Tractor Drawn Wagon and Trolley Rides for Liability

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If you provide Tractor Drawn Wagon or Trolley Rides to the public as a service or concession, you have a unique business requiring special liability insurance protection that few companies will provide.  It is important to know that a Homeowner’s Policy does not insure commercial ventures, so if you get paid or compensated for providing rides they will not be insured under that policy.  Farm Owners Policies may insure liability for the use of a tractor and wagon, but not if you are receiving compensation for the service.  Some farm insurance companies may be willing to insure a few rides that are given at your premises, but not if of a more commercial nature and off-premises.  Check with your farm insurance company to be certain you understand your coverage limitations.

Tractor Drawn Rides may be done on public country roads, field roads, at festival and fair ground facilities, or on city streets or corporate parking lots.  Wagon and People Mover Trolley Vehicles have capacity to carry up to 14 people, some less and some more, and are pulled by an Ag tractor operated by an experienced driver.  The purpose of the ride is primarily recreational with hay rides as an example, but may be for the purpose of property touring or transport of passengers from one location to another.  Operators may contract with a fair, festival, city or park, resort or other business to provide rides.  But they may provide rides only at or adjacent to their farm premises.  The high season for rides is in fall when operated to coincide with farm, orchard and vineyard harvests, and the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Pre-Christmas holidays.  Operators may be paid by the hour, day, or by the ride or passenger.

Because of the potential for several people to be injured at one time, risk reduction standards are strict though reasonable under Ark Agency’s program.  Underwriters will evaluate vehicle condition, age and design.  Seating must be fixed for security. Even hay bale seating must be rigid and secure. Vehicles must have fixed side panels so people cannot easily fall or jump off.  Tractor condition is another concern. Brake systems must be checked and fully functional. Tractors should be on a regular maintenance schedule.  Vehicles must have slow moving vehicle sign display and lights if used on public roadways.  Also considered is driver age, training and experience, not just with tractor driving, but also in working with the general public.  Other points of review:  The safety of routes on public streets; Passenger control and monitoring procedures; Alcoholic beverages may not be consumed on rides; Obviously intoxicated people may not be allowed on board.

As a tractor drawn ride operator, 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 your property. 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 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 your Tractor Drawn Rides.

Commercial General Liability Insurance protects you from financial loss should a customer, 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 are Tractor Drawn Rides? Moderate to Moderately High

If well managed, the tractor drawn ride risk ranks moderate to moderately high.  Premium rates reflect the level of exposure.  The greatest concern is the potential for several people to be injured in a collision or the over-turn of a wagon or trolley.  Another risk concern is that rides are often given in high traffic areas and / or on public streets where pedestrians of all ages or other vehicles may come in contact with or effect the management of a ride.  The risk is moderated by sound management, design suitability and maintenance of vehicles and tractors, and the adherence to common sense risk reduction practices.

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 Three most common claim incidents for Tractor Drawn Rides are:

  1. A passenger is injured when falling from or jumping off a wagon or trolley. Alcohol use is sometimes a factor.
  2. The tractor or wagon sideswipes or collides with an auto or other object, causing property damage and perhaps bodily injury as well to passengers on the wagon and in the auto.
  3. There is a malfunction of tractor steering, brakes, or the tractor or wagon hitch, causing an uncontrollable situation to occur.  Multiple serious injuries are possible.
  4. A child or adult is allowed to sit and ride on the fender of the tractor and falls off when the tractor stops or starts.

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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