Rachel RespondsSeptember 23, 2018

Agritourism, liability, and on-farm injuries.

Question:

Am I liable if someone is injured at my farm event?

Answer:

It’s usually impossible to predict who will be responsible for potential injuries at farm events. It all depends on the details: what, where, and how. Fortunately, farmers don’t need to know complex details behind legal liability for injuries. The best and easiest way to manage legal liability is to make sure the farm has insurance coverage and to follow the terms of the insurance policy.

Under a good policy, the insurance company will provide an attorney to defend the farm. Then, it’s the attorney’s job to understand and present the legal arguments that vindicate the farm. Insurance is valuable even for the safest farms. Even if the farm did nothing wrong, that needs to be proven in court.

Although farmers typically have general farm insurance policies that cover farm-related injuries, these policies often do not cover agritourism. Often, farmers have to do a little research and talk to their insurance agent to learn if they have coverage for their envisioned event. If not, the insurance agent is also the best source for getting coverage.

A few options are generally available.

A special event endorsement or rider may work best for the occasional event.

If the event is held frequently, a commercial line of insurance may be a better choice. A commercial insurance policy is designed to cover injuries extending from the business as a whole, not just the farm operation. Farmers can often add a commercial policy to their farm policy at an affordable rate.

As part of the policy terms and conditions, insurance companies may require specific precautions such as repairing infrastructure, posting signs, or providing other warnings—things that are probably good ideas anyway. Because the insurance company knows the ins and outs of legal liability in detail, they assist their customers in minimizing the chance of liability.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Read pages 14–16 of Farm Commons’ Hosting Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm Events, and watch the video tutorial “Hosting Safe, Legally Secure Farm Events.” For detailed information on insurance, see our guide Managing the Sustainable Farm’s Risks with Insurance. For risk-reduction strategies, extension agents often have detailed information about safety measures for agritourism and on-farm events.

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