The recent deaths of female jockeys 19 year old Caitlin Forrest and 26 year old Carly-Mae Pye are a tragic reminder of the dangers of thoroughbred horseracing. Day in, day out, jockeys risk their lives in pursuing their love of horseracing and their jobs. Many people do not realise that jockeys are professionals and are attending their “workplace” in riding track work, riding at barrier trials and on race days.
One cannot help but notice the dramatic increase in the number of young female jockeys in the industry and how well they are doing in their race riding. Local jockeys such as Tegan Harrison, Priscilla Schmidt and others are carving a name for themselves in the industry and are highly sought after by trainers in metropolitan and stakes races. It was a huge vote of confidence in Tegan Harrison for her to recently ride Temple of Boom for Tony Golan in a major race in Melbourne.
However, the stark reality is that it is a dangerous occupation that jockeys engage in and the risk of serious injury is present every time they jump onto a horse. A small percentage of truly successful jockeys can make a good living and career from riding but there are many jockeys who work very hard for a relatively meagre return, given the constant danger involved in the sport.
What compensation is available to injured jockeys or those who suffer a fatality? All jockeys are covered by a WorkCover Scheme in any state that they ride in. The WorkCover insurance is taken out by the particular racing club and in Queesland this is arranged through WorkCover by Racing Qld. WorkCover compensation is payable for any injured jockeys and they are treated like any other injured worker with their medical expenses paid for and loss of wages during the time they are ‘off work’.
In cases where there is negligence involved, there may also be the opportunity to bring a common law claim for damages against either the racing club (for breach of some occupational safety obligations, e.g. unsafe track or fencing etc.) or in negligence against another jockey. Jockeys are required to hold compulsory public liability insurance to cover cases where their negligence results in injuries to another jockey. These so-called common law claims are not limited to the restrictions in the statutory worker’s compensation scheme and are particularly helpful in cases where jockeys suffer serious injuries which prevent them from continuing in their occupation as a jockey. The lump sums available are simply not enough to compensate someone who can never work as a jockey again.
Fatalities are completely different and there is a lump sum payable to the financial dependents of a jockey who dies during the course of their employment. The current lump sum dollar figure for a dependent spouse and/or children is approximately $575,000.00. There are also weekly payments made if there are dependents such as a dependent spouse and young children. However, in the scheme of replacing the breadwinner in a family, these amous are relatively small and will not sustain the family for very long. It is important to find out whether the family may have a common law claim relating to the death of their spouse or parent. The common law claims are not limited by statute and basically claim for the loss of financial support that the deceased family member would have provided to the dependent spouse and/or children, if they had lived.
These issues apply equally to any workers in the racing industry’ including stable hands, strappers, labourers and trainers who are employed. Workers can easily be injured while working around horses and many accidents are easily preventable.
It is very important for any injured workers to obtain legal advice when they have suffered injuries and are in receipt of WorkCover compensation. There are many different laws applying to WorkCover claims and they are completely different from state to state. Any injured jockeys or other workers who are employed in the racing industry who suffer injuries should take advantage of our initial free consultation and our “no win no fee” terms.
We have extensive experience in the Racing industry and have handled many cases for injured jockeys and staff. Our Legal Practice Director, Jeff Garrett, is a keen thoroughbred breeder and racing enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge in the industry. Our staff can speak to you in plain English and understand the racing lingo!
If you require further information please contact our personal injuries department manager Rhiannon Garrett on direct line 07 5553 5888, free call 1800 621 071, email [email protected]. We can review your WorkCover file and provide you with free initial advice. What have you got to lose?