Riding a horse and other horse-related activities can be highly fulfilling and enjoyable for both children and adults. However, these do not come without risks, and when accidents happen, you could suffer severe and life-changing injuries.
According to the British Horse Society, between November 2010 and March 2018, there were 2,900 reports of road traffic accidents involving horse riders, resulting in 39 rider fatalities and 230 horse casualties.
Besides road traffic accidents, other common causes of horse riding injuries include faulty or damaged equipment, poor ground conditions and lack of safety controls at equestrian competitions. The most severe injuries may cause permanent brain damage or paralysis and may even be fatal.
If someone else was at least partially responsible for your injuries, you might be able to make a horse riding accident claim. To find out if you are entitled to compensation, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
Can I make a horse riding accident claim?
If you had a horse riding accident, you might think it was your fault or part of the risk you voluntarily accepted by taking part in the activity. However, many accidents could be avoided by taking reasonable precautions and following the health and safety guidelines.
Thus, you might be able to make a horse riding accident claim if:
- Another person or organisation owed you a duty of care (such as a horse owner or instructor)
- They caused your accident by acting negligently (such as through a lack of training or equipment)
- You have suffered an injury or injuries as a result in the last three years
You were likely owed a legal duty of care if you were injured:
- While working with horses
- In a road traffic accident
- While watching or participating in an equestrian competition
- While taking horse riding lessons
- In any other horse-related activity
To make a successful horse riding injury claim, you will need evidence of how the accident happened, who was to blame and the damages you suffered, such as:
- Medical records of your injuries and the treatments you received
- The contact details of any witnesses to your accident
- Photographs of what caused your injuries, such as faulty equipment or poor ground conditions
- Pictures of any visible injuries and damage to your items
- Camera footage if anyone was filming the event in which you were injured
- Your notes about how the accident happened and how your injuries affected your life
- Evidence of all the financial losses and expenses you incurred due to the horse riding accident
What are the most common types of horse riding accidents?
Riding a horse can be highly rewarding and enjoyable, but if something goes wrong, the consequences could be devastating. If someone else acted negligently and caused you a horse riding injury, you might be able to claim compensation.
The most common causes leading to a horse riding accident claim include:
- Inadequately fitted horse tack, such as saddles or reins
- An aggressive or reckless driver causing a road traffic accident
- Unsuitable and uneven surfaces causing a horse riding accident
- Being given a horse that you are not trained to ride, such as one with an unpredictable temperament
- Riding in poor weather conditions
- Poor leadership and unclear instructions from a trainer
- Faulty or damaged equipment and riding gear
- Lack of safety controls at a gymkhana or equestrian competition
- A poor layout at an equestrian event leading to spectator injuries
- Being crushed by a horse falling on top of you
- Being thrown off, kicked or bitten by a horse exhibiting dangerous behaviour
- Failure to properly train the horse for riding
- Instructor’s oversight to monitor groups or signal traffic
The list is not exhaustive, as you could suffer a horse riding accident in many other ways. There are several standards that riders, horse owners and instructors should follow to prevent severe injuries, including:
- Always wear a helmet and back protector that meet proper safety standards
- Wear adequately fitted boots with a minimal heel and comfortable clothing that is not too loose
- Inspect all riding equipment to make sure it is not faulty
- Make sure the horse tack is appropriate to your size and adequately fastened
- Use safety stirrups that break away in the event of an accident
- Never walk behind a horse
- Make sure the horse you are riding is appropriate for your skill level
- Do not go off trails, and stay alert for anything that might startle your horse
- Do not attempt jumps and stunts without supervision
If you had an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to bring a horse riding injury claim. To find out if you could be entitled to compensation, you should contact a solicitor for a free consultation.
What are the most common horse riding injuries?
Horse riding and working with horses can put you at risk for severe and even fatal accidents. Horse riding accidents can result in a wide range of injuries from bruising and abrasions to broken bones, spinal cord injuries and brain trauma.
Some of the most common injuries leading to a horse riding accident claim include:
Fractures and dislocations
Falling off a horse is the most frequent cause of horse riding accidents and can lead to a fracture or dislocation in almost any part of your body. Trampling and horse kicks may also cause fractures of the foot, ribcage or mandible. A fractured clavicle or collarbone is one of the most common riding injuries and causes symptoms such as severe pain, inability to move your arm, bruising, swelling and tenderness.
While most fractures and dislocations can heal with nonsurgical treatment, severe injuries usually require surgery and several months to heal. If another person or organisation was responsible for your horse riding accident, you could claim compensation for your pain and suffering.
Cuts, lacerations and bruising
Falls, trampling, kicks and even horse bites can cause minor to severe cuts, bruises and lacerations. Mild injuries may heal without medical care, but more severe ones may need suturing and cause permanent scarring. Cuts or lacerations can also lead to infections and may cause damage to underlying structures like nerves or tendons, which may require surgical repair.
Soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue injuries occur when the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the body experience some degree of trauma. These injuries often happen as a result of acute trauma due to falling off a horse or may develop gradually due to overuse and repetitive movements.
Sprains, strains, contusions, tendinitis and bursitis are common soft tissue injuries. Symptoms include pain, swelling, limited range of motion and muscle weakness. Even with appropriate treatment, these injuries may need a prolonged recovery time resulting in lost wages and other damages for which you could claim compensation.
Head and brain injuries
Head injuries are the most common reason for hospitalisation and fatalities among horse riders. When riding a horse, your head is elevated up to four meters above the ground, and a fall from that height can easily cause permanent brain damage.
Injuries may range from minor bumps and lacerations to severe skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries with devastating consequences. Wearing a helmet greatly reduces the chance of a severe head injury due to a fall from a horse or trampling.
While death can be the ultimate outcome of a serious head injury, those who survive a traumatic brain injury may suffer intellectual and memory impairment, personality changes, epilepsy and emotional changes. In the most severe cases, the victim may require full-time care and assistance.
Falling off a horse can result in a wide range of injuries that could get much worse if the horse subsequently falls on top of the rider. As an average horse weighs around 500kg, this usually results in a high rate of rib fractures but may also lead to more severe or even fatal injuries. You should receive proper training on how to roll away if you fall off to avoid a crush injury.
Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by direct damage to the spinal cord itself or to the tissue and bones surrounding it. SCI often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other bodily functions below the injury site.
In contrast with other sports accidents, there are more lumbar and thoracic injuries than cervical spine injuries, and more women are injured than men. Some common signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of or altered sensations
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Changes in sexual function
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
Some of the most common leg injuries caused by a fall from a horse include soft tissue injuries, ankle joint fractures and femoral fractures. Trampling and horse kicks can also lead to cuts, lacerations, fractured kneecaps and many other leg injuries.
Besides physical injuries, you could also claim compensation for any psychological trauma caused by the horse riding accident. This includes mental anguish, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, which may affect your life for much longer after your physical injuries have healed.
If your injury was due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation. To find out if you have a valid horse accident claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Who could be liable for a horse riding injury claim?
Horse riding and other horse-related activities carry an inherent risk of injuries, such as falling while mounting the horse, being thrown if the horse suddenly stoops or getting kicked. The injured person’s skill, experience and actions will be considered in determining whether they were aware of the risks and voluntarily accepted them.
Regardless of the risks involved, riders and those working with horses have a right to be protected from preventable and foreseeable accidents. Anyone who has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent a horse riding accident may be deemed liable for your injuries, including:
- The keeper or owner of the horse, if they were aware of problems with the horse and failed to warn you or take reasonable precautions against an accident.
- The owner or manager of the riding school if your injury was due to dangerous conditions on the property. The property owner or occupier must exercise reasonable care to:
- Maintain and inspect the property
- Repair potentially dangerous conditions
- Give proper warning of any hazards that may cause a horse riding accident
- The organiser of an event if you were injured while participating in or spectating an equestrian event. Common examples of negligence from venue owners and event organisers include:
- Insufficient barriers between the audience and the riding area
- Obstacles left in the wrong place
- Unsuitable ground conditions for riding
- Your employer might be liable if you suffered a horse injury at work. Employers have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to take all reasonable measures to protect your health and safety in the workplace. They have to:
- Provide you with adequate training and equipment
- Make sure their facilities meet safety requirements
- Give you horses you are capable of handling
- A trainer or riding instructor if they were negligent or reckless in causing the horse riding accident. If they told you to do something that a reasonable trainer would not suggest or encourage, they may be liable for your injuries.
- Other horse riders if they acted negligently and contributed to your horse riding accident.
- A road user if you were involved in a road traffic accident with a car, lorry or other vehicle because they spooked the horse by driving carelessly.
Your solicitor will investigate the circumstances of your accident and determine who may be liable for it. They will contact the responsible party, inform them of your intentions to bring a horse riding injury claim and conduct negotiations on your behalf.
How much compensation can I claim for a horse riding injury?
The compensation you may receive if your horse riding accident claim is successful depends on several factors, such as:
- The type and extent of your injuries
- How the accident affected your daily life
- The financial losses and expenses you incurred
- The circumstances of your accident
- Whether you were partially at fault for your horse riding injury
After a thorough investigation of your case, your solicitor will consider how the accident affected you to calculate a fair compensation award. Your settlement will cover:
Special damages awarded for your financial losses and expenses, such as:
- Medical costs of consultations, prescriptions and hospital stays
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Training costs for alternative employment when appropriate
- Transportation costs to and from medical appointments
- Modifications to your home and vehicle to accommodate a disability
- Cost of hiring care and assistance during recovery
- Veterinary fees to treat your horse’s injuries
- Damage to riding equipment and other personal items
- Any other related losses and expenses
General damages awarded for the physical injury and how it affected you. This takes into account:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and psychological distress
- Physical and mental impairment
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of prospects and enjoyment of life
- The impact your injuries have had on your hobbies and social life
Unlike special damages, it is not straightforward to calculate a fair compensation award for subjective pain and suffering. Courts and solicitors often refer to the guidelines published by the Judicial College, an official body of the Ministry of Justice. According to them, you could receive the following compensation awards for some of the most common horse riding injuries:
- Up to £4,050 for minor laceration injuries to the hand;
- Up to £6,730 for a soft tissue injury to the shoulder with complete recovery within 24 months;
- £20,900 to £51,070 for severe wrist injuries leading to permanent disability and loss of function;
- Up to £11,730 for minor foot injuries such as contusions, puncture wounds or fractures with complete recovery within two years;
- £27,760 to £96,250 for moderately severe leg injuries causing long-term mobility issues and disability;
- Up to £26,190 for moderate knee injuries causing pain, suffering and minor disability;
- £6,290 to £9,970 for moderate back injuries such as sprains, strains or prolapsed disks with complete recovery within five years without surgery;
- £30,910 to £55,590 for back fractures that result in chronic pain and lack of mobility;
- Up to £151,070 for spinal cord damage leading to chronic pain, disability and some degree of paralysis;
- £1,890 to £6,870 for minor laceration injuries to the head;
- £18,980 to £32,210 for a moderately severe skull fracture with permanent scarring;
- £140,870 to £205,580 for a moderate to severe brain injury causing damage to intellect, personality changes and elevated risk of epilepsy;
- £264,650 to £379,100 for very severe brain injuries leading to reduced language function and need for full-time care and assistance;
- Around £4,380 for mental anguish;
- £23,150 to £59,860 for moderately severe Post-traumatic stress disorder likely to cause significant disability.
What is the time limit for making a compensation claim?
As a general rule, the Limitation Act 1980 imposes a three-year time limit to claim compensation after a horse riding accident. In circumstances where an injury does not become immediately apparent, the time limit begins to count down from the date of knowledge.
If you do not bring a horse riding injury claim within the time limit, your case becomes statute-barred. This means the court will no longer accept your claim, even if it has merit. In certain circumstances, the court has the authority to overrule the limitation period, depending on the length and reason for your delay.
There are some instances where the time limit to take legal action differs from three years. For example:
- In claims involving minors, the three-year limitation period does not start to run until the victim reaches the age of 18. Afterwards, they will have until their 21st birthday to claim compensation.
- The three-year limitation period is suspended if the victim cannot handle their own claim due to a pre-existing condition such as schizophrenia or a traumatic brain injury caused by a horse riding accident. A litigation friend could bring a claim on their behalf at any time.
- If a loved one suffered a fatal horse riding injury, you could claim on their behalf within three years from the date of death.
- If you suffered an injury abroad, you could still make a horse riding accident claim. However, the time limit varies considerably from country to country and could be as short as six months.
Regardless of how long you think you have to take legal action, you should contact a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. This will make it easier to collect proof and talk to witnesses and increase your chances of making a successful horse riding injury claim.
Can horse riding accident claims be made on a no win no fee basis?
Most horse riding injury claims are funded with a no win no fee agreement, meaning there is no financial risk to you when pursuing compensation. If your solicitor believes you have a fair chance of success, they will accept your claim without asking for any upfront fees.
Furthermore, under the no win no fee agreement between you and your personal injury lawyer, you will not pay any solicitor fees at all if your claim is unsuccessful. If you win the case, the other side will cover most of your solicitor’s costs, and you will only have to pay them a success fee.
The success fee is deducted from your compensation for general damages and past financial losses and cannot exceed 25% of your award. It aims to compensate for the risk your solicitor took by offering you a no win no fee agreement, as they cannot recoup their costs if your claim fails.
After the Event (ATE) insurance is another essential part of a no win no fee claim. The ATE policy is a legal expenses insurance your solicitor will take out before starting legal proceedings. It offers full financial coverage for the expenses incurred during claiming, such as the other side’s solicitor fees, medical reports and court fees.
If you claim compensation for a horse riding accident on a no win no fee basis, you only have to pay anything if your case is successful. This includes:
- The cost of the ATE insurance premium, which you do not have to cover if your claim fails;
- Any costs and expenses that cannot be recovered from the other side, such as a medical report that was not helpful;
- A success fee that is paid to your solicitor for winning the claim.
Can I make an accident claim on behalf of my child?
Yes, you are entitled to make a horse riding accident claim on behalf of your child. Children under 18 are not considered to have the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings, so they need a litigation friend to represent them. The litigation friend could be any adult who:
- Can fairly and competently make decisions about the claim
- Has no conflict of interest with the child
Becoming a litigation friend brings several responsibilities, such as:
- Attend court hearings and sign legal documents
- Pay any fees requested by the court
- Take decisions about the claim and consider any settlement offers
- Make sure your child attends all medical appointments
- Regularly consult with your solicitor and take legal advice
- Keep updated with legal proceedings and give directions to your solicitor
Your role as a litigation friend for your child will come to an end when either:
- The horse riding injury claim concludes
- The child turns 18 and can continue the claim themselves
- You apply for a replacement with a valid reason
Every child injury claim must go through an Infant Approval Hearing in court. A judge will examine all the available evidence and decide if the child received a fair settlement for their horse riding injury. Depending on your child’s age and the severity of their injuries, they may have to attend the hearing.
Although you may claim on behalf of your child, you do not usually have access to their compensation award. Instead, the money will be kept in a court bank account and released to the child when they turn 18. Your solicitor can help you apply for early release of some of the money if you need it to cover pressing medical or education costs that you cannot afford otherwise.
They could also help you set up a personal injury trust so that your child’s compensation will not be taken into account for means-tested state benefits. This will also ensure that the money will be ring-fenced and protected against third parties even into adulthood.