By Chris Peterie
Someone is going to be shot by a hunter somewhere in the United States this year.
“Will the liability insurance on my homeowner’s policy cover me if I accidentally shoot someone while hunting? What about some other kind of accident on my hunting lease? And do I need any special coverage on my hunting jeep and 4-wheeler?”
Have those questions crossed your mind?
It’s as certain as the hunting seasons: When the season begins, hunters ask us about liability coverage for hunting accidents. These are great questions, and we have the answers.
One other thing is as certain as the questions our customers ask about hunting: Someone is going to be shot by a hunter somewhere in the United States this year. Each injury or death is a tragic event for those involved – including the errant shooter – and we imagine most of these incidents resulted in legal action of one kind or another to compensate the injured and deceased persons’ families.
The good news for the shooter is that liability insurance on the homeowners policy will defend a lawsuit and pay legal damages under any circumstances except an intentional shooting. Whether you hunt for free on a family farm, pay a daily fee to a farmer or rancher for the privilege, or lease acreage for the season or year-round, your homeowner’s policy provides liability coverage for hunting activities.
If you lease land on a regular basis for hunting, other kinds of accidents on your lease may not be covered by your homeowner’s policy. Such accidents could involve trips and falls on the land, fire or explosion in tents or cabins, or drowning in lakes or other waterways. It shouldn’t take much imagination to think about all the ways your hunting companions and guests might injure themselves on your lease. And again, where an accident involves serious bodily injury or death, a lawsuit may not be far behind.
Your homeowner’s policy is primarily designed to cover accidents at your home. Coverage applies at other locations specified in the policy, but the policy specifically excludes accidents arising out of a location you own, lease, or rent, with a few exceptions not important in the context of a hunting lease.
Tell your agent if you lease land for hunting. He can add the appropriate coverage to your policy for a small additional premium, generally $25 or less. Charging other hunters a fee to hunt on your lease is another matter entirely. Your homeowner’s policy generally doesn’t cover activities for which you are compensated. You need special liability coverage for such activities.
Employees on the Hunting Lease
Caretakers, cooks, and other paid helpers at the hunting lease present additional challenges for the liability coverage on your homeowner’s policy. Your policy covers injury to “residence employees” whose duties are related to the maintenance or use of your home or who perform similar duties elsewhere. Whether this coverage applies to employees at a hunting lease is a question with different answers, depending on who you ask as well as the circumstances of the particular accident. It’s better to be safe than sorry. We would almost always recommend that you purchase a worker’s compensation policy for these employees. Tell your agent if you hire or take any paid help to the hunting lease, so he or she can discuss appropriate coverage with you.
Pickups, Jeeps, 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, and old junkers may be fun to drive around the hunting lease, but such vehicles – whether licensed or unlicensed – generally need special liability coverage.
Your personal auto policy covers vehicles you own or lease only when they are scheduled on your policy. Your homeowner’s policy may cover some types of recreational vehicles, but generally only while these vehicles are at your home.
Tell your agent if you own or lease any motorized vehicles that aren’t listed on your personal auto policy, so he or she can recommend the appropriate coverage.
Hunting Clubs, Groups, Partnerships, etc.
Another question arises when a group of hunters form a “club” or other formal or informal association to purchase or lease land for hunting purposes, or to charge others a fee for hunting. This may be a legal entity totally separate from the individual members.
Your homeowner’s policy covers you and your family but it does not cover an entity or association of which you might be a member. It also doesn’t cover activities for which you charge a fee to others. Tell your agent if you belong to such a group, so the appropriate coverage can be recommended.
Take a look at the limit of liability on your homeowner’s policy. Read your policy and go over it with your agent. The typical limit may not be sufficient to cover a hunting accident or any accident involving serious bodily injury or death. An “umbrella” liability policy will provide higher limits. Ask your agent about umbrella liability and consider purchasing a sufficient limit to protect your assets and future earnings.
Chris Peterie is a Principal with Swingle Collins& Associates in Dallas, Texas, which specializes in Affluent family insurance through Chubb, ACE, AIG (Chartis), & Safeco, chosen Best Insurance Agent in Dallas, and currently serves on the ACE Private Risk Services National Agency Council. Reach Chris at [email protected].