by Roger Van Praet, FUW Insurance Services Ltd Compliance Director
Public liability insurance is a must-have for any farm. It will make sure you’re covered if a member of the public is injured on your farm or if you are responsible for damage to another person’s property.
The importance of Public Liability insurance
When thinking about members of the public on your property, diversifications like farm shops, campsites or farm gate sales spring to mind. But even if you don’t have any of these extra income streams, members of the public might visit your farm for other reasons. For example, are you covered if the postman or your vet injures themselves on your property?
You’ll also need to be covered if your livestock cause injury to an individual or damage to property even if they haven’t escaped. The high cost claims, though rare, come not from the death or injury to the animal but injury to members of the public or damage to their property.
Public Liability insurance can cover you for:
• Accidental injury to others
• Accidental loss or accidental damage to someone else’s property
Things to think about
• Typically, a standard farm insurance policy will cover you for up to £5 million in respect of each separate incident during the period of insurance. However, although large liability losses are fortunately rare, recent settlements can exceed £5m and consequently FUW Insurance Services recommend higher levels cover at £10m which is always available on request.
• Even if a member of public is on your property without permission, you could still be liable.
• Public liability insurance doesn’t cover you if something happens to an employee (even workers who are just helping out temporarily). You’ll need Employers’ Liability insurance for this under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.
• You could be liable for an incident that occurs away from your property. For example, if a member of the public is injured as a result of mud on the roads from your vehicles or even a vehicle used by one of your contractors.
Example showing the importance of Public Liability insurance
One of our customers needed to call on their public liability cover when several cattle escaped from a field and ended up on a busy dual carriageway.
This resulted in a collision of several cars, leading to destruction of vehicles as well as physical and psychological injuries to the vehicle occupants involved. The incident resulted in a claim potential of over £110,000.
Do your cows need liability insurance?
There are many fields with unrestricted access, as public or private rights of way, and often cattle can be seen grazing nearby. Whilst passers-by can usually walk past a herd of cows without any problem, cattle can be unpredictable and many wouldn’t know how to react if the herd began to stampede towards them.
Tragically, cattle-related deaths have taken the lives of 74 people in the past 15 years, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whilst many others have been subject to injuries including fractures from actions such as kicking, head-butting and trampling from the offending bovine. Experienced farmers and farm workers are particularly at risk due to their frequent exposure to their herd and make up the majority of fatalities but a number of ramblers have also been injured and killed in cattle-related attacks.
Are you responsible if your cattle attacks someone?
The Animals Act 1971 states that owners are ‘strictly liable’ for most injuries caused by their animals meaning that you do not have to be ‘at fault’. In most cases, you will be liable if a member of the public is injured or damage caused to third party property.
Building a line of defence
Best advice is not to put any calves or their mothers in fields which are accessible to the public, as they can get defensive if they feel threatened though often the practicalities of this can be challenging. Bulls are a particular threat, and many fields include warnings on gateposts if there is a bull in the field in order to warn the public to be wary. It was found that 70 per cent of deaths were caused by bulls or due to cows protecting their newborn calves, so precautions should be
taken in order to protect the public against this threat.
Correct signage is important if you’re unable to avoid keeping certain cattle from the public. Informing the public of any danger is the first step but you may want to consider adding advice onto signs to inform the public of how to recognise a potential attack and how to avoid confrontation.
So, do you need liability insurance for your herd?
If you own cows or any other livestock which roam in fields, even if members of the public have no legitimate right of access to those fields, there will always be some element of risk to the general public, so it’s essential to ensure you are covered for public liability insurance. It’s best to check your current insurance policy to see if you’re covered.
To check you’re covered for public liability or to arrange additional cover speak to your FUW Insurance Services account executive.