If you were thrown from a horse while taking riding lessons from a professional trainer, you may be wondering if you can file a lawsuit. While everyone knows that horse riding can be dangerous, it doesn't negate the fact that trainers do have a responsibility when they choose lesson horses and when they give their students lessons. Here's what you need to know.
Assumption of Risk
As everyone who has ever ridden or been close to horses knows, horses have minds of their own. Even the best-trained horses can suddenly bolt and cause a rider to fall off. There's nothing like watching a 17h high Thoroughbred being scared to death of a plastic bag blowing in the wind. After all, horses are prey creatures. For this reason, there is an assumption of risk when riding horses or being near them, which is why trainers should carefully choose lesson horses that aren't prone to spooking.
There's also an assumption of risk that you will get injured if/when you fall off of a horse or get bucked off. Therefore, it may be difficult to win a lawsuit due to this assumption of risk. However, that doesn't mean that winning a lawsuit is impossible. The assumption of risk is the main reason why trainers ask their students to sign liability releases.
If your trainer had you sign a liability release, you'll need to read it carefully to see how the release is worded. If your trainer did not have you sign a liability release, it could be a warning flag that your trainer does not have liability insurance. Most liability insurance companies require liability releases be signed by each student.
Even if you did sign a liability release, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to file a lawsuit, especially if you can prove that the trainer was negligent. The release does not give your trainer permission to act irresponsibly, no matter how the release is worded.
Unreasonably Increased Risk
If you can prove that the risk of riding the horse you rode was unreasonably increased and/or that the trainer acted irresponsibly by making poor decisions that caused your injury, you will have a strong case. An example of an unreasonably increased risk while horse riding would be riding a horse that is injured and, therefore, more sensitive to the pressure of a bit, the touch of spurs, and/or the weight of a rider in the saddle, etc.
If you knew of this type of an unreasonably increased risk and you still chose to ride the horse, you can also be held responsible for your injuries, which would mean your case would not be as strong. However, if you were unaware that the horse had an injury or was sick, you wouldn't have known that there was an increased risk.
But your trainer should have known of an injury or illness in the horse. If he or she didn't know that the horse was injured or sick, the trainer could be held liable for being irresponsible due to not taking the time to make sure that he or she provided a healthy horse for the riding lesson. This is why trainers take time to check their lesson horses regularly for signs of injuries and/or illnesses.
If your trainer did know about an injury or illness and still chose to use the horse for your lesson, your case of negligence will be strong due to the fact that this type of decision is definitely irresponsible and negligent. There's no excuse that is reasonable enough to use an injured or sick horse for a riding lesson. Doing so is dangerous for the horse and for the rider. Speak with an accident lawyer or check out a website like http://daglawteam.com for more information about injury laws based on the specifics of your case.