Dear Jessica, thanks for doing what you do, you will probably never know how many people you have helped, but I hope it all comes back to you some day.
My question is I guess a technical/legal one about paying for damages. My wife and I loaned our horse trailer to a friend to take her horses to a show, and long story short, she got in an accident and she and her horses were okay, but she pretty well messed up our trailer. It can be fixed but it won't be cheap. Now we have a couple of different problems. One the big one is that this friend used to be my wife's best friend and now they just about aren't speaking to each other. My wife is hurt and angry (I'm just plain angry) that this friend basically said "Hey it's your trailer you deal with it!" instead of taking responsibility the way she should have.
So far this looks like it will cost us:
$450 for repairing the fence that she hit (I guess that's "our problem" too, anyway she didn't want to pay for it, and it's our trailer that did the damage so I guess we're stuck with the bill.
$1450 for repairing the trailer, it will cost another $700 to have a partial repaint done to get the paint job looking about like it used to.
I know I need to talk to a lawyer or somebody about this, since it looks like our ex-friend doesn't want to bear any of the expense. What would you say is fair here? My wife is still upset but she's starting to talk about sueing for damages. I don't even really know what that means, but I'd like to get this behind us, and get our trailer fixed so that we can go back to normal at home. We need the trailer fixed so we can use it, and I'd like to get it fixed up so that it's the way it used to be.
Thanks a bunch. Hal
Now I'm going to tell you what you knew I would tell you: YES, you need to talk to your lawyer, or to a specialist in equine law, and you also need to talk to your insurance agent. If you haven't already done that, do it NOW. Your insurance agent can then talk to your friend's insurance agent. Stay out of the line of fire and keep the whole discussion as impersonal as possible - that's one of the advantages of having insurance and insurance agents and lawyers, after all.
You can't usually get separate insurance for a horse trailer - the insurance that covers the trailer is the insurance that covers the vehicle PULLING the trailer, so if your friend was driving your truck with your trailer attached to it, then your insurance company may be the only one involved. On the other hand, if she was driving her own truck, then HER insurance should be involved. Either way, get the professionals on the case - you're not a lawyer or an insurance expert, and neither am I.
As far as damages are concerned, that's something else that you'll need to discuss with your lawyer and your insurance agent.
Lending a trailer is always risky. I've done it on occasion, but it always makes me nervous. It's usually a better idea to offer to haul the friend's horse for her, if you can spare the time. That way, it's very clear that you are doing a favour, AND you maintain control of the trailer (not to mention the towing vehicle).
I'm much more likely to give someone's horse a ride somewhere than to lend out my trailer. If I DO lend the trailer, I'm far more likely to lend it to someone who has to get a horse to the vet clinic immediately than to someone who wants to take a horse to a show. The reason is that my trailer is MY horses' emergency transportation to the vet clinic, and I like to have it at home, ready to hitch up and go, so that we can leave in just a few minutes if the need arises. An actual emergency involving a friend's horse has priority over a potential emergency involving my own horses - but unless there's a really good reason for that trailer to leave my property, it stays here.
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