According to the United States Depart of Labor, half of the fatalities among agricultural workers (276 of 570) was due to vehicular accidents on a farm. Between the years 2003 and 2011, approximately 1,533 deaths were attributed to farm tractors. The deaths associated with farm tractors include laborers in the agriculture, fishing and forestry communities. Fatalities resulting from vehicular accidents among agriculture workers were typically associated with tractor rollovers. A survey in 2002 was conducted in the United States regarding the subject of tractor rollover accidents. Of the 6,000 farm owners and farm operators interviewed about 1 in 10 farms experienced a tractor overturn. For every fatality in a tractor accident another four other people are injured. Sadly, the agriculture industry holds the third highest death rate that equates to approximately 22.7 deaths per 100,000 agricultural workers.
Even if there is no fatality involved in a tractor rollover it is not uncommon for the tractor operator to experience severe injury due to being crushed or maimed by the tractor. Much of the injury farmers experience due to tractor rollover accident can be associated with the lack of rollover protective structures. A survey states that more than half of trailers in use on farms do not have rollover protective structures. While newer tractors often come with a rollover protective structures some workers have removed the structure. A rollbar or rollover protective structure has been shown to do much reduce fatalities. The rollover protective structure works best when a seatbelt is also used. This prevents the person from being ejected into the path of the falling tractor. Many farm accidents can be prevented with proper machinery design, guards, education and/or adequate safety warnings.
Some rollover protective structures have been removed by laborers without the farm owners knowledge. At times, the removal is simply due to personal preference. The device may have been removed to allow the tractor fit into a field or building with low clearings. Others purchase tractors without these structures as they believe they and their workers ‘know how to operate a trailer.’ These protective structures are often sold as an optional item at the time of purchase. Since tractor trailers are quite expensive, many farm owners do not purchase this item to save money.
Other tractor accidents may not involve design defect. Tractor rollover accident may also be due to poor hitching or using the tractor on an incline that is too steep. Additionally, excessive speed, holes in a roadway or field, or the tractor striking another object may all result in a tractor accident or tractor rollover.
Tractor accidents and fatalities may also result when a tractor strikes nearby bystanders.
Victims of tractor accidents includes family members who have lost a loved one. An injured person may not only have physical injuries but also significant financial problems while they recuperate from their injury. Some injuries are so severe a person cannot return to their physical labor on the farm and they may sustain a long term wage loss.
Farm owners have a due diligence to ensure the safety of their employees. As a result, farmhand and agricultural workers injured on the job have certain rights for compensation. These rights to compensation may include both a workers’ compensation claim and potentially a lawsuit against other third parties including but not limited to the owner, equipment designer and/or manufacturer. A claim against a third party would require evidence of failure to warn of a danger, evidence of a design defect or a disabled safety feature. Claims like this often require a lawyer hire experts that can examine the tractor and experts who can reconstruct the accident or who are experts of safety. The hiring of experts can be costly and a person seeking the aid of an attorney will want to make sure the lawyer they chose have the funds to cover the costs of these experts.
The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith encourages those injured in these types of accidents not to allow the insurance companies to bully them into a settlement offer that is unfair and that will not compensate them properly.
I have represented many hardworking Californians in the agriculture community. I know that recovering from your injuries may be taking a lot of your time, energy and resources but it is imperative that you use some time and energy in finding a tractor accident attorney that will protect your rights. Whether you need assistance with the workers’ compensation claim or wish to pursue a tractor accident claim against a responsible third party, my office can be of assistance to you.
My staff and I have been protecting the rights of injured Californians for more than 30 years. Combined my staff has hundreds of years of experience in personal injury, premises liability, manufacture defect and wrongful death claims. Please call me, Edward Smith, at (916)921-6400 or (800)404-5400 if you would like to discuss your matter. We can discuss this in person or on the phone. If you are unable to come to us, we can come to you!
Photo Attribution for the Tractor Photo above: Mary and Angus Hogg [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons