Injuries Caused by Domestic Horses

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While the law surrounding instances of dog attacks or dog bites is fairly clear, accidents that involve horses and other domestic livestock are a little bit murkier. It for this reason that it is important to consult a personal injury attorney in your state to assess your potential for compensation.

If the negligence of a horse owner or stable caused or contributed to your injury call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced horse injury lawyers.

Types of Injuries

Accidents involving horses can occur in several different situations, such as while you’re out riding, working with the horses in a show ring, or caring for horses in a stable. These types of accidents may also implicate multiple parties, such as riding or training schools, ranch operators, arena owners, horse show operators, stable owners, or even tour companies.

Some common examples of accidents involving horses or equitation include:

  • Road accidents involving horseback riders
  • Road accidents involving stray or loose horses
  • Equine accidents while training or while competing in shows
  • Equine accidents at a vacation destination or on a guided tour
  • Encountering hazardous terrain while on horseback
  • Dangerous or defective horseback riding equipment (such as saddles, bridles, or reins)
  • Inadequate supervision while riding (especially for novice riders)
  • Spooking or startling a horse in the stable or pasture

How Often do Domestic Horses Injure People?

Horse riding injuries affect approximately 35.7 persons per 100,000 individuals every year in the United States, with the vast majority of injury-causing events involving females between the ages of 10–14 years. Head injuries are one of the most frequent injuries and the leading cause of death in horse-related injury events. The evidence collected by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggests that the vast majority of horse-related injuries are the result of falls from horseback, which reportedly represent between 42.7%  and 82% of the total number of people injured due to horse-involved accidents.

Similarly, unmounted horse injury events have also been found to frequently involve head trauma. However, other common unmounted injuries involve being kicked, crushed, trampled, trodden on, or even bitten. The body regions most severely affected by horses include facial injuries and head trauma, as well as significant chest and abdominal injuries. A study by Eckert et al. reported a high number of hoof kick injuries to the head during horse care and grooming. The same study suggested the prevalence of these injuries may partially be linked to a lack of helmet use in unmounted equestrian practices.

The statistics for motor vehicle accidents involving horses and other large livestock is hard to deduce as it is often lumped together with accidents involving deer, elk, and other wild animals.  One study by the CDC found that during the years of 2001-2002, an estimated 26,647 persons (9.3 per 100,000 population) were treated annually in U.S. emergency departments for motor vehicle accidents involving animals, of which 22,498 (84.8%) were motor vehicle occupants in crashes involving larger animals.

What to do if a Horse Bites You?

Although horses appear to be gentle giants, they can have an aggressive side as well.  Furthermore, it is not always their hooves and massive size that you should be worried about. Untrained, stressed, or even poorly socialized horses have been known to bite. More often than not, horse biting incidents will cause the victim to develop large bruises; however, horses’ teeth are built to shred large quantities of grass and their jaw muscles are strong enough to break the skin. Additionally, horses have a lot of bacteria in their mouths that could cause an infection if a bite does break the skin.

The steps to take following a horse bite are markedly similar to those of a dog bite. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that if you’ve been bitten you should:

1. Wash the wound immediately, using mild soap and warm tap water over the wound for five to 10 minutes.

2. Attempt to slow the bleeding with a clean cloth or paper towel.

3. Apply over-the-counter antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin) if you have it.

4. Wrap the wound in a sterile bandage.

5. Notify the owner of the horse or stable that the incident occurred.

6. Take pictures and document the injury.

7. Keep the wound bandaged until you see your doctor.

8. Change the bandage several times a day after your doctor has examined the wound.

9. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, increased pain, or fever.

10. If an infection develops, notify your doctor immediately and seek antibiotics and/or medical treatment at your nearest urgent care.

Does the Type of Animal Affect My Bite Injury Case?

If you have been injured as a result of an animal bite and decide to pursue a legal claim, in some states your rights might vary depending on the type of animal that caused the injury. For example, the majority of states have enacted laws known as "dog-bite laws," which impose strict liability on the dog owners for any injuries caused by their dog. Strict liability means that the dog owner will be held responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether the owner was negligent. Similar strict liability standards are imposed on owners of wild animals (such as lions, tigers, bears, foxes, etc.) because they are known to be uncontrollable and possess instincts that make them inherently dangerous.

Unlike dogs and wild animals, livestock and horses generally do not carry the same social concerns. Horses and livestock are largely viewed as docile and passive animals that only cause injury as a result of a panicked reaction or fear rather than aggression. Therefore, legislators have not gone out of their way to enact laws specifically targeted at establishing liability for the injuries they inflict. Instead, state courts rely on a negligence standard for attributing blame to the owners of livestock and horses. This means that the owner of a horse can be held liable for injuries caused by the horse if the owner knew or should have known about the horse's dangerous tendencies. Moreover, as with other animal injury cases, a horse owner may not be considered liable for injuries if they can prove the injured person either “assumed the risk,” was “contributorily negligent,” or provoked the horse into causing the injury.

Ultimately the type of animal that caused the injury will have some effect on whether you can recover damages from the owner of the horse. These laws vary from state to state.

Liability for Injuries Caused by Domestic Horses

Injuries caused by domestic animals may fall into the category of civil wrongs called torts. Torts are acts or omissions that give rise to an injury or harm for which a court can impose liability. Given that most domestic animals are under the care of their immediate owners, they are viewed under the law as their property. Therefore, when a domestic animal injures someone, the law assesses the tort as if the owner’s property caused the damage. For the owner to be liable, one must demonstrate that the owner was negligent in the maintenance or care of the animal such that it caused or contributed to your injury.

As discussed in the previous section, injuries caused by horses and other domesticated livestock are evaluated through a negligence standard. A negligence standard means that the owner of the animal will only be held liable for the injury if a fact-finder, like the judge or jury, finds that the owner was somehow negligent in the maintenance, care, or confinement of the animal. For example, if a horse wanders into a road and is hit by a car, the court will assess whether the owner had maintained a proper fence, whether the fence was of sufficient height, whether the gate was closed or left open, whether the horse was being properly supervised, and other reasonable expectations the court would impose on owners of large domestic animals.

The negligence of the owner is also assessed within the context of the conduct and experience of the injured party. A novice, or an inexperienced rider, has the responsibility to behave reasonably and need only to anticipate and avoid foreseeable dangerous situations. Professional riders and those who have extensive experience with horses are held to a higher standard and must behave reasonably within the context of their experience.

Additionally, some states have passed laws known as “equine activity statutes.” These laws specifically address issues that can arise when people are participating in horse-related activities and are designed to limit liability to property owners for deaths or injuries that occur on-site or in connection with these activities. The specifics of these statutes vary based on the state in which the accident occurred; however, they all involve the legal doctrine of “assumption of risk.”  The legal doctrine of “assumption of risk” holds that if a person has full knowledge of the risks involved in an activity, and they decide to participate in that activity anyway, then that person is said to have assumed the risk and will likely not be successful in a horse injury lawsuit. 

Get Help From Our DOMESTIC HORSE Injury Lawyers

At Zinda Law Group, our equestrian injury lawyers have helped many accident survivors and seek compensation for injuries and financial losses. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for any associated medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and all the other costs your accident has caused. 

Our firm believes that horse accident victims should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. This is why we offer 100% free consultations.  Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a horse, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.  We are also offering free virtual consultations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.