Equine Liability - Are You Managing Your Risk?
Updated: Jun 4
At REO Insurance Agency, we don’t take equine liability lightly. We aren’t lawyers, and we don’t give legal advice, but we can make sure that our clients are as knowledgeable and protected as possible.
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Whether you're a professional giving a riding lesson, an amateur putting on an event, or just a friend letting a friend pet your horse - you could be liable for the safety of the people and horses around you. This is an area where you have ample opportunity to cover yourself and mitigate as much of your risk as possible.
Liability Release Forms
Says Julie Fershtman, one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law, “Courts in most states have shown a willingness to enforce releases – if they are properly written and signed.”
A Texas Court of Appeals recently found in favor of the defendant, a resort offering trail rides to guests, against a party who was injured when she fell off during a trail ride. The plaintiff had reviewed a release that noted a number of potential risks (which she initialed) and provided her signature stating that she waived any claims, including negligence claims, against the resort.
A lawyer in your state can explain the applicable state laws and can draft a release form for your business, or review your current release form.
Accidents can and do occur anytime you mix horses and humans. Riders, trainers, and competitors are accustomed to this and are also used to signing liability release forms. But what about spectators, guests, small children, or random passers-by?
Warning signs are an inexpensive and easily obtainable risk mitigation measure. Available at most tack/feed and farm stores, they carry the essential language of your state’s equine and/or farm animal liability statute. Consider placing these in your barn and arena.
States in the US began passing equine liability statutes (ELSs) in 1991. According to The National Law Review, the objective of an ELS is:
To shield persons involved in an equine activity from liability from claims related to a participant’s injuries resulting from the inherent risks of that activity, while ensuring the right of an injured participant to recover under certain narrowly defined circumstances. Source: The National Law Review
For example, in a 1996 Georgia case involving an experienced fox hunter who was kicked during the activity, the court took note that event organizers posted a “warning” sign on a vehicle windshield near the hunt’s starting point.
Equine and/or farm animal liability laws can vary in specifics and scope depending on the state. It's recommended to consult the specific statutes of each state or seek legal advice
Risk management is a priority for every horse owner, trainer, event, producer, and venue. Liability releases and warning signs, in conjunction with equine liability insurance, can help protect you, your business, or your organization.
Remember, each state is different in how the legal statutes are written, so check with your attorney to see how your state laws apply.
Please visit our Equine Liability Coverages page for more information on the insurance options we offer. And, as always, let us know if you would like a quote on an equine liability policy.