A rider who broke her pelvis when a speeding car hit her horse is urging others to wear helmet cams to ensure problem drivers face justice.
Sharon Dewis lost her job as a result of the injuries she sustained when her 13-year-old former polo pony Leo reared and fell over backwards on her after he was startled and then struck by the vehicle.
Although the driver stopped at the scene — and told Sharon he “didn’t see” her — he later changed his story to deny any involvement, forcing her to take legal action.
“I had just gone out for a little hack around the village at about 6.50pm on a nice summer’s evening,” Sharon told H&H. “I could hear a car coming towards me and I knew he was going ridiculously fast — I was waving my arm signalling for him to slow down but he didn’t and completely spooked my horse, who was usually very good on the roads.
“As the car went past, the back of it made contact with the back leg of my horse and he reared and fell back on top of me. Luckily he just had gravel grazes and a little cut where he was hit on the side of his leg, but I fractured my pelvis.”
Sharon said two other male drivers had stopped to check if she was OK but both drove off, one saying he was “frightened to death of horses”.
“I was in pain and shock so I told them I was all right and never thought to get their names and addresses in case they were witnesses,” she said.
“I managed to keep hold of the reins and get myself up, and hobbled back with Leo to his field. Then I called my daughter who is a vet nurse and my partner to take me to A&E. It was only once I was there and we were back safe that my body went ‘OK, I’m really hurt’.”
Once she had had time to let the accident sink in, Sharon decided to call the police, who came to see her in A&E.
“The policewoman was very supportive, she took my statement and then went and got a statement from the driver, which was when I found his story had changed, which was just awful.
“If I’d had a camera on my helmet, which I did use after that, then he would never have been able to get away with it.”
Sharon spent seven weeks off work and lost her job working nights as a security supervisor as a result of the accident, as the company was unable to offer sick pay, lighter duties or reduced hours.
“I went from working 12-hour shifts, five days a week, to half that working normal hours — I lost a huge amount of money and a career I really enjoyed,” said Sharon, who still suffers back and hip pain as a result of her fall.
The accident, which happened three years ago, ultimately led Sharon to sell her horses and give up riding altogether.
“It ruined it for me,” she said. “Leo was fine on the roads afterwards but I couldn’t enjoy it any more. He was an absolute treasure and we were just beginning to do dressage, which he was really good at.
“It was really sad, and I gave it a year and a half, had counselling and loads of help and moved to a livery yard where there were people to hack with to help me overcome it — but I am nearly 50 and as you get older you get wiser to things. It had taken the enjoyment out of it for me and Leo deserved better.
“From the minute that driver came round the corner I knew there was going to be an accident and that I was the one going to get hurt,” she added. “One of the most horrible experiences of my life was knowing he was going to hit me and I just had to wait — there was nowhere I could go and nothing I could do and it plays on my mind every day.”
With the encouragement of the police officer who came to take her statement, Sharon decided to pursue legal action against the driver and instructed Hanna Campbell at HorseSolicitor to act on her behalf.
While she did receive some compensation from the drivers’ insurers, because there were no witnesses or camera footage, the sum did not come close to addressing her injuries or lost earnings.
“We brought a claim on the basis that the third party failed to drive past our client and her horse at an appropriate speed, failed to allow plenty of room when passing, failed to adhere to our client’s hand signal and generally drove without sufficient care,” Hanna said.
“The third party denied liability, stated that he was not speeding (as confirmed by his wife who was a passenger in the vehicle) and denied that there had been any contact between his vehicle and the horse.
The horses died after a collision with a car in November 2017
The cyclists ignored the riders’ requests to slow down, spooking both horses
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“It is for the claimant to prove his or her case and with no independent witnesses this is a case that could easily have been lost. We managed to negotiate a 50/50 split in relation to liability and the case settled for £13,000 on a full liability basis. This was reduced by 50% to account for the liability split,” she added.
“This case is a clear example of how important head cam footage can be in securing access to justice. Had our client had supportive CCTV footage, liability is unlikely to have remained in dispute and the matter could have been settled 100% in her favour.”
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