Court of Appeal overturns motor accident claim for horse fall injuries

Date: Apr 21, 2017

A man who received nearly $340,000 in motor accident compensation has seen the decision overturned in the NSW Court of Appeal.

The claimant suffered serious injuries after his horsed bucked while he was riding on Cooramin Street in north Wagga Wagga. The man was dislodged from his saddle and landed on the kerb and gutter.

In the original trial, the plaintiff argued that a car travelling quickly in the opposite direction had come too close to the horse and spooked the animal. The involvement of a motor vehicle meant the incident fell under the Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999.

The judge awarded the man $484,632, although this was reduced by 30 per cent for contributory negligence because the rider had failed to keep the vehicle in his line of sight.

Appealing the decision

The first and second appellants in the case were the mother of the vehicle's driver and the driver, respectively. The driver had been using her mother's car at the time of the accident.

They contended that the trial judge had erred in a number of areas. Namely:

  • The speed and proximity of the vehicle;
  • Duty of care ruling under public liability laws;
  • The cause of the accident; and
  • Whether the incident was a 'motor accident'.

For example, the appellants claimed that the original judge was wrong to rule that the vehicle had been travelling at between 60 and 70 kph – at least 20 km over the speed limit – when the horse bucked.

The only evidence for this was the rider's testimony, and he had admitted to only seeing the vehicle when it "all of a sudden turned up in [his] face".

Overturning the decision

The appellate judges ruled that the trial judge had erred in all the areas that the appellant's counsel raised.

The speed and proximity of the vehicle were questionable; the judge didn't adequately address key parts of public liability law; the cause of the accident was not necessarily the car; and if the causation wasn't established it could not be considered a motor accident.

As such, the appellate judges set aside the original ruling and ordered that the respondent pay the appellants' costs.

This case shows the complexities that are involved in motor accident compensation claims, which is why it's so important to seek the services of experienced law firms such as Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.