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Insurance costs set to soar

Public liability insurance premiums look set to rocket following a Court of Appeal decision that owners are liable

An Appeal Court ruling has opened the way for a massive increase in the cost of claims against horse owners. The Court of Appeal has ruled that owners are under a strict liability if their horses escape from fields and cause accidents or damage when panicked, even if their fields are secure.

Equestrianloss adjuster David Miles of the Gates Adjusting Partnership said: “The new interpretation of the Animals Act 1971 had serious consequences for insurers. It would now seem to be extremely difficult to defend cases involving the escape of animals. Furthermore, it may well be argued that the keeper will be liable even when the horse is under proper control, but is then frightened and causes damage.”

Kbis Equine insurance has had to put up its public liability aspect of horse insurance premiums.

Guy Prest, Kbis director, said: “Initially, the prices asked by our underwriters went up by 400%. We have since managed to negotiate a better agreement, but this still means a 100% increase. Now, full public liability cover, which includes at home and at competitions, is £30, whereas at the beginning of the year it was £15.”

South Essex Insurance Brokers’ commercial manager Suzy Titcombe tells a similar story: “It’s not only this case but also increasedclaims in general. It means the big insurance firms are pulling out of the equine market because it’s such a small high-risk area. We now have to go to Lloyds, which is the only underwriter prepared to take on equine risks.”

Petplan, which underwrites its own policies, is waiting to make a decision on premiums until after the appeal to the House of Lords, which is expected to be heard in December.

The Court of Appeal ruling was in the case of Mirvahedy v Henley. It involved three horses which escaped from a field, breaking through electric and barbed wire fences.

Subsequently, one of the horses was in collision with a car, seriously injuring the driver, Hussain Mirvahedy, and a second vehicle was in collision with another of the horses, injuring a passenger. Both horses were killed.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (3 October), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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