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If I’m Hurt in a Rodeo Accident, Can I Sue?

By stladmin on December 19, 2018

Cody Night Rodeo, Jackson Hole Rodeo, and Cheyenne Frontier Days are just a few of the most popular rodeos that take place in and around Wyoming. Cowboys are riding bulls, riding bucking broncos, making dangerous turns, roping cattle, and more. It’s a risky business, but rodeos aren’t just dangerous for the people in the ring. Spectators in attendance can also be hurt, as has been seen in too many rodeo accidents.

So, when a rodeo accident does occur, can someone be held liable? What about liability waivers, both on the ticket and those signed by the participants? Does that protect the rodeo company or the venue from liability?

Maybe. A lawsuit may still be filed, but you should speak to an attorney who can review the unique facts of the case and advise you on the next steps.

What Can Go Wrong at a Rodeo?

Rodeo accidents happen more often than people think, but few make it to the news. In March 2018, a young boy by the name of Brandon Charley was killed after riding a bull in a New Mexico rodeo. The bull bucked Charley, and after he fell, the bull landed on him. He sustained injuries serious enough to cause his death later the same day.

A similar incident occurred in February 2011. A 16-year-old girl named Brooke Coats was also bucked at a rodeo in Brandon, Florida. After, the bull kicked her in the chest. While she did walk out of the ring, she collapsed soon after and was diagnosed with a lacerated liver and internal bleeding. Coats died during surgery later that same night.

Bulls aren’t the only danger, either. A woman named Vicki Allred was barrel-riding a horse in Texas when a gate swung open when it wasn’t supposed to, knocking her from the horse. The injury caused Allred to become a paraplegic, a permanent condition of paralysis requiring constant care.

While participating in a rodeo can definitely be dangerous, so can attending. That was the lesson learned by Bonnie Herndon, who attended a Toby Keith concert with her husband on the opening day of the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Wanting to get back to their car quickly after leaving the concert, they took a golf cart shuttle driven by a volunteer. Herndon was thrown from the front seat of the cart and landed head-first on the pavement. She suffered serious brain damage, and her family won a settlement in a lawsuit.

Working with live animals always creates the danger of escape. One instance of this happened in November 2010, when a bull jumped a gate during an Edmonton rodeo and made its way into the crowd. It was unclear if anyone was hurt before rodeo staff got the bull back under control. A bull also jumped the fence and landed in a crowd of people in a North Carolina rodeo back in 2011. The bull was brought back into the ring quickly, and it wasn’t clear whether or not anyone was hurt.

Who’s Liable in Rodeo Accidents?

Although rodeos are places where we pay to watch the animals acting wildly at times, the rodeo company can still be held liable if it acted negligently.

In the case of the two teenagers who died in New Mexico and Florida, lawsuits filed by their families stated that neither rodeo had proper medical personnel on site. In Brook Coats’ case, it was alleged that rodeo staff waited 20 minutes before calling an ambulance to help her.

In the case of the bulls that jumped into Edmonton and North Carolina crowds, the rodeos are being accused of not building fences high enough. Bulls can jump several feet, and the rodeo company is responsible for ensuring they cannot interact with spectators.

The Houston case, in which Bonnie Herndon was thrown from the golf cart, is a bit different than the others. While it was a volunteer working for the rodeo company driving the golf cart, the actual cart was modified and defective. There were no handrails that Herndon could have held onto to remain in the cart. Her seatbelt was also at an inappropriate height, offering very little protection. A Georgian company, Mr. Golf Carts, Inc., modified the vehicle incorrectly. However, they sold that golf cart, along with hundreds of others, to Conroe Golf Carts, Inc. Both companies should have realized that the cart posed a danger to its occupants. In addition, a property management company, SMG, was hired to oversee parking lot activities before, during, and after the rodeo. All these companies were named in the lawsuit filed by Ms. Herndon’s family, and a settlement has been reached with all parties.

After a Rodeo, You Need a Wyoming Personal Injury Lawyer

Any lawsuit involving a rodeo accident is going to be complicated. Most often, you’ll be fighting large companies in court, which can be difficult. Rodeo companies, manufacturers, and other vendors have teams of lawyers that can tie a case up for years. They will also have big insurance companies that may offer low settlements to those recovering from serious injuries.

If you were injured at a rodeo, you should first speak to an attorney. A Gillette personal injury attorney from Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., can help you gather evidence and speak to insurance companies on your behalf. This can help you get the full amount of compensation you may be entitled to after a rodeo accident. For a free consultation, please call (307) 257-7800 today.

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