Horse riding is a diverse activity enjoyed by many as a relaxing, family-orientated pastime. To others, horse riding is enjoyed as an amateur sport, and by jockeys as a serious professional sport. Equestrian activities are wide-ranging and involve anything related to horses, ponies and donkeys.
Horse riding is very popular in the UK, and racing is a mainstream equestrian sport. In its most recent National Equestrian Survey (2019), the British Equestrian Trade Association revealed that 3 million people had ridden within the last 12 months, and the number of riders aged between 25 and 44 has grown significantly in recent years.
Any sport involves an element of risk, but when the sport involves a horse – the risk is higher. Given the size and power of horses, things can go wrong causing potentially serious injuries. It is not uncommon for horses to be involved in road traffic accidents because motorists do not always take sufficient care on the road when approach horses being ridden on public roads. A horse that is frightened by something unexpected can cause a horse to rear or bolt without warning.
Typical equestrian injuries include injuries sustained during a fall from the horse, and kicking injuries. Some injuries are minor, whilst others can be serious and even life threatening. It’s not hard to imagine how the blow from a horse kick, or a fall from a horse being ridden at 40mph, can cause serious injuries to the victim. Even more serious, and potential fatal, is where a horse falls on top of its rider.
It’s not only riders and jockeys who are at risk of injury: those working with horses are also exposed to the risk of injury, for instance, if they do not handle the horse correctly. Horses can, after all, have a mind of their own. Equestrian injuries can also occur to riders or spectators at horse racing fixtures. These may be crushing injuries, or bites or kicks, and can be very serious.
Whether you are a horse rider or a member of the public, and have been injured by a horse, you will need to consider whether someone else was at fault. If you suffered an injury as a result of your own momentary lack of concentration, that is no one’s fault but yours. If you’re responsible for your horse-riding gear and it wasn’t fitted correctly, no one else can be held responsible.
Simple accidents do happen, but if someone was negligent and this caused your injury, you should be able to make a personal injury claim. This means working out whether a duty of care was owed to you and that duty was breached, causing your injuries.
In some cases, it can be difficult to determine whether the accident was someone else’s fault, or that it happened because the horse just decided to do its own thing – whether spontaneously or because it was spooked by something. This is where specialist legal advice is vital.
Where it is clear that someone else was at fault, you should be able to make a claim. For instance, if your horse trainer was responsible for the ill-fitting girth or reins or other gear, they could be held liable for your injury; and a motorist driving carelessly causing your horse to bolt can be held liable for your resulting injuries.
If the injuries took place at a horse-racing event, the organisers and/or the horse riding club could be held responsible, but expert legal advice must be taken as early as possible.
It is important to start your injury claim as soon as possible, because it may be ‘time barred’ after three years. Although many claims involving equestrian injuries are settled out of court, it can take months or even years to reach court if your claim is defended by the other side.
Whatever the circumstances of your injury, you need to gather as much evidence as possible. This includes witness accounts of what happened and, of course, your own account; photographs of the incident (the road or race track, etc); photographs of your injuries; sketches of what happened; and accident book records. You may even have been wearing a bodycam which could have vital video evidence of the incident. You will also need an expert medical report in support of your claim.
If your equestrian claim is successful, this will cover any expenses you are claiming in addition to the money awarded for your injuries, pain and suffering. To claim for such expenses, such as travel costs and prescription charges, make sure you keep all receipts, invoices, evidence of loss of earnings, and so on.
Nobody wants to discourage those who enjoy horse riding and the pleasures it brings, and the no win no fee personal injury system means that you can take legal action safe in the knowledge that you won’t be the one to ultimately pay for other people’s negligence.
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