Personal Injury Lawyer Kentucky | Equestrian Attorney
Riding horses is a wonderful way to pass the time. But what if someone gets injured while riding a horse? The Fleck Firm deals with equestrian law and personal injury cases.
Are You Liable for Damages or Injuries Caused by Your Boarded Horse?
Anyone who has spent time around horses knows that — at some point — a horse is likely going to damage something or even injure someone. The risk is extra high when the horse is handled incorrectly.
When you are the only person dealing with your horse, it’s easier to avoid accidents. However, this is not the case for most owners: horses tend to be boarded at a livery yard, where they are in contact with many other people.
The question, then, is if your horse causes damage or injures someone, are you liable or is the boarding stable owner? The answer: it depends.
What Does Your Boarding Contract Say About Damages?
There is no standard as to who pays for damages — it all depends on the terms set out in the boarding contract. Typically, there are three possible agreements.
Livery Yard Takes Responsibility
Some boarding contracts state that the owner of the livery yard will pay for all damages, no matter the amount or the reason for the damage. Often, these contracts mean that the client (you) pays slightly more to board your horse — to cover the cost of eventualities like broken fences and gates, bitten doors and stall walls, and kicked stall dividers.
This agreement is a good option if there are many horses on site, all with different owners, which means it may not always be obvious which horse was responsible for the damage.
Boarder Is Liable
The other extreme is you are responsible for all damage — and you may even be required to arrange for repairs. You will not need to pay for expected wear and tear, however. Such an agreement is more common in cases where staff at the livery yard are responsible for the care of your horse.
A final option is for the livery owner to pay for a portion of the repairs and you the rest. Typically, the owner will pay up to a certain amount and you’ll need to cover the remaining expenses. The exact amount will be down to the discretion of the owner and stated in the boarding contract.
What About Injuries?
In the case your horse causes an injury to a third party, there’s a risk that both you and the owner of the livery yard could be held liable. For instance, if the horse kicks or bites someone visiting the yard or escapes and injures someone, the injured party could target you both with a lawsuit.
What to Do to Avoid Problems
There are a few things you should do to avoid disputes with the owner of the livery yard and potential lawsuits with third parties.
1. Draw Up a Legally-Binding Boarding Contact
Even in the case you are boarding with a friend or you have an agreement that allows you to board in exchange for services (meaning you are not paying anything), you should have a boarding contract. The contract should specify which of the above three options is applicable, along with the exact terms.
2. Purchase Appropriate Liability Insurance
Insurance can cover you in a variety of circumstances — but only if you have the right type of insurance. For instance, homeowner’s insurance is unlikely to provide sufficient coverage. To gain more broad coverage, you need to purchase an umbrella liability insurance policy or a personal (sometimes called private) horse owner’s liability policy.
If you’re gaining any money from your horse, you’ll need some type of business insurance. This includes if you lease your horse or offer riding lessons to clients. You may only be making a small amount, but as these are lucrative activities, other types of coverage won’t protect you from liabilities.
Commercial general liability insurance and equine professional insurance will both cover any business-related liabilities. Talk to your insurance company to ensure you purchase the right policy to cover your specific situation.
3. Provide Clients with a Release Clause
In addition to taking out insurance, you should ask any clients and guests to sign a release clause. Bear in mind that this release clause compliments insurance, but it is never a substitute — you need both. This is because a release cannot protect you in all circumstances, such as if damages or injuries occur to someone who has not signed a release.
4. Take the Necessary Precautions
The last thing to do is take steps to avoid incidents in the first place. Much of this will fall to the owner — like keeping pastures and stalls in good conditions, making sure there are no faulty latches or broken fences that could allow your horse to escape.
However, there are plenty of things you can do as well. For instance, you can pressure the owner put up the proper warning signs around the premises. You can also ensure that the livery staff are familiar with the needs and temperament of your horse and know how to handle him. Finally, you can maintain your personal equipment — to ensure your horse will be secure when tied or led in hand and to reduce the chance that other riders suffer an accident.
If you feel that the owner of the livery yard is not taking necessary precautions and are concerned that your horse may cause damage or an injury as a result, the best thing you can do is start looking for a new place to board him.
It is important that you draw up a boarding contract and release clause that sets out terms in a way that cannot be misinterpreted. Similarly, the contract and release should be specific to your situation and horse — it’s no good using generic forms you find online. To ensure both the contract and release are legally valid, seek the services of an attorney who is experienced in equine law. The same attorney can also represent you in the case that damages ever result in a lawsuit.
Contact The Fleck Firm today to figure out how we can help you.