When Sam was about to leave for a weekend horse show, he discovered his horse trailer had a broken taillight. Realizing the problem could not be repaired in time, he asked his neighbor Jo to borrow her trailer. She agreed.
Within minutes, Sam hitched his truck to Jo’s trailer, unaware that her trailer’s tongue ball socket and his truck’s hitch ball were not compatible — Jo‘s trailer required a hitch with a wider ball. Later, while Sam drove down the highway, the trailer broke away from his truck, injuring his horses, breaking a fence, injuring motorists and destroying Jo’s trailer.
Lending your trailer may seem to be a simple and friendly accommodation, but accidents can occur. The risk of liability is always present. Insurance issues add to the complexity. Never assume everyone’s insurance policies protect them against the worst-case scenario.
Insurance for trailering
Insurance coverages for hauling can include:
Liability coverage. This coverage is important because it protects the driver (subject to policy terms) against claims from injured people who seek payment for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Collision coverage. This coverage is intended to offer protection against damages the truck or trailer may sustain from a collision or other type of accident.
Comprehensive coverage. This covers damages to the vehicle, or possibly the trailer, from something other than a collision, such as a fire, windstorm, hailstorm, vandalism or theft.
Other auto-related coverages can include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, medical payments coverage, and even coverage for roadside assistance for damaged trailers and towing to a service facility.
Coverages exist to protect property owners from damage to or loss of personal property, such as horse equipment, in the trailer. Keep in mind that all policies have requirements, exclusions, conditions and limits, and coverages can differ from company to company. Professional haulers require additional coverage.
Damage or loss to borrowed trailer
Jo and Sam are probably covered by personal automobile policies and homeowner’s liability insurance policies. When they lend or borrow a horse trailer, however, these coverages may not be enough. Automobile insurance policies often have exclusions that prevent coverage for accidents related to someone else’s trailer.
One auto policy’s exclusion states: “This coverage does not apply to: ... Damage to property owned or being transported by an insured person.” If an accident occurs, this exclusion could deny Sam coverage for damage to Jo’s trailer and its contents.
Sam’s policy might also contain an exclusion for “damage to property rented to, or in the charge of, an insured person.” Policies might exclude losses or damage to a “trailer” that is not specifically listed as a scheduled item of property on a policy.
Damage to horse in trailer
What if the floor boards in Jo’s trailer were rotting and broken while Sam was hauling, injuring his horses? If Sam wants Jo to pay for his horse’s injuries and veterinary bills, would Jo’s insurance cover his claim? Maybe not.
Policy exclusions similar to those addressed above might prevent Jo’s insurer from covering claims involving property damage arising from a trailer that Jo loaned out to someone else.
Damages caused by towing borrowed trailer
If Jo’s trailer separated from Sam’s truck and collided with cars on the road, Sam might expect his own automobile insurance policy to protect him from claims of the other motorists. It might not.
Some policies exclude certain benefits for bodily injury or property damage “arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of motor vehicles or all other motorized land conveyances, including trailers, owned or operated by or rented or loaned to an insured."
Make no assumptions
Whether you are lending or borrowing a horse trailer, make no assumptions about your insurance, especially because trailering can generate very substantial losses and liabilities. Plan ahead and stay safe.
This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable insurance agent or attorney.
Fershtman is an equine law attorney and writes the Equine Law Blog for FosterSwift of Foster, Smith, Collins and Smith PC Attorneys.