Q: I hired a small transport company to take my horse 13 miles to the vet for X-rays for a recurring lameness. For some reason, my mare travelled extremely badly and the fully licensed company is pursuing me for damages to its lorry. I have now received a bill for a substantial sum of money. Do I have to pay up and am I covered by my own insurance? Surely the transport company’s insurance policy should cover the costs?
TO find an answer to this situation, H&H asked Jeremy Lawton from Shearwater Insurance for his advice.
“It all depends on the transport company’s insurance company and the policy,” he says.
“A reputable company should have a comprehensive insurance policy to protect both parties against this kind of problem. Within this policy there should be cover that protects you as a client, and the transporter as a company when they are transporting other people’s horses.
“In terms of the client, it would be advisable to make sure their horse is fully insured when in transport, and it is vital that this policy includes third-party public liability cover.
“If a friend is transporting your horse, you would be advised to instruct a solicitor to draw up a written contract to protect both parties should an incident occur.
“It is more than likely that this transport company is trying to avoid claiming against its own insurance, so whether you should pay up depends on whether you signed a contract or agreed to particular terms and conditions that suggest any damage caused is your responsibility,” explains Jeremy.
“The best advice is to ensure you have adequate protection for your horse, as well as insisting on seeing a copy of the terms and conditions to make sure you are aware of your responsibility as the horse owner.”
Michelle Rothwell, who runs her own horse transport business, Hoofmove, concurs: “We have very detailed terms and conditions which customers are bound by when they contract us to transport their horses. They outline in detail what would be the case under many varied circumstances, including damage done to the vehicle by the horse.
“Naturally, there is fair wear and tear during normal transport but that is different from extreme cases of damage which are, fortunately, quite rare.
“Hoofmove is insured for these instances but there is a significant excess fee to pay for each claim,” she explains.
“Therefore in our terms and conditions we do outline that the owner is responsible for damage done to the vehicle by their horse. As far as I am aware it is not uncommon for transporters to ask horse owners to pay for damage caused to their vehicle by horses.”
Shearwater Insurance Tel: 08700 767666 www.shearwater-insurance.co.uk
Hoofmove Tel: 0845 062 0088 www.hoofmove.co.uk
This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (1 November, ’07)