Losing a horse, whatever the circumstance, is the most difficult thing any owner will face and nothing can help lessen the emotional impact it has.
Having your horse insured against all risks of mortality can help with the financial implication of such a loss but what many people don’t fully understand is that unless the horse dies of natural causes (which are not pre-existing or excluded from the policy) then mortality insurance only comes into effect if there are no other alternatives available but to euthanise the horse.
The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has issued guidelines for vets when dealing with mortality insurance. From an insurance perspective these can be grouped into three scenarios:
1. Immediate emergency euthanasia when the injury or illness is so severe that immediate euthanasia is required to relieve incurable and excessive pain.
2. Critical illness or injury necessitating non-immediate euthanasia, the horse exhibits signs of severe and unremitting pain that can be controlled by safe and effective levels of analgesic medication in the short term but in the opinion of the attending Veterinary Surgeon cannot be managed in the long term and no other options of treatment are available.
3. Injury or illness which, whilst career ending and the horse may be permanently lame, can be managed on low levels of medication and/or the horse can be retired. Owners may decide that the right answer for them and the horse is to choose to put the horse to sleep but it would not be a valid mortality claim.
In the first scenario as long as the illness or injury necessitating immediate euthanasia is not an excluded or pre-existing condition and the attending vet confirms that there was no other option available but euthanasia, then your claim should be accepted.
In the second scenario, it is vital that the Insurer is advised prior to euthanasia to allow them the opportunity to get a second opinion and/or have a discussion with the attending vet. The insurer should keep an open dialogue with yourself and if they and their veterinary advisor are in agreement with your vet in supporting euthanasia then your claim will be accepted.
In both of the above cases, your insurer will require a post-mortem, this is so a diagnosis can be confirmed allowing settlement of the claim. This will normally be stated in your policy terms and conditions. There are sometimes exceptions to this, which is again why it is important to speak with your insurer prior to euthanasia, as they will be able to advise you of all the steps you need to take. The cost of a post mortem would not be covered by your insurance policy.
Whilst in the third scenario it would not constitute a valid mortality claim, it may represent a Permanent Loss of Use claim if this level of cover was included in your policy. Loss of use insurance is an optional add-on and whilst there are specific restrictions in this cover, such as the horse’s age, it’s purpose is to offer some form of financial compensation in a situation when the horse is permanently incapable of performing in the activity for which is was intended. You can find out more about Permanent Loss of Use insurance here.