Horse Riding Accidents: Understanding Equestrian Accident Law


Horses are large and often unpredictable animals, and equestrian activities involve inherent risks. There may be variable ground surface and subsurface conditions; collisions with other horses or stationary objects; negligent behaviors or loss of control due to a novice rider’s lack of experience; and the potential for horses to react in a dangerous manner to unexpected things such as loud sounds, sudden movement, or unfamiliar animals. Due to these inherent risks – and the fact that many equine activity groups and businesses cater to all levels of experience including beginners – it is not surprising that there are many horse riding accidents resulting in personal injury cases in Florida each year.

You may have noticed posted warnings at stables or along public riding trails cautioning riders that equestrian sport is dangerous, and that participation is at the riders’ own risk. This is because Florida – along with 45 other states – has what is called an “equine-activity liability act.” This statute is designed to limit the scope of liability associated with equestrian activities, and define who is liable. The act states that equine professionals and horse-related activity sponsors must clearly post caution signs on properties where equestrian activity is to occur, as well as provide specific cautionary language in all of their contracts with members of the public interacting with the horses.

If you or a family member were injured in an equestrian accident, and you believe you have a personal injury claim, the first thing you need to do is collect evidence of the signage (or lack of warning signs) on the property – and carefully read any contract or waiver you signed before participating in the activity. If an equine activity sponsor provides all of the correct signage and specific language required by law, the equine activity liability statute protects them from many (but not all) personal injury claims stemming from a riding accident. Those who fail to comply with these requirements lose the benefit of the protection the statute provides.
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