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Horse riding accident on the road – can you take legal action?

The number of road accidents involving horses and their riders is now disturbingly high - as the latest statistics from the British Horse Society (BHS) reveal.

In the last five years there have been 2,070 accidents of which 181 resulted in the death of the horse and 36 caused the death of the rider.

The BHS survey contains some alarming findings:

  • 75 per cent of accidents happened because the vehicle passed the horse without leaving enough room;
  • A quarter of respondents said they also had to deal with driver road rage during the incident ;
  • More than 60 per cent of accidents happened between 10am and 3pm;
  • June was the worst month for road accidents involving horses and their riders
  • Most incidents happened on a minor road and in a rural area.

The issue was recently highlighted on BBC One's Countryfile television programme and included an interview with Gillian Singleton whose horse, Digby, was killed after being involved in a road accident in North Wales as she was riding him in September. She escaped with minor injuries. The driver said he had not seen them.

Accident prevention

It is important to make sure you are as safe as possible when riding a horse on the road.

The BHS's Riding and Road Safety Test aims to educate riders in road safety in order to minimise the risks involved.

The test is available to all riders from 12 years of age and is supported by the Department for Transport. It is probably the only test that any rider will undertake that has the potential to save not only their own life, but that of their horse and other road users as well.

The other key recommendation is to always wear reflective and high visibility equipment on both horse and rider even on a bright, clear day.

In addition, ensuring riding hats and body protectors are correctly fitted is vital as this will greatly reduce the risk of serious head and spinal injury

What should you do if you are involved in a road accident with your horse?

This area of the law can be quite complicated so it is important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Road users have a duty to take care when they are passing or approaching horses being ridden or led along public roads so it may be possible to claim compensation if you or your horse are injured in a road accident caused by a lack of care by another road user.

It may even be possible to claim if you or your horse are injured by a hit and run driver who then cannot be traced.

An organisation called the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) exists to compensate victims of negligent untraced drivers as well as uninsured drivers. MIB claims are subject to different rules and timescales to standard personal injury road traffic accident claims and expert advice is essential to avoid falling foul of the pitfalls.

  • If you need legal advice after a horse riding accident on the road, contact partner Helen Boyd, a member of Wards Solicitors' Accident and Injury team, or pop into one of our 11 local offices.