As of 2013, only four states–California, Maryland, Nevada and New York–do not have equine activity statutes. Do equine activity statutes offer real protection for horse people? If so, what protection do they provide, and are there any traps for the unwary?

What Is an Equine Activity Statute?

An equine activity statute is a law designed to limit liability for injuries and deaths connected with horse-related activities. The principle of equine activity statutes is a long-standing legal doctrine, “assumption of the risk.” A person assumes the risk of participating in an activity if they have full knowledge of the risks involved and decide to participate anyway. Assumption of the risk is often a successful legal defense in horse accident cases, even in states without equine activity statutes.

How Does an Equine Activity Statute Benefit Me?

Equine activity statutes have two key benefits. First, they discourage people from suing. Plaintiffs’ attorneys often work on contingency (they get paid only if their client wins) and therefore, they prefer to take on cases they believe they can win. If an equine activity statute means the case will be harder to win, plaintiffs’ attorneys will be less likely to take the case. Potential plaintiffs will therefore have a more difficult time finding an attorney to represent them, resulting in fewer lawsuits filed. If fewer attorneys are interested in taking a case, the potential plaintiff will also likely pay more for legal representation, making them less likely to file a lawsuit.

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