Your friend talked you into letting her ride one of your horses. An accident occurred. There may be injuries. Now what?
Regardless of any waiver or release, you are at risk of being sued. These steps can help head off a lawsuit and increase your chances of coming out of one ok:
1. Quickly obtain medical assistance if needed/requested.
2. Do not admit fault, wrongdoing or liability. Note if your friend does.
3. Write up an accident report. Better yet, have your friend do it with you (and at least sign it). Briefly describe the incident, date, persons and animals involved. Note witnesses and their contact information. Note any obvious or claimed injuries and whether medical service - an ambulance, first aid, a lift to the emergency room - was offered, refused, etc. Stick to the facts. Be concise.
4. Take pictures. They're worth a thousand words. Everyone has a cellphone camera. Photograph the scene, the animal, tack or equipment involved, and obvious injuries or lack thereof. If your friend (who probably hasn't been to a personal injury lawyer yet) says she's ok, take a cheesy pic of her smiling and giving you a thumbs up.
5. Notify your insurer(s). For example, if the incident occurred at your home and wasn't for business, your homeowner's policy probably applies. Look at your insurance policy and follow its notice and reporting requirements. Let your insurance agent know soon and in writing (email is fine).
6. Let your lawyer know too. Keep him in the loop (among other things, it can help when dealing with obstinate insurance companies). Lawyers are paid to worry about other people's problems, so let him do the worrying. Have peace of mind.
7. The deadline to start a lawsuit for personal injuries varies from state to state. In Colorado, generally speaking it is within two years of the incident. Save your report (plus photos, any signed waivers or releases, etc.) above for at least that time. Share it with your lawyer for extra safe keeping.
Check our website links to a sample form waiver and form incident report, and how civil lawsuits work. Call us if you want experienced help. Sanderson Law, P.C. 303-444-8846.
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