Farm work has a rich history in America and it can be a great way to provide for your family. It’s also vital to the economy of central Illinois. But, agriculture is one of the most dangerous of American industries. There are inherent risks to working around heavy machinery, often alone. Especially during the busiest seasons of spring and fall, working on a farm demands physically difficult and repetitive work for long hours and with little rest. Stress, fatigue, and monotony can lead to mistakes and miscalculations, resulting in serious farm injuries and even death. A tractor can roll over in an instant, or one can be buried alive in a grain bin in seconds. Economic challenges are forcing many farms to use older, cheaper, and less safe machinery and equipment. If you, or someone you love, has been injured in a farming accident, you’ll need a knowledgeable agricultural injury attorney with roots in central Illinois by your side to make sure you get fair compensation for your injuries from the parties responsible. To get started on your claim or learn more, consult with our injury team in Decatur today.
Farm Accident Facts
According to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries:
- In a typical year, over 400 farmers and farm workers die from a work-related injury, with a fatality rate of over 20 deaths per hundred thousand workers.
- Transportation incidents, including tractor rollovers or overturns are the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers
- Although Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS), along with the seatbelt, are the most effective way to prevent these overturn deaths, almost two thirds of tractors used on farms in the US were still not equipped with ROPS in the most recent year analyzed.
- Of course, death is not the only bad outcome; every day about 100 agricultural workers suffer a loss-work-time injury. Many of these lead to permanent disabilities, such as amputations, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injury.
- Thousands of these injuries involve youth performing farm work. According to a fact sheet from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, about 33 children are injured in agricultural related incidents every day.
Alarming as these statistics are, studies suggest that farm injuries may be among the most under-reported of all workplace injuries. Many happen on small farms and are never reported to government agencies. And, tragically, implementing basic safety procedures could have prevented many of the farming accidents that happen each year. If you, or someone you love, suffered an injury related to farming, you’ll need an experienced attorney to help you sort out what went wrong, how the responsible parties can be held accountable, and how this can be prevented from happening to anyone else in the future.
Types of Farming Injury Incidents
The injuries sustained in farming accidents are routinely worse than those in other job sectors. The size and weight of the machinery used in farming, as well as the kinds of work done with these machines (cutting, chopping, crushing, etc.), can lead to severe injuries, including amputations, crush injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, partial or total paralysis, disability and disfigurement, and even death. Farm workers also face significant risk from toxic exposures. In short, there are a very large number of kinds of incidents that can lead to serious injury and death on a farm, including:
- tractor or other equipment collisions and rollovers
- grain bin suffocation accidents and explosions
- ATV and mower accidents
- electrocutions and burns
- equipment failures
- entanglements in belts or chains while operating machinery
- combine accidents
- grain truck accidents
- auger or hay bailer accidents
- falls from equipment, structures, ladders, etc.
- being stricken by falling objects
- hearing loss from loud machinery
- livestock and farm animal mishaps
- defective tools or machinery
- removed or disabled safety devices
- pesticide, herbicide, or other chemical exposures
- manufacturing defects and product liability
Of course, many of these incidents occur due to some kind of negligence. Adequate training wasn’t provided, proper warning wasn’t given, protective equipment wasn’t provided, machinery or equipment was defective or inadequately repaired and maintained, someone was careless or inattentive. The responsible parties should be held accountable and a consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney working for you can make sure that happens.
Farm Accident FAQs
What should I do if I suffered a farming injury?
The actions you take will affect your ability to get fair compensation for the injuries. Here are some suggestions:
- Seek medical care. Don’t assume your injuries are minor without a medical evaluation. Don’t assume they’ll just get better with time. Get evaluated as soon as possible and follow the medical advice you’re given.
- Don’t let the fear of costs or the uncertainty about who will be responsible for payments prevent you from getting proper evaluation and treatment.
- Keep track of all the health providers you see.
- Keep track of all other economic losses and expenses resulting from the injuries: lost work or wages, and expenses for services you can’t do now.
- A farm operator or landowner may fix the hazardous condition after your accident. Gather evidence as soon as possible that will support your claim for damages — take photos of the equipment and scene, get contact information from any witnesses, photograph your injuries, etc.
- Report the injury to your employer.
- Other entities, such as government agencies, vendors, contractors, manufactures, etc. may need to be notified as well, depending on the specifics of your situation. You’ll need a lawyer to help you determine who needs to be notified.
- Most important, consult with an attorney who can help you you at all stages of the accident investigation and the claim process.
What kind of damages can be recovered?
A skilled attorney is critical to ensuring that you recover for all of the damages allowed under Illinois law. Damages may include:
- the expense of any necessary medical care, treatment, or rehab services you’ve received or are reasonably certain to need in the future
- the value of any wages or benefits lost because of the injury or likely to be lost in the future
- if you can’t return to your usual farm work, funds to help you train for a new occupation
- separate damages for any shortening of life expectancy related to the injury
- any care-taking expenses or other necessary help you need because of the injuries
- “loss of normal life” — things you can no longer do or enjoy — whether temporary or permanent
- current or future disabilities resulting from the injury
- compensation for any disfigurement or scarring
- compensation for the risk of any future harm you might suffer because of the injury
- pain and suffering or emotional distress caused by the injury
- if, you’ve endured the lost a loved one because of the injuries, you’re entitled to compensation for the wrongful death caused by the responsible party.
What kinds of claims or insurance coverage are available for farm accidents?
We are all familiar with workers’ compensation providing coverage for work related injuries. However, Illinois, like many states, exempts many farms from participating in the workers’ compensation program. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Statute provides an exemption from the program for any “agricultural enterprise” that employs less than 400 working days of agricultural labor per quarter in any quarter in the preceding year, excluding immediate family members. 820 ILCS 305/3. However, that does not mean workers compensation is definitely not available. Even if exempt, a business can elect to be covered by filing notice and obtaining appropriate insurance. Some farm operators do that. Also, some work done on a farm involves activities that wouldn’t qualify under the “agricultural enterprise” exception — for example, processing food or butchering animals. Likewise, if an employee’s time is divided between agricultural and non-agricultural activities (like a direct farm marketing operation), the business may have obtained workers’ compensation coverage. An advantage of making a claim under Worker’s Compensation, if it’s available, is that there’s no need to prove any fault.
In most cases, a workers’ compensation claim won’t be possible in a farm injury case in Illinois. That doesn’t mean you can’t seek compensation for injuries you suffered because another party was negligent. In that case, you can make a personal injury claim. And many farm owners and operators obtain large farm liability policies that have “liability to farm employees” coverage. And, even if there was no negligence on the employer’s part, a farm liability policy may provide a medical benefits payment, often referred to as “med pay”.
Finally, you may have a third-party claim, against the third-party who caused your injury. For example, if your injury was caused by a company that failed to properly service a piece of farm equipment, you may have a claim against that company. Or there may be a third-party product liability case against a manufacturer that knowingly provided a defective product or a dangerous substance. Even if you weren’t working for the farm, if you were injured there due to a hazardous condition, you may be able to make a successful premises liability claim if you were injured due to a dangerous condition on property.
Obviously, a farm injury case can be complicated. You’d be wise to seek legal counsel to determine all of your options and the advice about the best possible course of action for your specific situation.
What can a Central Illinois farming injury lawyer do for you?
You have enough to do dealing with the tragic consequences of a farming accident. Navigating all of the legal issues related to a farm injury is complicated. We can help you get through this. An experienced attorney can help make sure that your case is property investigated and prepared, to help maximize your recovery. An experienced injury lawyer can help you by:
- obtaining all of your medical records and carefully evaluating the extent of the injuries you suffered
- investigating your claim – gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and obtaining their statements, and, when necessary, hiring experts needed to evaluate the accident
- establishing all the possible responsible parties, making sure that none are overlooked
- determining what is the best kind of claim to make in your individual case
- track down what possible insurance coverage may be available to compensate you for your injuries
- making sure that your claim is properly evaluated — that all the strengths and weaknesses of your claim are clarified for you, and that all of your damages are properly valued
- making sure that all legal deadlines are met
- negotiating on your behalf to ensure that your settlement is the maximum that you deserve
- reducing medical bills and liens that would have to be paid out of your settlement, to help you keep more of your settlement funds
- filing a lawsuit, in the event that a settlement can’t be reached; many of these cases are settled without going to court
How much will it cost to get representation by a legal professional?
Cost shouldn’t keep you from getting the legal help you need. We usually represent clients in these cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that there are no charges to you upfront and we are only paid from the settlement if and when we successfully obtain a recovery for you.
Protect Your Legal Rights
Contact us now for a no obligation, free legal consultation. We will take the time to fully evaluate your case, so that we can inform you about all your options in clear, understandable language. The sooner you contact us, the faster we can get to work for you and let you get back to your life.