Got Injured During A Horse Riding Lesson? You May Have A Legal Case
If you've recently been injured during a horse riding lesson, you may be wondering if you can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit and, if so, how strong your case would be. That depends on several factors.
Did you sign a contract with the riding instructor?
The riding instructor may have asked you to sign a contract before giving you lessons, which likely included legal verbiage stating that they are not responsible for accidents. However, no document or contract can change the law. If the law in your state says that your riding instructor can be held liable for certain things that may occur during a riding lesson, nothing in the contract can negate the law. The instructor also has duties of care to uphold, which could make their contract unviable if they don't follow through with those duties. Hire a lawyer to read through the contract to determine the contract's worthiness.
Was there an inherent risk?
There's an inherent risk when it comes to being around horses. Horses do have a mind of their own and can react in situations when they feel they are in danger. Horses are prey creatures, which means they instinctually believe that everything is out to hurt them. This is something that is necessary to understand for everyone who is near horses. Something as innocent as a plastic shopping bag or as sweet as a tiny bird flying through the rafters of a riding arena can cause a horse to spook. However, horses that are fully trained should be bomb-proof against spooking. Therefore, a well-trained horse used for a riding lesson is typically not considered as an inherent risk. Even well-trained horses have their off days.
Did the riding instructor have a duty of care?
One of the duties of care of riding instructors is to be as certain as possible that the horses they use for lessons are healthy and in a good mental state, in addition to being well-trained. For example, if the lesson horse was being bullied by the other horses in the pasture immediately before the lesson, that horse may not have the right mindset to give a lesson. For another example, a lesson horse with teeth that need to be floated may react with a buck if the bit causes pain in their mouth.
Another duty of care that riding instructors have for the safety of their students is to fully explain the possibilities of various situations that may arise before, during, and after each lesson so that the students are properly trained. If the riding instructor does not give clear instructions based on the abilities of their students, then they can be held as negligent in following through with their duties of care and, therefore, liable.
Were there any witnesses?
It would be helpful if there were any witnesses around before the lesson and during the time leading up to the horse riding accident. Was there anyone around who witnessed the behavior and condition of the horse and the riding arena? Did anyone other than the instructor see the accident? It would help your case if you could have each witness provide a testimony, but it's a good idea to get their testimony on paper and notarized as authentic by a notary.
Are their surveillance cameras in the riding arena?
Ask the arena or stable owner if they have surveillance cameras that you can use to show as proof. Of course, if the riding instructor works directly for the property owner or is the property owner, you may need to hire a lawyer to obtain copies of the surveillance camera recordings in a legal manner so you can back up your claim with verifiable evidence.
Talk to a lawyer or visit a site like http://www.dlplawyers.com for further information on whether you might have a case.