My horse spooked and was hit by a reckless driver – who’s responsible?

If your horse spooks on the road and is hit by a reckless driver, it’s difficult to know where you stand legally. Here to explain is Rebecca Stojak, a solicitor for Shakespeare Martineau.

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

How the courts apply the Animals Act is unpredictable and often depends on whether your horse is acting out of character or not.

However, if the driver was reckless and driving dangerously around your horse, they may have acted negligently.

To prove negligence you must establish that:

The driver owed you a duty of care

This means that the driver should have acted reasonably to avoid harm being caused to you and your horse.

What is reasonable will depend on the individual circumstances.

For example it may not necessarily be reasonable for the car driver to have come up behind your horse and honk their horn and rev their engine because he thinks you're going too slowly.

They breached that duty of care

This will depend on the individual facts of the case, for example that it was reasonably foreseeable that your horse would spook if the driver honked their horn and revved their engine.

That breach of duty has directly led you to suffer loss

You need to confirm that the driver’s actions caused the loss that you suffered and what the loss is.

If you fell off and broke your leg and had to have time off work, then your loss may be your earnings and any clothing that was damaged (referred to as your ‘damages’).

It’s important that the driver’s negligence was the main cause of your loss. The damages that the courts would award you may be reduced if you were partly to blame for your loss (this is referred to as ‘contributory negligence’), for example, if you were chatting on your phone with only one hand on the reins when the driver came up behind you.

Ultimately, who is liable will depend on the facts of what happened and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. 

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