Massage therapy on a horse
Massage a horses back
There is no easy answer. Not enough insurance can keep you awake at night fretting about the next disaster that may or may not strike. Conversely, you can purchase so much insurance that it bankrupts the business.
“As with any massage practitioner, human or equine, it is important to protect your assets, career, credit rating, as well as future earnings with liability insurance,” said Debbie Higdon,
Risk Management at Associated Bodyworks and Massage Professionals (ABMP).
In reality, most practitioners may never receive an allegation of injury caused by their professional services. “You cannot hurt an animal with massage. They will likely hurt you before hurt them,” said Mary A. Schreiber, certified (Human) Massage Therapist and founder of Equissage an educational program based in Round Hill, Virginia.
“In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, I have not heard of any incidents of lawsuits, but if it gives you peace of mind, then there is no price that is too high,” she said.
Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society. In the event a claim or lawsuit is brought against you, it is a daunting experience.
“Even if you have done nothing wrong, it is expensive to defend yourself. Attorney fees can really add up, so you want to have the peace of mind that you are protected in the event that something happens,” Higdon explained.
Insurance plans are not limited to liability claims. Policies can cover property damage, weather events, loss of income, health and medical issues and more.
Regardless of the type of insurance you choose, all policies have the same basic features. The policy holder pays a premium that sets the policy for a specific length of time. At the end of the term, the policy is up for renewal.
All policies specify the maximum dollar amount the insurance company will cover for a claim, referred to as a per incidence or per occurrence claim. The policy will likely include a yearly maximum as well.
“The insurance I have as a member of ABMP offers a $2 million per incidence maximum and a $6 million per year maximum,” said Lisa Ruthig, owner of Lively Animal Massage in Massachusetts. She also serves as Chairperson of the National Board of Certification of Animal Acupressure and Massage.
Other policies Ruthig has considered through similar organizations offer dramatically lower per incidence maximums. One offered $25,000 and another only $5,000 for animal massage.
“Don’t skimp on the policy you choose. Select one that will cover you well,” she suggested.
Insurance companies view animals differently than they do humans. When a person is injured by a medical practitioner, they can request retribution for the injury itself and “pain and suffering”. The judicial system classifies animals as property. Animal owners can only receive retribution for the value of the animal (or medical expenses) not for “pain and suffering”.
“For dogs, the maximum value is $5,000,” she explained, “the horses I work on are worth more than that. So you want a per incident level that you are comfortable with.”
Insurance policies can be divided into three main categories: professional liability, business and health/medical/life.
Professional liability insurances are those policies directly related to your profession and are designed to protect you and the practice as a whole. These policies include:
Professional liability insurance, covers the costs that are incurred from injuring a client while performing professional services.
General liability, protects policy holders from trip and fall accidents.
Product liability covers instances where an animal experiences and adverse reaction to a product.
Business insurance are policies that are applicable for any type of business.
Some business insurances are a necessity and others are optional based on the size and scope of the practice and your tolerance for risk.
These policies include commercial auto insurance, property insurance, employment practice of liability and personal insurance. It may also be practical to consider data breach insurance, flood/disaster insurance and an excess liability (umbrella) policy. Practices with a staff of employees may also be subject to having workers’ compensation insurance.
If you have a lot to lose, large umbrella policies cover all other policies and extends the coverage cap.
Understanding the details of each policy is important as it relates to disasters. Unless you have flood insurance, your insurance likely doesn’t cover flooding. In the event of a tornado or other weather event that damages the practice, your insurance will only cover repairs to the property and the loss of equipment.
Health, medical and life insurance are another group of policies that are applicable for any type of business.
Health insurance allows you and/or employees to receive timely medical care that can improve their lives and general well-being. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, every individual is obligated to carry health insurance, though only businesses with a specific number of employees is required to extend health insurance benefits to their employees. To learn more about the mandates included in the Affordable Care Act, visit www.www.healthcare.gov.
Medical insurance plans are not limited to routine health care. Supplemental medical policies can provide coverage that includes disability income insurance; term life and AD&D insurance; hospital indemnity insurance, long term care and dental.
Though life insurance is often thought of for individuals, it can also protect a business from financial loss, liabilities or instability in the case of the death of a business owner/partner. Whether providing necessary short-term cash or keeping operations going until things settle, life insurance can be invaluable in maintaining the business you’ve worked so hard to build.
Finding insurance 101
Equine massage therapists may have more luck finding liability insurance through an organization or agency that covers human massage.
Rather than relying on agencies that specialize in equine related insurances, Ruthig has found more success working with organizations first established for human massage. As a member of ABMP, she and other professionals providing animal massage services qualify for insurance as a member benefit.
To qualify for the liability insurance through ABMP, members must either obtain a state license to perform equine massage if it is required by the state they are working in, or if the member is working in an unlicensed state they must meet educational requirements.
“In an unlicensed state we require 100 hours of training from an approved program for our practitioner level of membership,” Hidgon said, “for professional or certified levels of membership we require 500 hours of training from an approved program or passing score on the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEX) or National Certification Exam (NCE) or minimum of 50 hours of massage training and a current nursing or physical therapy license.”
It’s worth asking insurance agencies you are already established with if they offer liability policies to cover your massage services. Massage therapists running a stable, training or other business may be able to access insurance through the agencies they already conduct business with. However, don’t be surprised if the answer is no.
“When one insurance company found out I was looking for equine massage coverage, they refused to even cover my dog training business,” Ruthig said, “horses are an expensive risk for insurance companies to cover.”
Peace of mind
Ultimately, the “right” insurance policy(ies) boils down to risk management and the level of risk you are comfortable living with. You have to find a balance between purchasing enough insurance to provide peace of mind, while also leaving money in the bank.
“I believe in professional insurance. Insurance is extremely important. While massage is very safe, you’re a professional working on an animal that is not yours. Insurance protects your assets,” Ruthig concluded.