Five Things a horse or barn owner can do to protect themselves from liability

Horse and barn owners always have lots to do. Thinking about potential liability probably not high on your list of “to-do’s” . Here’s a list of five quick things you can do now to protect yourself from a potential lawsuit.

1. Form an LLC or other entity.
Forming an LLC or corporation is fairly inexpensive and can protect your personal assets from the business operation’s liabilities. This is true even for the barn owner who rents stalls out to friends or neighbors to help defray costs. Consult with an equine attorney to learn the best entity for your situation.

2. Get your insurance coverage evaluated.
One of the best ways to protect against liability is to purchase insurance. Understanding the various types of policies available to horsemen and horsewomen is difficult, so consult with a licensed insurance agent. For instance, many horse owners assume their homeowner’s insurance will cover them in the event their horse hurts someone else. Depending on the policy or situation, that may not be the case. Trainers or barn owners often believe that because they have a signed liability release they are immune from a lawsuit. A liability release will not stop a potential plaintiff from suing. Defending a lawsuit is expensive and if you are insured, your insurance company will defend you in most cases.

3. Make sure your liability release is sufficient.
Speaking of liability releases, they are a powerful tool in litigation. But the law on waivers and releases varies from state to state (see my blog on parents’ releases on behalf of their minors). Liability releases can be helpful for barn owners, equestrian activity sponsors, even horse owners (who want to allow friends or family ride their horse). If you are considering using one, it’s important to have an attorney licensed in your state draft or review it. If you are signing one, make sure you understand what you are signing.

4. Show the Sign. 
Almost all states have an equine liability statute in place.  It’s important to know your state’s equine liability statute and how you need to comply.
Many equine liability statutes have a signage component, requiring a sign to be posted on equine properties and in equine contracts. These signs often have to comply with specific language and even font size, or else there is no protection from liability. Making sure your sign complies is one easy way to protect yourself.

5. Take A Walk
Remember, equine liability statutes do not mean “no liability.” There are exceptions to every rule. If there is a dangerous physical condition on your property and you are an owner or even a tenant, you should post warning signs. So take a walk around your property, or the one you rent, and look for conditions that could cause injury. The condition might be a hole in a paddock, high voltage lines, or
construction materials.