A raccoon gets into an insured’s boat and causes damage. The insured files a claim under their boat policy, but the carrier denies it based on an animal damage exclusion. In its denial, the carrier cites a precedent with reviews by its legal and technical departments that any and all animal damage claims must fall under this exclusion.
Q: We feel that a raccoon is a mammal, not an animal or vermin. Shouldn’t this claim be covered?
Response 1: Just because something is a mammal doesn’t mean it's therefore not an animal. For example, a squirrel is a rodent, but it's also an animal. The exclusion is for animals. The carrier is correct.
Response 2: Raccoons are most certainly animals. Damage done by them in the manner described is excluded from coverage.
Response 3: A mammal is a type of animal. This is an excluded loss. I admire the effort, though.
Response 4: A raccoon is both a mammal and an animal, not vermin. If the exclusion is for animal damage, the carrier is correct.
Response 5: If you look at several legal and standard definitions of “animal," you’ll find that a raccoon qualifies. I agree with the carrier.
Response 6: Unfortunately, a raccoon is certainly an animal and the carrier is correct in its denial. This exclusion is much broader than ISO’s—ISO used to exclude birds, vermin, rodents and insects, but removed the word “vermin” from its policy because too many carriers were calling animals vermin in order to deny claims.
Response 7: The wording of this exclusion is a little ambiguous because excluding animals makes the mention of birds and rodents superfluous. It seems like a better way to phrase the exclusion would be to end it with “or other animals."
Regardless, though, a raccoon is an animal. It's also a mammal, but your logic is faulty. Not all animals are mammals, but all mammals are animals.
We once had a similar claim under a policy with an animal exclusion, regarding damage to a boat caused by a turtle. The agent argued that the turtle was a reptile, not an animal. The same logic applied then—not all animals are reptiles, but all reptiles are animals.
Response 8: I don't see much hope for coverage here. Raccoons are animals. Some boat policies exclude marine animal damage but not land animal damage. In one loss, an insured's cat did damage to a boat interior and it was covered. But with this contract, the insured would have to collide with the raccoon for there to be coverage.
This question was originally submitted by an agent through the VU’s Ask an Expert Service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.