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Horse accidents and the Animals Act

19th May 2016

We are a nation of horse lovers. Horses are generally placid, trusting, dependable animals who form strong bonds with those who ride and care for them. However, when things go wrong with horses, they can go badly wrong, often due to the size, strength and power of the animal. Every year, many people are seriously injured by horses kicking and bolting (running away).

The Animals Act 1971 was brought in to allow ‘strict liability’ claims for compensation by people injured by horses. For example, in circumstances where the accident may have been no-one’s fault. This is, however, an incredibly challenging area of law, being poorly drafted and open to a wide range of interpretation by Judges.

The following examples should give an idea of the circumstances that may give rise to a claim:

– a child who has been kicked by a large horse which has run away/bolted as it is being led from a field

– a veterinary nurse who has been kicked by a horse that was ill or in pain whilst being treated or moved against its will

Often, however, there is an element of carelessness, ie fault which has led to the incident and injury. It can be necessary to make very careful enquiries as to a horse’s previous behaviour, other incidents and the owner’s knowledge of these matters.

It is really important to seek advice, without delay, from specialist lawyers.  Evidence has to be gathered quickly and carefully. Expert evidence often has to be obtained as to horses’ characteristics and behaviour. There are many traps for the unwary, and claims are often vigorously defended by insurance companies specialising in this area of law.

Our lawyers are expert in pursuing claims involving serious and life changing injuries. They also have many years’ experience in riding and caring for horses, so have a good understanding of horse behaviour and what can go wrong.

Paul Fretwell, solicitor and partner, personal injury department

George Ide
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