If a horse bucked you off while you were taking a riding lesson, you may be wondering if you can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit. More than likely, you signed a liability release document before you took your first lesson. If you didn't, it will be easy for your trainer to be held liable. However, if you did sign a liability release, don't give up hope. You might still be able to hold your trainer liable. Here's what you need to consider.
Liability release or not, was your trainer negligent?
The first thing to consider is whether or not your trainer was negligent. A liability release, if signed, does not absolve a trainer of their duty of care and their responsibilities in keeping you safe throughout your lesson to the best of their ability. For example, if the trainer didn't properly secure the girth strap of the saddle and that caused you to fall off, he or she could be held liable because of their negligence in providing you with a safe riding experience while under their direction as your trainer, regardless of whether or not a liability release was signed.
Assumption of risk is inherent, but was the risk increased unreasonably?
Any time there are animals involved, particularly large animals such as horses, there is an inherent chance that something will go wrong. This is called an assumption of risk. For horses, the risk of injury is assumed due to the nature of equine instincts, since they are prey animals. The student-teacher contract likely covered this aspect of horse riding lessons.
However, the assumption of risk means that your trainer should do as much as possible to make sure the risks are reasonable. If you can prove to the insurance company or to a court of law that there were unreasonable risks taken and those unreasonable risks lead to your personal injuries, you may have a strong enough case to receive compensation to help cover the costs of your medical bills, any lost wages, and pain and suffering.
For example, if the horse's teeth were sharp and it didn't want to have a bit in its mouth, it may have bucked you off. In this example, the horse trainer should have known about the dental problem. If he or she did not know, it shows negligence on their behalf, which unreasonably increased your risks as the person who rode the horse.
Contact a firm like Blomberg Benson & Garrett to learn more about your options.