Should High Visibility Vests Be Compulsory To Avoid A Horse Riding Accident?
In a recent case the insurance giant Churchill has lodged an appeal against a judgement ordering them to pay compensation to a brain damaged girl who was not wearing a high visibility jacket when returning home from a stable. This has raised the question of whether all horse riders should be compelled to wear high visibility vests to avoid a horse riding accident.
The case was heard in the High Court. The girl, Bethany Roberts was 16 years old when she was hit by a car whilst walking home from riding stables. She suffered devastating injuries including a brain damage which will mean that she will need care for life. At the initial hearing the Judge awarded her 100% compensation. She insurers have appealed on the basis that although they accept that their driver was going to fast the seriousness of the injuries were partly Bethany’s fault as she was not wearing high visibility clothing on a dark lane on the way home from the stables.
The issues in this case are interesting as they not only affect claims for horse riding accidents but also how far children are responsible for their own safety. In this case Bethany’s parents have said that she was not required to wear a high visibility vest by the stables because she only rode horses in fields and never on the roads.
There is no legal requirement on horse riders or their trainer to wear high visibility vests though of course this is best practice for most riding stables as it is likely that most rides will require at least part of the time on a road where there may be cars or other vehicles that could cause problems for the horse or rider. If there had been a requirement for high visibility vests to be used on all occasions then it is likely that Bethany in this situation would not have had the accident as the driver may have seen her earlier and taken avoiding action.
This is a tragic case which has been widely reported in the press. Their focus has been on the plight of the family and the sad fact that if this appeal is allowed they may need to sell their home to look after Bethany. However the effect of all this publicity may cause riding schools to be more strict in making sure their riders use high visibility vests and perhaps may cause a change in the law to make it compulsory to wear them to avoid such a horse riding accident in the future.