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.
In addition, Florida’s statute is not a “zero liability” or “total immunity” law. There are exceptions from its protection for damages caused by the equine activity sponsor’s negligence. For example, you may be able to collect damages if:
• the horse provided to you had an injury or was known to exhibit dangerous behaviors • the riding trails were poorly maintained or contained preventable hazards • tack or other equipment was faulty • a novice rider was paired with a horse that required an experienced rider • a professional guide failed to act in a safe manner
Due to the precise and complicated language of Florida’s equine activity liability law, it is important to have experienced representation if you or a family member has suffered personal injury during a horse-related activity. An equestrian accident attorney knows the ins and outs of the statute, including the types and number of warning signs required on an activity sponsor’s property and the specific language required in all contracts and waivers. The accident attorneys of Madalon Law are aware of all of the exceptions from the statute’s protection that can arise when an activity sponsor is negligent. You should contact our Miami or Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys immediately following a horse riding accident to protect your rights and collect the compensation that is due to you.