For many North Carolinians horseback riding and equestrian events are relaxing and fun. The last thing anyone wants to think about is getting injured. However, accidents do happen and the best way to be prepared is to know the law and how it is going to affect you. The North Carolina Equine Activity Liability Statute can be found online at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bychapter/chapter_99e.html.
All horse and equine owners should read and be familiar with this law. Just because you are unaware of your legal responsibilities, does not excuse you from them. According to the law “equine” includes horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and hinnies. Be aware that the statute protects but only to a limit. It covers injuries categorized as “inherent” risks but not those caused by negligent acts. Inherent risks are those that are an “integral part of engaging in an equine activity”. They consist of damage or death caused by unruly animal behavior and the reaction of the animal to its surroundings specifically sounds, movements, unfamiliar objects, people and other animals but does not cover accidents involving motor vehicles. Just because the injury falls into one of the categories above does not mean that an owner will not have a lawsuit filed against them by the injured.
All equine owners should always have appropriate insurance coverage. Talk to your local insurance agent to make sure that your current policy covers injuries sustained by your animals. If not, you may seriously think about upgrading it. The law requires a specific warning be posted “in a clearly visible location” anytime an equine professional or equine activity sponsor holds an event. Signs can be purchased through the NC Horse Council online (http://www.nchorsecouncil.com/store.htm).
For more information on the statute, please feel free to contact the NC Horse Council in Raleigh by calling 1-800-529-9206.