The Whole Point of Insurance


Every now and then folks, you have to go for the strange story. (Bear with me. There will be a point.) A jury in Vermont just awarded a turkey hunter $380,557 in compensation because another hunter fired at him with a shotgun. Fifty-two pellets found their target, collapsing William Rea’s lung and causing other injuries.

He sued Ralph Townsend over the incident, which occurred in May 2008. At the time, Townsend told the game warden he thought he was shooting at a turkey. He pleaded no contest to charges stemming from the accident and received a suspended sentence.

It’s difficult to know what to say about the whole business, but we can start with . . . you don’t shoot at something unless you have conclusively identified your target. I learned that at my father’s knee when I went on my own first hunting expedition at the tender age of 10.

There are, however, insurance lessons to be learned as well. Is there possibly a situation more fraught with liability than tramping around the woods in turkey season with a shotgun?

While hunting insurance may not be one of the most common products the industry sells, it is available and generally covers incidents relative to accidents with firearms, tree stands, all-terrain-vehicles, and even watercraft used in pursuit of game. If the policy is applied to a hunting lease, there is generally some degree of coverage for guests.

Generally landowners take out the policies, as they are likely to be the ones hit with the lawsuit for failure to provide a “safe” hunting environment. Policies can, however, be purchased by individual hunters in the interest of protecting their personal financial security in the event of an incident like that between the two Vermont men.

This coverage is similar to the high risk policies taken out by race car drivers or anyone engaged in “extreme” sports. In any situation, when you are considering insurance coverage, however, the question you have to ask is, “What can I afford to pay out of pocket if something goes wrong?”

Whether that’s a car accident, an unexpected illness, a home catastrophe — or spraying a guy with 52 shotgun pellets — you pay for insurance to protect your overall financial stability. It’s just a guess, but I’m betting Ralph Townsend didn’t have $380,557 to spare — and chances are, you don’t either.

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