If you live in a state with an equine-activity liability law and you think it is going to keep you from getting sued, think again!
The law may be the law, but lawyers get rich initiating and defending law suits. All kinds of law suits. Frivolous law suits.
You may be totally innocent of any wrong doing, so might your horse. Your boarding stable may be the safest in the country, or your training or riding instruction flawless.
It doesn't matter. Even after it has been declared you did everything correctly, or that your horse was not at fault, your defense costs could be in the thousands of dollars. It can cost you plenty to win a groundless law suit.
Get liability insurance!
I'm a positive kind of guy. I like to focus on success, not disaster. So I don't like to have to buy something which will pay off only if everything goes wrong. And what I really don't like is paying a company for something I'm going to do everything possible to avoid needing.
Yeah, I hate the idea, but get liability insurance.
Under Arizona law, "an equine activity sponsor or equine professional is not liable for an injury to or death of a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities." Reads like it was written by a lawyer, doesn't it? It probably was, which means it is easily attacked by another lawyer. You may note that it does not say there is "zero-liability". Even if it did, it probably wouldn't matter, because no matter how clear the law, the challenges are constant.
So the point is, you can get sued. If you do, you might as well have your insurance company's lawyers fighting to keep the company's money rather than paying a personal lawyer to fight to keep your money. (Chances are if you have a personal lawyer, he's going to charge you much more than insurance premiums just to make notes in preparation to defend you.)
About 40 states have equine-activity liability laws. If you are doing business in one of those states, premiums for general commercial equine liability insurance ought to be lower, but they probably aren't. Ask questions, and get quotes from several companies. Keep in mind, an insurance company is only as good as its service and payoffs. Insurance companies are rated, so go with one which has earned an "A".
You may think you have mortality insurance and if your horse dies you'll be compensated. Read your policy again!
Most mortality policies have a clause which requires "immediate" notice of an insured horse's injury, lameness or illness. Failure to provide such notice can negate your insurance.
At a jumping show, one of the horses landed in a bad spot and shattered his right fetlock joint. Before he could be euthanized, approval had to be obtained from the insurance company. It was a Sunday, the company's offices were closed. The horse's owner didn't have her agent's number or an emergency number.
While frantic efforts were made to contact the insurance company, the horse was tranquilized and given pain reduction drugs. Finally, to keep the horse from further suffering, he was put down.
That situation was bad enough. Even worse is the fact some policies require that a specific person or representative of the company must be notified. You can't just call your local agent. Fail to notify the correct person and your insurance is negated.
Since the insurance company had not been notified before the horse was euthanized, collecting on the mortality policy was difficult. The insurance company, of course, said all the information was in the policy and it was the owner's responsibility to keep the emergency number at all times.
In some instances you may have to threaten to sue your insurance company just to collect on a policy you have been paying for year after year.
Now isn't it comforting to know you have the law on your side, and you are covered by insurance?