Fatal Bull Riding Accident Leads to Litigation

Man falls off a bull during a bull riding show

Who is liable for injuries or deaths involving bull riding?

A bull riding accident has left one sophomore in Fruitland, New Mexico dead. The 15-year-old entered into a competition offered by the Navajo Nation Junior Riders Association in 2016. As his parents watched, mishaps immediately plagued the ride. Handlers struggled to calm the bull down in the chute, but the bull was released with its rider anyway. The teen’s horrified family watched as he was trampled to death by the bull. Compounding matters, emergency personnel were not present at the time of the accident, leading to delays in getting help.

Now, the parents of the deceased 15-year-old have filed suit against the Navajo Nation Junior Riders Association. In the lawsuit, the family claims that the bull riding ring was negligent in placing the teen on a bull that was too much for him to handle. This New Mexico wrongful death lawsuit raises important issues concerning the safety of bull riding and other risky sports.

Bull Riding Accident Statistics

According to a study conducted at the University of Calgary, bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Nearly 20 out of every 100,000 rodeo contestants will experience a catastrophic injury. Comparatively, fewer than one out of every 100,000 football players will suffer a similarly serious injury. At least 21 professional bull riders have died since 1989, with true numbers likely far higher as amateur bull riders are not included in these statistics.

Several countries are now requiring that young bull riders wear protective helmets, vests, and face masks. Bull riding competitors need to recognize the serious risks that come with the sport before they embark on the journey of riding in a professional circuit. Bull riding is extremely dangerous and riders should anticipate injuries.

Liability for Bull Riding Accidents

Most junior bull riders will be forced to sign a release and waiver of liability before engaging in the sport. The release will likely state that you are assuming the risk of the sport and waiving your right to seek a recovery should injuries arise. However, waivers of liability are not absolute. Waivers can be struck down when a riding circuit acts in a negligent manner. At times, a bull riding circuit will be liable for the injuries or death of a rider.

Posted in: Wrongful Death