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Call me biased, but horse people are good people. A very common scenario is when people choose horse trailer ride shares, either as a one-off favor or more regularly.
I’ve grown up doing this regularly. We’ve always kept our horses on our own property. In my hunter-jumper years, my horse shared rides to lessons in another family’s trailer multiple days a week.
Now, these trailer ride shares may happen a little less frequently for me, but they still come up from time to time! Just a few months ago, I found myself in a position where I had an equine emergency. My horse almost lost an eye in a snowstorm, and an incredible friend saved the day by taking us both to the equine hospital, as my vet was out of town.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with doing a trailer rideshare, but there are a few elements of equine law that you need to know to do it safely.
Today I want to touch on a few topics so you can be prepared the next time you’re in need of a horse trailer rideshare:
As you’ll hear throughout this blog, our goal to educate our readers about equine law isn’t rooted in the paranoia that one bad occurrence can result in a catastrophic lawsuit (i.e., friends aren’t likely to sue friends unless something goes really wrong).
BUT I see horse-related accidents happen all too often as an equine lawyer. If, God forbid, an accident was to occur, it pays to be prepared for the third party liability, not so much the friend you were just helping out.
To put it into perspective, let’s use a real client example. A client of mine was hauling a friend’s horse (the friend was even in the car with her), and they hit black ice. It was very clear to the passenger that the driver wasn’t at fault, and she didn’t hold the driver liable. In other words, she didn’t sue the driver.
However, when the driver hit the black ice, they slid into the other lane, and rear-ended a car in the other lane. Hardly any damage was done (and luckily, the horses were fine), but that driver’s insurance company filed a lawsuit against my client. At the end of the day, it’s just business. The insurance company was trying to cover their costs. Nothing about it was surprising.
All of this to say, when we’re discussing equine law issues, it’s not just a question of whether the two friendly parties would sue each other in case of an accident. We always have to think about third-party liability.
But, we’re not just here to talk about the things that could go wrong. Keeping these scenarios in the back of your mind, let’s find ways to prevent them and keep everyone involved safe.
Make sure the truck hauling the horse trailer and horse trailer itself are safe:
As a lawyer, I always want to give the blanket advice to use a contract in every scenario. But, as a horse owner, I know that’s not always practical.
Take my emergency, for example. When I called my friend to take my horse and I to the equine hospital in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t expect her to get my late night phone call and then tell me to wait around while she found a liability release for me to sign before she’d agree to trailer us to the hospital. In fact, I would not be a happy camper in that scenario.
However, when you’re in a setting where you’re regularly trailering someone’s horse (or if you’re a trainer trailering a barn full of horses to a horse show), you should have the horse owner sign a trailering liability release form.
If you purchase a hauling liability release form from Fairway Stables™, your release will cover all of the following. If you have a liability release form from anywhere else, make sure it has the following:
Though asking a friend to sign a legal document before you share a ride may feel awkward, it won’t be nearly as awkward as defending a lawsuit.
To be frank, a liability release won’t completely block a lawsuit from occurring, but it will absolutely act like a deterrent. What’s more, if a lawsuit were to arise, a well-drafted release of liability can be your defense. This means that, yes, you could still face a lawsuit, but the liability release would help prevent a judge from ruling against you.
What insurance coverage do you have for your horse? What about your auto? It’s important to note that many auto insurance policies will cover damage to a vehicle, but not a trailer (or it’s contents). The same idea goes for a general liability policy being unlikely to cover an injury to a horse.
It is always wise to have equine insurance in the event a horse is hurt (and, if you’re trailering someone else’s horse, it’s wise to discuss ahead of time whether you require this or not). It’s recommended that you insure your trailer with a horse trailer insurance policy (or contact your auto insurance provider for a rider.)
Speaking of insurance, what about the tack and other equipment that is stored in the trailer?
If you have expensive tack or equipment in your horse trailer, it’s wise for each owner to obtain a rider on their existing homeowner’s insurance policy to cover the potential loss of or damage to these items. Additionally, when trailering with someone else, discuss how that tack or equipment will be handled.
For example, are you willing to let someone keep their very expensive saddle in the trailer overnight? What happens if the trailer gets broken into and the saddle is stolen? Are you liable for that theft? This is a conversation that should be handled prior to trailering, and can be covered in the liability release.
Again, horse trailer ride shares shouldn’t be avoided. They can be greatly beneficial to both parties! Just keep these elements of equine law in mind and remember to implement a hauling liability release form. These procedures may seem overbearing for a routine favor, but getting these details in order before horse trailer rideshares will keep you protected in case accidents happen.
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