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Q: My 4×4 received panel damage after a horse on our livery yard fell into it. No one was injured, the horse was insured and my vehicle is covered by fully comprehensive insurance.

The equine insurers will not pay out because “strict liability does not impose” and no negligence can be shown — my insurance company wants to write-off my vehicle or fund a replacement.

The person who owns the horse claims that they have no money. As the “injured party”, I am out of pocket because of the small print in my policy.
LG, Worcestershire

Following a well-known test case, it was believed that owners would always be responsible for damage done by their horse; but this has turned out not to be the case.

H&H asked several insurance experts for their advice regarding this situation.

Guy Prest of KBIS British Equestrian Insurance says that since the car owner has a comprehensive policy, the correct procedure is for him to make a claim on his own motor policy.

“The insurer would then make a claim against the insurance cover of the third party [horse owner]. Even if the third party’s insurance accepted liability, the settlement would probably be the same,” said Guy.

“As to whether the horse owner is liable or not, there are two ways to establish liability — negligence and/or a breach of statutory duty. Strict liability can occur in certain circumstances in relation to horses, under the Animals Act, as a consequence of the Mirvahedy v Henley case.

“In this case, it would appear the horse owner has legal liability cover, but the insurer does not consider the horse owner is liable and is therefore denying the claim. If that is the case, the insurer has fulfilled its policy obligations.”

South Essex Insurance Brokers’ (SEIB) David Buckton agrees this is not a question of policy small print, but a point of law.

“I don’t have all the details, but this case would seem to be one of those genuine, blameless accidents, with no particular circumstances to bring the Animals Act in to play,” he said.

“It is understandable that a rider may feel sorry for a third party, particularly if that person is a friend who has suffered damage caused by the rider’s horse.

“The rider may feel for all sorts of reasons that they should compensate the injured party in some way, but unless there is a legal liability, they don’t have to.

“In simple terms, if the horse owner is not compelled legally to pay damages, there is nothing for the insurer to pay.

“There have been several court decisions following the test case that have helped to clarify the particular circumstance when a claim brought under the Animals Act will be successful,” David concluded.

Information

KBIS, tel: 01635 247474 www.kbis.co.uk

SEIB, tel: 01708 850000 www.seib.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (7 January, ’10)

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