You may know that the Equine Activity Liability Act says that you “ride at your own risk.” However, liability protections do not apply to all causes of risk and all equine activities. A written liability release in any equine related activity is therefore essential for liability protection. A properly written and presented liability release provides advantages and protections not offered by the law. For example, a release provides an opportunity to receive, in writing, confirmation that the signer has read, understood, and agrees to accept the terms of your limitation liability policy. This alone may even deter the signer from filing a lawsuit.
A successfully written release includes a variety of essential elements including, but not limited to:
Parties: The parties to the release should be carefully identified.
Signature: The signature line should require the signer's full name, address, and phone number. The signer should indicate if they are signing on their own behalf, or on behalf of their minor child, ward, heirs, representatives, and/or assigns. A minor signed release is not legally enforceable.
Risks: A description of some risks inherent in dealing with or around horses is recommended to further reaffirm those risks. The list must clearly indicate that the risks listed are merely a sampling and not intended to be an all-inclusive representation.
Waiver: This section expressly provides that the signers, on their own behalf, and/or on behalf of others, agree to waive any legal rights to sue for claims arising from their involvement in the equine related activity.
State's Law: The enforceability of the release may differ depending on the applicable state law. Therefore, providing which state's law applies explicitly in the release prevents a debate on that issue.
Equine Act: The release must include the WARNING notice exactly as it is stated in the applicable state’s Equine Activity Liability Act.
Specifics: Many releases include provisions specific to the drafter's needs. For example, some releases ask for the rider's prior riding experience, authorization for medical attention, agreement to wear a certified helmet, and the rider's insurance information.
Use the information provided here to limit your liability from the inherent risks of equine related activities. Spend the time and money now on an effective and enforceable release so you can stay out of court and out with your horse. Now that you know the state law is not enough liability protection, GET IT IN WRITING!
This tip was brought to you by Yvonne C. Ocrant, Esq. and KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which will take place monthly. May 16th is focused on this tip – Get It in Writing. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com to sign up. These webinars will conclude with a question and answer session, so be ready with your questions!
About the author
As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.
She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.
Staying up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..