Insure Your Guides & Outfitters Services for Liability

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If you provide seasonal or year-round Guide & Outfitter Services, you have a fairly high liability exposure that is not easily insured by many insurance companies.  Guides & Outfitter operations may provide a number of services to their guests and clients, and these services usually take place away from your premises on private and public lands and parks.

Those services include:

1. Guided day-long and overnight rides on horses or mules for purposes of a scenic tour, or for fishing or hunting in remote areas.

2. Provision of horses or mules and guide services to escort and deliver guests of another company from one point to another; as from a staging area to a remote ranch or camp.

3. Pack Horse or Pack Animal Services whereby operators carry supplies and gear into remote areas to a delivery point, and pack out refuse and other items on a contract basis.   Guides & Outfitters may provide riding animals, pack animals and tack, camping gear, fishing equipment, some related clothing, and food for guests while traveling.  Perhaps the greatest concern for Guides & Outfitters is the potential for an accident to happen that causes injury to a guest rider or bystander. You are concerned for your financial protection and your responsibilities toward those you serve.

Advertising and promotion at trade shows and travel fairs, in magazines and newspapers, through local flyers and on the internet is an exposure of moderate concern that is usually insured under a GL Policy.  Having employees require worker compensation insurance under a separate policy of that type. Worker Compensation insurance is not part of a GL Policy.  Some Operators may have host or other liquor liability exposure for providing wine or beer to their guests during social times.  While host liquor is insured under the GL policy, Liquor Liability is not and requires additional coverage.  Note:  Ark Agency does not insure unguided animal rides.

You worry that you may be sued or otherwise have a claim made against you for bodily injury or property damage by a customer, guest or someone else who comes in contact with you or the property that is part of your commercial horse operation.  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 Guide & Outfitter activities.  Commercial General Liability Insurance protects you from financial loss should a guest, visitor, or a trespasser become injured [Bodily Injury] or their property is damaged [Property Damage] in relation to your operations, and they make a claim or file a law suit against you for damages.

How Risky is Guide & Outfitter Operations? High.

These operations usually provide supervised and free-time, rugged out-of-doors wilderness activities for guests for longer than an hour or two, and often overnight.  Guests may include children that may be difficult to supervise at all times.  Locations may be remote.  These factors combine to rank such operations in a High Risk category for incident or injury to happen.  Horse activities are reasonably safe compared to many other activities people participate in.  Yet, horse-human activities do carry inherent risks.  Accidents do happen when people at different stages of capability attempt to touch, handle, train, ride, drive and control large animals that are unpredictable even when well trained.  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.

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 four most common claim incidents for Guides & Outfitters Services:

1. A guest becomes injured while riding a horse or mule either from falling off or jumping off and bad weather can contribute to the cause.

2. Non-owned supplies are damaged or lost while being transported.

3. A bystander is injured on the trail when being passed by a pack train.

4. Animals can get loose and cause damage to property.

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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