated. Retain them for several years. Statutes usually don’t run for several years, so lawsuits can be brought years away, particularly when minors are involved. Maintenance records should also be retained. If an accident occurs, prepare an incident report immediately while facts are still fresh in your mind. Make sure the reports contain facts only and not opinions about what happened or what caused the accident. If the accident involves equipment, preserve that equipment until you speak with your insurance company or legal counsel. Preserve all videos if you have them.

Report all incidents to your insurance company as soon as they happen.
Your insurer’s job is to protect you. That can’t be done unless you make them aware of an incident. The sooner the investigation begins the better. It is important for us to interview those involved, take photos, protect evidence, etc. This allows us to better defend you if a claim is made or lawsuit is filed.

It is worth the time and effort to have a discussion with your insurance agent to be certain you are fully protected. Horses Daily's Mary Phelps is a Markel Equine, Farm and Liability Specialist . Working with her CSR Tracey Scharf they are available to help guide you through this process. mary@horsesdaily.com, tracey@horsesdaily.com, 1-800-572-3286. many of the needed forms and information can be found on our website equineinsurancedaily.com.

Geri Hollander is a Claims Manager with Markel in the Primary Casualty Division. She has been with Markel  for 21 years and in the claims industry for 41 years. Geri has managed claims in many lines but focused on the Property, Liability and Equine lines of business. She is a horse owner and a dressage rider, who trains with 4* event rider Lainey Ashker.  Geri’s  partner is Excalibur (Timmy) a 15 year old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding that she has owned and ridden for the past 9  years.