Although I retired from the Big “I” three years ago, I still serve as a volunteer faculty member for the Virtual University’s “Ask An Expert” (AAE) service. Just about every day we get coverage questions from association member agents. Below is one from a week or so ago. This is the format in which we receive questions:

Subject:  Farm Liability and property coverage

Body:  An insured owns a tractor, grain cart and a semi, insured hires someone to help move grain with said tractor and cart and hits the semi that is parked, farm liability policy is denying coverage for the semi, but will cover the tractor damage and the cart. Where does the coverage come into play for the semi damages? We understand that you cannot be liable to yourself under a liability policy.

Last Updated:  1/29/2020 4:21 PM

Issue Status:  Active

State:  IA

Created By:  Agent

Confirmation:  Policy form(s) are not required for this inquiry.

The AAE submission instructions say that, if the policy involved is an ISO form, we need the full policy number so we can look up the form. Otherwise, we need the actual policy attached to the submission. In the case above, no policy information was provided. You cannot answer coverage questions without policy forms. Period. End of discussion.

That being said, the described claim scenario does not involve an insured’s liability to himself. There are at least two parties involved…the policyholder owner of the semi and the person hired to operate the tractor. The person who was hired to operate the tractor was apparently negligent and damaged the semi.

The liability claim is against that person, not the owner of the semi, so the premise that you can’t be liable to yourself doesn’t appear to apply. The question is, does the policy covering the use of the tractor include the operator as an insured and, if so, is there any exclusion that applies such as a cross liability exclusion? Sometimes these claims are covered and sometimes they’re not. And, of course, there’s presumably physical damage coverage on the policy covering the semi.

Needless to say, there are a lot of assumptions and presumptions in any answer to a question like this which illustrates that you ALWAYS need the actual policy form(s) in question to make a coverage determination.


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Bill Wilson

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One of the premier insurance educators in America on form, coverage, and technical issues; Founder and director of the Big “I” Virtual University; Retired Assoc. VP of Education and Research from Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Reprint Request Information