Land Insurance Exposures and Coverages
Landowners have traditionally enjoyed the right to limit or exclude people from the use of privately owned land.
Increased suburbanization of open spaces has decreased open land and wilderness areas, and as a result private open land owners have seen an increased demand and use (legally or illegally) for their land. Landowners have also recognized the economic benefit from leasing out access to their land for hunting, hiking and outdoor recreational activity.
As use of these open spaces has increased so has the number of liability claims associated with their use and the need for land insurance. Landowners now are faced with claims for bodily injury and property damage from third parties using their land either with permissive use or even trespassing.
While most states have enacted statutes to help protect the landowner from uninvited guests, claims against the landowner have been made for such injuries. Landowners are seeking insurance protection from such claims and traditional insurance coverages such as farm liability insurance and vacant land insurance may or may not provide coverage in all instances.
Farm Liability Insurance
Traditional farm liability insurance policies are designed to cover the typical farm exposures. Typical farm liability claims are injury or property damage from tractors or farm machinery operations, injury resulting from livestock or being on farm premises and product liability claims from farm products.
Other commercial enterprises such as daily fee hunting, guided or unguided fishing or recreational vehicle use by others on the farm owner’s undeveloped land are not contemplated within the policy and hence may not be covered in the event of a claim.
Vacant Land Insurance
Vacant land insurance can cover land with no development or ongoing business activity. This type of insurance is usually available for land up to 500 acres. If the landowner has any structural improvement to the land or charges hunters or users a fee for the use of the land, the land can be considered a business operation and the appropriate liability insurance should be obtained.
Hunting Liability Insurance
Landowners contemplating daily fee hunting, or leasing land to hunting clubs or groups are assuming greater responsibility for liability claims. As “invitees” the hunters using the land are entitled to more due care from the landowner than “licensee’s” (those permitted access but not charged) and of course trespassers. The landowner should inform each user of existing hazards on the premises. These hazards can be natural, such as cliffs, streams, lakes, sinkholes and abandoned wells or man-made such as discarded farm equipment, abandoned hunting blinds, or overgrown barbwire fences.
Most hunting liability insurance policies will also request that the lessees sign a liability waiver or release absolving the landowner for any injury or damage caused by the lessee’s actions. Depending upon each specific circumstance the waiver may or may not protect the landowner but will usually be required by the insurance company providing the policy.
Land Insurance Experts
As landowners continue to explore new uses and revenue streams for their land, new insurance exposures are created that are not always contemplated or covered under the landowner’s existing policy. The staff at Driscoll Insurance and Financial Services has been addressing the ongoing and newly developing insurance needs for landowners, homeowners, farm owners and business owners in the greater Pittsburgh, PA area since 1976. The professionally recognized Driscoll experts can analyze existing insurance coverages and recommend cost effective liability programs to address any new changes or developments that can increase exposure for landowners of all types.