Horse Drawn Wagon, Carriage & Trolley Rides for Liability

carriage and wagon ride insurance

If you provide Horse Drawn Vehicle Ride Services [HDV Rides] to the public, you have a liability exposure that is not easily and well-insured  by many insurance companies.  If you are paid or compensated in some way for these services, you have a commercial venture that is not insured under a Homeowner’s or Farm Owner’s policy.  Horse Drawn Vehicle Ride Services range from providing wedding rides for the bride and groom on their wedding day, to giving rides to up to 16 people at a time on a wagon or trolley at large events, like fairs and festivals, and to the general public on city streets and in parks.  Hay rides are popular in the fall and sleigh and sled rides are often done in ski resort areas, and at Thanksgiving and Christmas events.

The greatest liability concern is the potential for serious bodily injury to happen to multiple passengers and bystanders, in combination with property damage to one or more autos and other property should you experience a runaway, collision, or overturn.  Rural operators carrying few passengers in less populated areas have less exposure than city operators in highly populated areas, and the rates vary accordingly because of this.

As an operator, you worry that you may be sued or otherwise have a claim made against you for bodily injury or property damage by a passenger, guest, or someone else who comes in contact with your horses and vehicles.  If sued, you will need to hire a lawyer to defend you and you wonder how you would go about doing this.  If found negligent or responsible, you would likely have to pay for either a court-ordered or agreed-upon settlement to the injured party.  Fortunately, much concern can be relieved when you buy a Commercial General Liability Policy [GL] to insure Horse Drawn Vehicle Ride activities.

Commercial General Liability Insurance protects you from financial loss should a passenger, guest, or someone else become injured [Bodily Injury] or their property is damaged [Property Damage] in relation to your business, and they make a claim or file a law suit against you for damages.

How Risky are Horse Drawn Vehicle Ride Services? High Risk.

Horse activities are reasonably safe compared to many other activities people participate in.  Accidents do happen even with well trained horses.  And some horse-human accidents are serious.  Even with the best of intentions and management practices anyone can have a claim made against them and be sued.  But, horse vehicle incidents are high risk in nature.  Most horse related accidents take place in familiar, constricted areas and locations with few people around, and involve only one or two people. HDV Rides, on the other hand, often operate in crowded, open, unfamiliar environments where there is more stimulation to scare a horse.  There is greater potential for more people and personal property to be injured and damaged because of passenger load and the fact that there are more people around in open areas. These factors are what categorizes the HDV Ride exposure as High Risk.

You Must Plan Ahead – A Five Pronged Strategy

No one wants someone to be injured on or in relation to their property or business operations. No one plans to have an accident that results in a liability claim they are responsible for. Yet, you still must plan against and for an accident, and there is a five-pronged strategy you should follow:

  1. Accident Avoidance is the first strategy. This is best accomplished by implementing a thoughtful operational risk reduction plan that provides a reasonably safe physical environment and procedures for horses and people. All staff members should be trained in those practices. [NAHA Risk Reduction Programs can assist you.]
  2. Emergency Procedure Planning is the second strategy, and it can be important to minimize the severity of an accident and provide proper care at the time.
  3. The third strategy is to use well-worded Warning and Release of Liability Agreements. [NAHA can provide contract models for you to evaluate and use.] Have them completed and signed completely and correctly by all participants. Keep the signed forms on file and safely stored for several years as suggested by an attorney in your state.
  4. The fourth strategy is to carefully review and comply with your state’s Equine Activities Immunities Law, if your state has one. All states have some form of the law except California, New York, Maryland, and Nevada. Some require special wording in warning and release agreements, and some require posting of specific warning signs on your property.
  5. Purchase an Equine Liability Insurance Policy that adequately covers and lists all of your specific activities in the policy. The policy should be placed with an A rated domestic insurance company having a good reputation for service, knowledge of equine risk, and for handling equine liability claims. Be wary of low pricing, as generally a low price means something important is missing in the policy or the Insurer may not understand how to price equine exposure. This important fifth strategy can protect you and your business from financial loss should an accident happen. It helps fulfill the sense of responsibility you have about serving the public, but it provides more than peace of mind. In event of a covered claim, the Insurer provides legal defense and pays for defense costs. It pays for claims costs and settlements made against you up to the limits of your policy. Just as important is the fact that knowledgeable professionals will handle and manage the details of your claim in a way that looks after your claim and litigation interests, so that you can continue functioning with the least amount of “hassle.”

Equine Activities Immunities Laws have been passed in 46 states. While these laws may help you avoid liability, they will not usually thwart a determined injured party from pursuing a claim or law suit. This is because to receive immunity under the law, the activity sponsor must have performed in a specific way according to what the law requires. And often immunity is determined through some type of expensive legal proceeding that can result in a large, often uncontrolled expense to an uninsured stable owner. You still need to be properly insured for liability.

General Liability Coverage & Limits

The General Liability Policy includes specified maximum limits or amounts of liability insurance for:

Medical Expense: Pays for low cost medical expense with no questions asked about your liability or responsibility in the matter.

Legal Defense Costs: Today court costs and hiring of a lawyer can quickly mount to $50,000 or more, an expense you do not want to come out of your pocket if you are sued and have to hire a lawyer.  If sued in relation to this activity,       the policy provides legal defense whether the case has merit or not.

Settlement or Claim Costs: For bodily injury and property damages for which you are responsible and held negligent and liable.

The five most common claim incidents for horse drawn vehicle ride operators are:

1. A horse and vehicle come too close to a car on the street and cause damage to it.

2. A passenger injures a leg, ankle or hip while stepping into or out of the vehicle.

3. Passengers are injured and their personal items are lost or damaged when falling off or jumping from a vehicle.

4. Autos, buildings, lawns, or other property are damaged when a horse pulling a vehicle becomes frightened and runs away uncontrolled.

5. A horse bites, kicks, or steps on a bystander who gets too close to the horse.

Where to Begin

Your insurance needs are unique, therefore we believe in person to person service. Call or e-mail an Ark Agency Representative for an estimated premium, policy and company details, and qualification requirements. We work with several insurance companies and rates and coverage conditions vary. We will help you determine which application to use and advise on how to put insurance in force.

*General information is provided on this insurance topic. Acting on our coverage recommendations does not guarantee coverage if you have a loss or claim.


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