Get It In Writing
By Yvonne C. Ocrant, Esq.
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
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
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!
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