Legal Questions and Answers for the Horse Community

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Rachel Kosmal McCart
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Car vs. Horse: Who Pays?

Q: A car crashed through our pasture fence and broke my horse's leg in three places and he had to be put down. The highway patrol came out and took a report. The driver does have insurance. Do you think the drivers insurance covers the loss of my horse, the fence, the vet bill and other costs relate? What should I do? This was not our property, pasture was rented.

A: I'm terribly sorry for your loss.

In answer to your question, typically, when you drive a car and cause damage to someone else's property as a result, you are responsible for making the property owner whole. For example, if you crashed through the front window of someone's house and right over their brand new stereo, youd be responsible for damage to the yard, the front window and the stereo. Horses may be family to us, but legally speaking, they are property.

You have a claim against the driver of the car for the value of your horse as well as the expenses you incurred in putting him down. The pasture owner has a claim against the driver for the broken fence and any other damage done to the pasture.

Note that the claims are against the driver, not the insurance company. In this case, the insurance is, simply speaking, a contract between the driver and the insurance company where the insurance company agrees to pay certain types of claims on the driver's behalf. If the insurance company denies coverage, the driver still has the responsibility to remedy the damage you suffered as a result of his or her actions, and you can take him or her to court to recover your damages.

That being said, as a first step, it is usually most practical to work with the insurance company directly, because the driver usually depends upon the insurance company to handle the claim. If you know who the driver is, you should contact him or her and take down his insurance information: carrier, policy number, phone number and the named insured (if other than the driver). Ask the driver if there is a particular person handling the claim. If you do not know who the driver is, you should be able to obtain a copy of the police report containing this information, although you may have to go into the police station and show proof of your identity to obtain the police report.

I also recommend contacting your own homeowners' insurance company and enlisting its help in pursuing the driver's insurance company. Horses are typically NOT covered under homeowners' insurance policies; however, your insurance company may be able to assist you in obtaining results from the driver's insurance company. It is certainly worth the call to ask, as having another insurance company involved can often help cut through red tape.

About the Author: Rachel Kosmal McCart, the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, is a lifelong horsewoman and experienced lawyer. Equine Legal Solutions, the Legal Counsel with Horse Sense TM , offers a full range of legal services for the horse community, including dispute resolution, customized contracts and risk management assessment.
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