This post is one of a series we will be doing titled FYI. (for your information)
What I have found in most cases between those that do it right and those that don't is that all too often the cost of your service will be the same. However... what your getting for that price rarely is. While they say that imitation is the purest form of flattery, for those of us that incur the cost to play by the rules it is at least disheartening to find yourself competing with some neighbor down your road who's winging it. For you the customer the potential for problems with that can be much more than just disheartening. So with that said I am going to give you some things to consider.
What you need to know.
1) Do they have liability insurance is probably the number one thing you need to be concerned about should you find yourself considering hiring anyone for horse drawn carriage service. The equine liability laws in no way protect you, your event, or your venue in the event of an accident. Posting it does not protect the uninsured provider from lawsuit either. What posting that sign usually means is that the carriage service does not carry liability insurance and thinks that by posting that sign they are exempt from lawsuit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Equine liability laws only protect a horse owner if a horse causes harm to someone in the act of being a horse. i.e. kicking, biting, pawing, bucking, etc, and that is only in cases where there was no known prior history of misbehavior. The law presumes that if you get near a horse you should understand that these things could possibly happen and that there is a level of inherent risk from being near, or getting on the animal. The sign is to make sure you understand that.
However...lots of things can happen that could cause loss, damage, or injury and do not in any way absolve the carriage service of being responsible for it. In fact a great many things that have contributed to accidents are not even remotely related to what is covered by state equine liability laws. Some examples would be, broken tack resulting in an accident, a horse or its carriage causing damage to someones property, a person getting hurt by a carriage wheel, a motorist hitting the carriage, etc. The list of things that state equine liability laws do not cover is truly endless. Put it this way, there is lot more they don't address than what they do.
So what does all this mean to you the customer? What it means is that if you hire an outfit that does not carry the proper liability insurance, and heaven forbid something were to happen, you are left high and dry without much recourse for losses, damages, doctor, or hospital bills. Without liability insurance your only hope lies with the civil court which is a long drawn out procedure where very often the injured party never recovers a dime. What it means for the people who are operating a business without insurance is that they literally risk losing everything they own.
Now before I scare you half to death here the solution is really simple. ASK! and then ask for a copy of the liability policy! We have stacks of proof of insurance available for anyone who asks and we are delighted to provide you with a copy. While we have operated for over 30 years in horse and carriage without a single incident, that really is not the point. Accidents can happen to anyone and to do any business the right way the outfit you hire should be properly insured. So check, if they refuse, or it offends them? your shopping in the wrong place.
2) Are they even a legal business? You may or may not think you should care about this, but ask yourself this, If they skip over the legal requirements to be in business what other important things do they willfully overlook? Liability insurance maybe? Safe equipment? Safe proven horses? and that list too goes on. It is after all law that they file with the Sec of State as a legal business, You can check that status here : http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/corps/search_all.php , just type in the name of the company and if they are legit their name will show up. If you search "The Princess's Carriage" you will see we are listed and properly filed with the SOS as a legal business in good standing.
Besides the yearly fees to maintain the legal right to do business in the state with the proper authorities there are also the fees of a yearly business license that also has to be paid for. There are even costs for special permits for us to operate in certain towns legally. It quite literally costs thousands of dollars to do this business professionally, properly insured, and legally.
So please understand the cost to us of being in full compliance is no joking matter. So dear customer do know that it is in your best interest to know who your hiring. Ask for proof of insurance, and at least check to see if they are operating their business legally. Find out if they have the permits they need. It's quite literally the difference between hiring a legitimate business, or a monkey business.