Throughout my career people inside and outside the insurance industry would quip “Insurance companies have two purposes – one is to collect premiums and the other is to deny claims!” Well, those are two functions of insurance companies at the appropriate times, but there are two other functions which are even more important to us. One is that insurance companies do pay claims when the claim is a covered risk (i.e., a loss which is covered by the insurance policy) which can be a lifesaver for you. The other important function is that they offer lots and lots of help for their insured individuals and businesses (they are called “insureds” in the legal/insurance world) which, when these insureds take advantage of this help, can prevent the loss from ever occurring in the first place. Remember that you and the insurance company are on the same team in one critical respect – you both have a vested interest in preventing your loss from ever occurring!
Whether we are talking general liability insurance, automobile insurance, instructor liability insurance, equine mortality insurance (and on and on), the vast majority of insurance companies (especially those companies with lots of claims experience in the type of insurance you need) provide a good amount of “risk management” or “loss prevention” materials for you to use. Those materials are excellent resources, typically, for information on how you can reduce the likelihood that you will ever suffer a loss.
How does this concept relate to the equine world? Well, by way of example, a company who writes liability insurance for a stable with a riding school will likely send out a risk management team or person to visit to the farm in person. What that person usually does is observe the farm to see if there exist any dangerous conditions (based upon the claims experience of that company and others in the industry) and analyze the potential for common loss scenarios at that facility. For example, if equine liability insurance companies have seen a steep rise in student injuries taking place inside horse stalls, they might suggest, or even require, the stable owner to install cross ties in each school horse stall and have the school implement a rule that no student is permitted in the stall to groom or tack his or her horse unless they cross tie the horse immediately upon entering the stall. Some schools even go so far as to have staff do the cross tying and the student is not allowed in the stall until the horse is cross tied. Or perhaps staff cross ties the more difficult horses and the students are permitted to cross tie the more compliant horses. It is a pretty simple concept – horses are big and heavy and cross tying them reduces the likelihood someone in the stall will be stepped on, kicked, bit and so on. It could still happen, but statistics kept and studied by equine liability insurance companies demonstrate that when horses are required to be cross tied in the stall, fewer ground injuries to the riders occur. It makes sense if you think about it.
The problem is that most of us do not think about loss prevention when we are at the barn teaching or working or tacking up. All riders have basic self-preservation skills or they would not be riding horses, but there is always more we can do to increase our attentiveness and work to be more observant of potential risks to humans, other animals and property. We all know it is not smart to make quick movements that might startle a horse and to wear tough shoes in case our feet get stepped on, but we can all learn more about safety and loss prevention. And it is absolutely FREE from most of our insurance companies. And the insurance companies want nothing more than for us to avail ourselves of all the information which they can provide to us. Because in the end, we do not want the loss to occur, we do not want to have to file an insurance claim and the insurance company certainly does not want to have to administer our claim or pay us any money for a loss. So our interests are very much aligned with the insurance company in a important way.
Call your insurance agent or carrier and ask about risk management or loss prevention information they may have available. If they have none, consider comparing their coverage and pricing with insurance companies who do offer that type of information. You will probably fare better in the event of a claim with a company who has enough experience and business acumen to make these sorts of materials available to its insured instructors, stables, riders, etc. And if you cannot find affordable insurance coverage with a company who offers the loss prevention materials, hop on the internet and google “risk management riding schools” or “loss prevention riding instructors” or something similar and see what you find. There are insurance companies who may not write your coverage personally yet will offer useful materials free of charge online that you can read and will find useful.
Stay safe and remember that insurance companies are not necessarily a hassle and that the best relationship to have with an insurance company is one of teammates where you are in partnership to protect you and your business and prevent you (and them, of course) from having a loss!
If you get into a bind and need assistance or just want to ask some questions to avoid getting in a bind, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I often will answer a short and simple question for free if you are in North Carolina and I have time and know the answer off the top of my head! Or often know good equine lawyers in other states if you need a referral. If you don’t hear back from me quickly, it’s not because I don’t love you or think you have a great question or because I don’t know the answer (usually), I’m probably just really busy and haven’t had a chance to email back. And you can always buy the first hour of my time for $250 (my usual hourly rate for 2016 is $350). Lots of folks will save up all their equine (and some corporate or real estate) legal questions and short documents and sit with me for an hour and we will do as much as we can during that hour and it’s only $250. You can check out my Twitter feed @nchorselawyer as well as our firm’s Equine Law Group web page at http://www.rl-law.com/equine if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog and the Twitter feed referenced above are also (in one way or another, I guess) an advertisement for legal services.