What if your horse injures a Groom or barn worker at your boarding stable?
Many of us board our horses, for a ton of different reasons. This is a great way to get lessons, have your horse cared for while you are at work, and to meet other like minded folks. Add in shows, clinics, and barn parties and you are set! But what happens if your horse hurts a Groom, Trainer, Assistant, or other barn worker?? Could you get stuck with some medical bills – what if the hurt worker has no personal medical insurance or the employer doesn’t have worker’s compensation?
I posed this prickly question to Jenn McCabe, an equine lawyer and horsewoman, not to mention former Pony Clubber and event rider! Jenn is the brains behind the California Horse Lawyer website and blog. This is what Jenn shares with us:
"This one is tricky because it involves a few common misconceptions. A simplified understanding of workers’ compensation insurance might clear a few things up --- Workers’ compensation insurance is purchased by employers. In the event that an employee is injured on the job, the insurance generally covers wage replacement and medical expenses, but the employee must relinquish the right to sue his employer for negligence. (For more details on Worker's Compensation, read this article here.)
Notice that I didn’t mention the third-party horse owner in that explanation. That’s because workers’ compensation protects the policy-holder (employer) and his employees, not third parties like boarders. Horse-owners can be sued for damage that their horses cause to people or property; unfortunately, the existence of workers’ compensation insurance does not affect this.
However, the existence of a workers’ compensation insurance policy does matter to horse owners because it significantly decreases the chances that the injured employee would need to sue you in the first place. In other words, if the employee is appropriately covered and compensated by his employers’ workers’ compensation policy, then his need to pursue YOU for payment of those same expenses does not exist.
It seems like anyone can (and will) sue anyone for anything. If a horse owner is sued, he still has to pay a lawyer to defend him, even if he eventually wins the case. Thus, if you own horses but do not operate a commercial horse business, a private horse owner liability policy can protect you against legal claims that your horse caused bodily injury or property damage to someone. I recognize that this is yet another expense that some horsemen just can’t afford, but the average yearly rate is generally lower than the average attorney’s billable hour (one hour!). Yikes!
If you have questions about liability, insurance coverage, or employment law, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can find Jenn on her website here, and follow along with Jenn on Twitter here and Facebook here. Tons of great information!
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are opinion only and based on the experience of the article's author and not to be construed as legal advice in any respect. Consult an attorney before taking action based on the contents of this article. Jenn McCabe, Liv Gude, and Professional Equine Grooms, LLC. expressly disclaim all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this article.