The first week in May in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is held at the iconic Churchill Downs. Even those who haven’t the slightest notion of the difference between a fast track and furlong have heard of the Kentucky Derby.
The local influence on Louisville and surrounding communities lasts all year round. With almost a race a week average at the Downs and over 450 thoroughbred horse farms in the bluegrass region, it’s hard to drive anywhere in the state without seeing a pickup pulling a horse trailer.
Causes of Horse Trailer Accidents
Each year, hundreds of horses in the region are injured with dozens of fatalities in horse trailer accidents. In a study by The Horse magazine, researchers analyzed 233 horse trailer accidents and found some trends and causes. Some of the top causes are (not listed in order of occurrence):
- Tire Blowout: A tire blowout can cause the trailer to veer quickly and cause a jackknife or the vehicle to go off the roadway.
- Poorly Maintained Equipment: Wrong or non-existent maintenance such as bad or under-inflated tires, metal fatigue, hitch in disrepair can all be contributors to a horse trailer accident.
- Under-Rated Tow Vehicle: lack of power or too low of weight for tow vehicle can increase risk of accident especially when the horse “scrambles” (which is when a horse panics and moves suddenly causing a weigh shift).
- Driver Error/Inexperience: Driver error can come in all forms, falling asleep, over-steering, inexperience when horse scrambles, driving too fast for road/weather conditions are all factors in accidents.
- Single-Vehicle Accident: Often the driver is solely responsible for the wreck and jackknifing and going off-road are the two most common single-vehicle trailer accidents.
- Rear-Ending/Getting Rear-Ended: A horse-trailer driver’s stopping distance can be greater with a horse trailer.
What to do After a Horse Trailer Accident
If you are the horse owner, yo already know that horses can be frightened easily, and after an accident, it’s likely that the horse is in shock. In Kentucky, and especially in Louisville, there are first responders trained in how to handle a horse trailer accident if there is a horse at the scene. Call 911 first. Experts recommend taking certain steps in the aftermath of a horse trailer accident:
Don’t go in the Trailer Right Away: If the horse is still in the trailer, don’t go in even if the horse knows you well and it looks calm. This is because the horse’s first instinct is to right itself and/or try to get free. If you go in, you could be injured or killed by a kick or hit by the horses head as it flails.
Liability in Horse Trailer Accidents
If you have a horse injured in a horse trailer accident, who is going to pay for the animal’s medical bills, rehabilitation and other expenses? One answer is whoever’s fault it was. In all traffic accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurance has to pay for damages that can include medical bills for animals such as dog/cats riding in the car or a horse being transported in a trailer.
Even though many feel like a pet or a horse is part of their family, the law considers an animal as a person’s property. This means that in an accident that injured a horse, the at-fault driver would be liable to the damages to the property, and when it came to medical treatment the policy will pay out “reasonable” damages and the insurance might balk at paying for higher that normal medical bills.
Of course, high value horses often have equine insurance and this can get tricky across state lines. If you caused the wreck you may need to carefully go over your policy.
What if I am hit by a truck hauling a horse trailer?
While most horse owners do absolutely everything in their power to safely transport their horses, accidents will occur. Trailers disconnect from trucks, drivers get distracted and intoxicated drivers hit the road. If you or a loved one was injured by a truck of any type, contact us for a free, confidential consultation.