Am I to blame if my horse spooks on the road and causes an accident?

Riding out on the roads can be unpredictable and if your horse spooks and gets hit by a reckless driver, it's difficult to know who's to blame. Here, solicitor Rebecca Stojak explains what you need to know.

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Who's to blame? 

Unfortunately, who's to blame ("liable") is rarely clear cut in a situation like this. As the owner of the horse you may be liable, under the Animals Act 1971, if your horse spooks while out and causes damage to a car and/or its driver. 

If the driver was reckless and driving dangerously around your horse, they may have acted negligently. To prove negligence, you must establish that:

  1. The driver owed you a 'duty of care', which means that the driver should have acted reasonably to avoid harm being caused to you and your horse. What's reasonable will depend on the individual circumstances.
  2. They breached that duty of care. This will depend on the individual facts of the case e.g. it was reasonably foreseeable that your horse (even if normally bombproof) would spook if the driver honked their horn and revved their engine. 
  3. That breach of duty has directly led you to suffer loss, in which case you would need to confirm that the driver's actions caused the loss that you suffered and confirmed what the loss is. For example, if you fell off and broke your leg and had time off work, your loss may be your earnings and any damaged clothing (referred to as your 'damages'). It's important that the driver's negligence was the main cause of your loss.
  4. Ultimately, who's liable will depend on the facts of what happened and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.