Ocala, Florida, is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.”
With its temperate climate and lush pastures, Marion County produces the finest of equestrian champions. They compete locally, nationally, and at the international circuits. There are several equestrian competition grounds in the area. The newly constructed venue in Ocala is creating much excitement for horse enthusiasts. The World Equestrian Center is scheduled to have a soft opening in October 2020. It will be fully operational for equestrian sports in January 2021. The complex is comprised of 4000 acres of state-of-the-art amenities to accommodate every horse-related discipline. It will feature world-class indoor and outdoor athletic equestrian events. With the potential to fill 2100 horse stalls, the enthusiasm for this venue’s opening also brings the potential for countless horse-related accidents and liability issues.
A High Percentage of Equestrians Experience Injuries
In equestrian sports, there are varying degrees of accidents with injuries, including fatalities. High profile cases such as Christopher Reeve, best known as the actor in “Superman,” was severely injured in a riding accident in 1995, resulting in quadriplegia. Canadian eventer Katherine Morel and her horse, Kerry On, experienced fatalities following a horse accident at the Rocking Horse venue in Altoona, Florida. This fatality occurred as a result of a rotational fall on a cross country course in February 2020. Although not highly publicized, horse riding accidents at local riding stables, public parks, and backyard barns can be devastating.
Who is Liable for Damages?
There are inherent risks associated with riding and caring for horses due to their size, considerable speed, and unpredictable nature. Most injuries occur due to participant falls or horse bites, and handlers being kicked, trampled, stepped on, or shoved. The State of Florida Statutes recognize these risks. Florida Statutes provide an equine activity sponsor with legal immunity for a participant’s injury or death, except under the following circumstances:
- The activity sponsor commits a negligent act or omission that willfully disregards the safety of the participant. An example is a saddle that is not adequately secured on a horse.
- The equipment or tack is faulty, and it is totally or partially responsible for the injuries. There may be a liability for the activity sponsor or the manufacturer of the equipment.
- The activity sponsor fails to determine the participant’s skills and provides an equine that the participant cannot manage safely.
- The injuries are partially or totally due to a dangerous condition of the riding area. The equine activity sponsor or property owner is aware and fails to post warning signs.
- The activity sponsor intentionally injures the participant.
The Florida Equine helmet law states that any minor under the age of 16 must wear a certified helmet that meets the American Society of Testing and Materials standards. The helmet must be properly fitted and fastened securely upon the child’s head. Other safety gear is used at the participant’s discretion, such as safety vests, breakaway stirrups, sturdy footwear, and gloves. The State of Florida further requires that warning signs be posted wherever there are horse activities.
The King Law Firm is Ocala’s Personal Injury Attorney
Compensatory damages in a settlement for a personal injury lawsuit include economic and non-economic damages. Examples are medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. A spouse or a minor’s parents may also receive compensation for burial and funeral expenses in a wrongful death claim.
Our equestrian legal team is skilled in all facets of the equine industry, and we are strong advocates for our clients. As premises liability and personal injury attorneys, we represent plaintiffs against horse owners, horse trainers, property owners, riding clubs or organizations, and third-party claims. Even if you signed a liability waiver, you might be entitled to damages for gross negligence and intentional acts.
The King Law Firm handles a wide range of premises and personal injury claims. Call our Ocala, Florida office at 352-309-3805 to discuss the facts of your case and your options. We offer a free, initial consultation and work on a contingency basis.