Insuring EFMH Activities at Your Center

EAAT programs are benefiting a wide variety of individuals with many different disabilities. Insuring Equine-Facilitated Mental Health (EFMH) operations can be challenging, since this branch of equine facilitated therapy encompasses a broad range of treatment methods.  Centers providing EFMH activities must take care to purchase General Liability insurance specifically designed for their activities.

General Liability insurance protects the Named Insured entity against Bodily Injury and Property Damage law suits.

It is important that the General Liability policy you select is designed and rated to protect your center’s specific needs.  Not all General Liability policies will properly protect your individual program.

General Liability policies for PATH Intl. Centers were originally designed for therapeutic riding lessons. Activities offered at PATH Intl. Centers have expanded well beyond the traditional one-half to one hour therapeutic riding session. Centers now offer many forms of EAAT including therapeutic driving, therapeutic vaulting, hippotherapy and equine facilitated psychotherapy.

While therapeutic driving, vaulting and hippotherapy still generally consist of a one-half to 1 hour session, equine facilitated therapy can take many forms. Some centers offer day-long immersion programs.  Most EFMH programs utilize groundwork with the horse, sometimes exclusively, sometimes in conjunction with riding. Many EFMH programs provide psychotherapy opportunities that are longer in duration and much broader in scope than a one hour therapy session.

Many EFMH operations that provide sessions that mirror a ‘traditional’ riding lesson in length and exposure to risk are covered. Groundwork is absolutely included in the coverage many policies currently provide. There is also insurance available that provides coverage for centers that have supervisory responsibility for clients for half-day or day long sessions. 

Expanded Treatment Sessions – Expanded Insurance Coverage

When a client comes to your facility and responsibility transfers from the client’s caregiver to your staff, the risk exposure is different when the client is in your care for 1 hour versus a client that is in your care for half a day or more.

You and your staff are now responsible for the client during the entire time the individual is at your center.  Supervision is required when not working directly with the horse.  The client may need to eat, to have fluids, medication, rest – in short, your duties to the client have expanded by virtue of the expanded length of time you have responsibility.  Markel’s General Liability policy can easily be endorsed to provide coverage for extended programs.  Additional premium does apply for the additional coverage.

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy versus Vocational Education

If your EFMH program provides vocational education for clients, many policies might not be the proper insurance for you.  Many policies do not protect against suits brought against the vocational education center claiming the client learned unsafe or improper skills at the center. Some programs are referred to as vocational education when the end result is not necessarily an employable client that leaves the center to go out into the workplace. 

Many vocational education providers also have responsibility for clients for several hours a day, several days a week. As noted above, coverage for expanded program length can easily be added. 

“At-Risk” – A Matter of Definition

For instance, Markel defines at-risk individuals in a manner that is distinctly different from the mental health field. To the insurance company, ‘at-risk’ refers to individuals that are assigned or referred to the center for the purpose of punishment or deterrence. The definition also states that the assignment or referral involves a formal agreement with a court-operated or government-operated agency. Community service programs are not included in this definition.

An individual, who is coming to the center for psychotherapy, not punishment or deterrence assigned by a court or governmental agency, is not an ‘at-risk’ individual by insurance definition. This definition is found on the application Markel sends to all PATH Intl. Centers that request a Markel insurance quote. 

Clients that are ‘at-risk’ according to mental health experts are generally individuals who require psychotherapy to help them stay on the right track, or to find the right track. Equine facilitated psychotherapy is very effective tool for those deemed ‘at-risk’ by the mental health field definition.  Insurance coverage should not be denied or surcharged for programs serving ‘at-risk’ clients as defined in the mental health field.

Obtaining the Proper Insurance for Your Operation

Communication between the center and the insurer is critical if the correct protection is to be obtained.  A General Liability insurance policy that is not designed to protect your exposures will not be able to protect you when suits arise that are outside the scope of the coverage.  The only way to ascertain that the coverage you purchase is the correct coverage for you is to ask questions, be forthcoming in your declarations and make sure your insurer understands the exposures presented by your operation.

Insurance Checklist for EFMH Programs

Cornerstone of Protection – Commercial General Liability Insurance
Commercial General Liability (GL) insurance protects your entity against third party law suits alleging Bodily Injury and/or Property Damage occurred due to your operation. Per Occurrence limits of at least $1,000,000 are normally recommended. GL policies pay investigation and legal fees ‘outside the limits’.  This means that the policy pays to defend your entity without reducing the amount available to settle claims. There should be no deductible on a good GL policy.

Protecting Your Professional Exposure - Professional Liability for Therapists
GL insurance (discussed above) is triggered if suit is brought alleging Bodily Injury or Property Damage occurred due to the center’s operation.  If the suit alleges that a therapist used an incorrect course of treatment or did not use proper professional judgment, Professional Liability insurance could be triggered.  It is possible that a single suit could trigger both Professional and GL coverages.  Every therapist is responsible for providing their own Professional Liability insurance in accordance with their state credentialing requirements.

Protecting Your Center against Law Suits Brought By Injured Volunteers
GL insurance (discussed above) is designed to protect your entity, its employees and its volunteers against third party law suits.  It is not designed to protect the center against law suits brought by employees or volunteers injured while performing assigned duties on behalf of the center.  Workers Compensation (discussed below) is intended to be the sole remedy for injured employees.  Until recently there has been no GL coverage available to protect centers against law suits brought by injured volunteers.  Markel GL policies may now be endorsed to provide this additional protection for your center.

Avoiding Minor Lawsuits - Excess Accident Medical Insurance
An Excess Accident Medical policy provides insured classes of individuals (normally riders and volunteers) reimbursement for medical expenses if injury occurs at the center. The injured person does not bring suit to obtain benefits under this coverage. Excess means the injured person’s own medical coverage is accessed first.  If the injured individual has no medical coverage, then this policy functions as primary coverage. The Excess Accident Medical policy is meant to deter liability lawsuits for minor medical expenses. 

If You Own Your Facility - Property Insurance
If you own your own facility, Property insurance is normally purchased. If an owned structure is damaged, Property insurance pays to clean up and rebuild. Property insurance can also provide coverage for owned tack, tools and other equipment if these items are scheduled on the policy. There is normally a deductible on Property policies, and the deductible is applied to each loss.

If You Have Employees - Workers Compensation Insurance
If the entity has employees, Workers Compensation insurance is normally required.  Workers Compensation laws, rates for various classes of employment and penalties for non-compliance vary by state.  It is important for every center to investigate their individual Workers Compensation needs.

If You Use an Automobile in Your Business - Commercial Auto Insurance
If the entity owns vehicles, and particularly if the entity transports employees or students, Commercial Auto insurance is required. A Personal Auto policy is not designed to cover the commercial exposures of a business. In addition, the center has no coverage whatsoever under an individual’s Personal Auto policy – only the person named on the policy has coverage. Even if the center owns no vehicles, a Commercial Auto policy providing Non-Owned and Hired Vehicle coverage is recommended.

If Higher Liability Limits Are Desired - Commercial Umbrella Liability Insurance
Some centers are not comfortable with only $1,000,000. Per Occurrence GL coverage. If higher limits are desired, Umbrella Liability insurance is purchased. Remember that an individual’s personal umbrella will respond only to suits arising out of personal activities. If the center desires liability coverage in excess of its primary Commercial GL coverage, a Commercial Umbrella is needed.

Protecting Board Members – Directors & Officers Liability Insurance
Directors & Officers (D&O) insurance protects directors and board members if it is alleged they did not properly perform their duties as officers of the entity. It is important to remember that all D&O policies exclude coverage for any Bodily Injury suits. Board members are protected against Bodily Injury suits by the entity’s GL policy. D&O policies protect against Employment Practices lawsuits, allegations of misuse of funds and other fiduciary-type claims.



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