Leasing your land to hunters? Be sure to hunt down the best liability coverage

You can shoot down some concerns about having hunters on your land by buying liability coverage.

Hunting is a $23 billion-a-year business that attracted 12.5 million participants age 16 and up in 2006, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. U.S. hunters averaged 185 million trips that year and spent 220 million days going after deer, elk, squirrels, rabbits, migratory birds, water fowl, raccoons and other animals.

If you hunt game on your property, lease your property to hunters or run a hunting club, you may not be adequately protected against liability concerns. What can you do to insure yourself and your property? What types of insurance are available for hunters? What does this insurance typically cover? And what will your policy likely exclude?

Companies like InsuraCorp Inc., Outdoor Underwriters Inc. and OutdoorsInsurance.com offer policies to protect hunters, property owners and other participants from the financial risks associated with hunting.

For instance, OutdoorsInsurance.com offers the following hunting club liability insurance:

  • Up to a $1 million payout per occurrence.
  • $2 million in general aggregate coverage.
  • No deductible.
  • Provides liability coverage for accidents involving mobile equipment, ATVs, firearms, watercraft and tree stands.

Outdoor Underwriters, together with the National Wild Turkey Federation, provides hunting lease liability designed for hunt club participants and landowners for a yearly premium of 15 cents per acre $150 minimum).

InsuraCorp provides what it calls a Hunting Hold Harmless Agreement. Essentially, this agreement acts as a waiver to protect property owners from claims stemming from hunting accidents and on-property injuries.

According to premises liability law, property owners owe invited visitors, other guests and even trespassers a "duty of care." If you allow a hunting group onto your property, that duty of care is an important consideration. If a hunter gets injured or hurts another person because of carelessness, recklessness or bad luck, you could be legally liable. Depending on the nature of the accident, you might have to pay for an injured person's medical bills, lost wages and suffering -- and your basic homeowner's insurance might not cover you if you're leasing out your property.

Read prospective hunting insurance policies carefully to look for exclusions. In other words, understand what is not covered as well as what is. For instance, OutdoorsInsurance.com's club policy excludes property damage and bodily injury arising from intentional actions, pollution, assault, battery, or use of vehicles and aircraft. Commercial hunting operations require separate policies.

Also note that insurers distinguish between guest liability which covers clubs for the actions of their guests) and member-to-member liability which provides coverage if one club member sues another). Always read your policy carefully and discuss your needs and concerns with a qualified agent to maximize your coverage and minimize your insurance premiums.

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