Equestrian businesses are being warned of the potential dangers of being underinsured. Two recent legal cases have highlighted the expense of defending personal injury claims.

In one case, defended by HorseSolicitor, which concluded in October 2014, an equine events display company was forced to pay out more than £15,000 after a sub-contractor was kicked by a partially sighted horse.

The claimant, who suffered a fractured leg in the accident in Sheffield on 12 April, alleged that the company had provided an unsafe place to work. The company was underinsured as it had specifically elected not to include cover for injury caused to employees/contractors by the horses.

Due to government changes to personal injury cases, implemented in April 2013, even when a defendant successfully defeats a claim, there are very limited circumstances in which the court will allow the defendant to recover their legal fees incurred. Defence costs of a contested trial can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

“The defendant does not feel that they did anything to warrant the claim against them, however the commercial reality of defence costs being unrecoverable led them to choose to reach a settlement at an early stage,” explained the HorseSolicitor’s Neil Rees.

In another similar case, a livery yard owner in Usk, Monmouthshire, who was not insured for riding lessons, faced a claim after a child sustained back injuries in July 2013 on her property, requiring metal rods to be inserted into her spine.

The owner’s expenditure could potentially have been hundreds of thousands of pounds, but the case was closed on 12 January 2014 with legal fees of £1,500.

Both cases may have been avoided if the defendants had not been underinsured. Each policyholder should ensure that the level of cover and extent of the policy that they have meets the likely risks that they may face in the event of a claim.

Had the company paid for the increased insurance cover, as in the first case, they would have had an indemnity from their insurer in respect of both the claimant’s claim for damages and legal costs, and also the costs of defending the case to trial.

The same would apply to people riding other peoples or friends horses, either in an enclosed space or out on a hack. For example, if a friend is riding your horse and it damages property, another person or the person riding the horse, then the owner of that horse is liable, unless a disclaimer is signed and dated beforehand.

Another instance for having the correct insurance is if your horse escapes, for whatever reason, maybe a broken fence or fallen rider, if the escapee damages property or persons, again you will be liable.

One horse has been killed and another had to be rescued by police after escaping onto a main road in Shropshire recently. The dead horse was found on the main road having been hit by a car while the other was caught nearby, heading towards a motorway.

Last Sunday, two horses were found wandering down a main road in Doncaster until passers by managed to herd them into a nearby field until the police came, the horses obviously well cared for and rugged up had seemingly escaped from somewhere and the owners were trying to be located, luckily in this instance no damage or harm came to anyone involved.

This latest incident follows a spate of fatalities involving loose horses. As a result owners are being urged to check their fencing to ensure there are no escape routes for the horses to get out. With hedges bare of leaves at this time of year, many are finding it easier to get out of their fields.

Horse owners and livery yard owners are also reminded that under the Animals Act 1971 they are liable for their animals’ actions should they cause an accident to others, either human or animal.

The World Horse Welfare states “We would always advise owners to ensure that their horse is kept in a field with secure fencing and if a horse is tethered, to ensure that he is tethered safely according to the Code of Practice on Tethering,”

“Always make sure that you make regular checks on your horse to ensure that he is kept in a safe and secure environment, thus reducing the chance of any harm coming to your animal or others.”

Animals, especially younger ones, are often inquisitive and will find a way through fencing.


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