Forty-six states have enacted some form of equine limited liability laws and they do differ by state. Some state laws require the posting of a Warning sign with specific language; some do not. Some state laws require specific wording in the release of liability contract language, some do not.
We are unable to estimate the success of the EAL laws. However, having read many actual court cases, it is readily obvious that they are working in the best interest of those operations that are run safely. It is very important, however, to comply with the requirements in the state where you operate in order to be protected by the laws. So if you don’t post the warning sign and you don’t obtain a signed release agreement in states that require you to do so, you will probably loose the case. By the same token, if you are proven to have been negligent in failing to act in a safe and prudent manner and your actions or inaction leads to a serious injury, you can expect to be sued and the court’s decision will probably go against you.
The Release of Liability Agreement can be likened to your first line of defense. However, it must be written properly and administered properly in order to be effective. (It is recommended that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney.) The Release may not prevent someone from suing you but it may prevent that someone from winning a lawsuit. Keep in mind that your equine liability policy will pay for your defense in addition to the award, if any.
It is important for all those who choose to be on or around horses to understand the doctrine of “assumption of risk”. If we as riders voluntarily participate in a dangerous sport and we are accidentally injured through no fault of others – the stable or the event, we can not look to the courts to rule in our favor. A lot of frivolous claims can now be thrown out and never tried largely due to the protection afforded by the EAL laws.