Is farming more dangerous than it was in the past? Who is liable when a farm worker experiences a work injury or is killed on the job? What happens with a farm worker injures someone while working in the course and scope of employment for a farm for large farming corporation? These are important questions people need to pay attention to as farmers throughout the midwest gear up to feed increasing numbers of people around the country.
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2015 showed there were just under 2.09 million full-time workers employed in the agriculture sector. The CDC estimated that between 1.4 to 2.1 million individuals are hired to grow and harvest crops annually. The data also showed that just under 900,000 youth under the age of 20 lived on farms, and approximately half performed some type of farm labor throughout the year. Of the 2.1 million who work on farms, approximately 1 in 9 is under the age of 20.
In 2014, 4,000 individuals under the age of 20 suffered injuries as a result of farm work. Of those that suffered fatal injuries, 23% involved contact with machinery including tractors, combines, bailers, etc., and 19% involved trucks, cars, and ATV's. Drowning was responsible for 16% of farming-related youth fatalities.
About 100 workers each day suffers a lost-time injury. These injuries include burns, cuts, broken bones, concussions, contusions, etc. They can be caused by accidents ranging from falls from height, contact with machinery, or vehicles including tractors, contact with animals, etc. Agricultural workers can also be crushed by heavy loads, suffocated by grain in a silo collapse, or electrocuted by faulty wiring. The most common injuries are strains and sprains which are estimated to impact approximately 50% of farm workers every year.
There were 401 farm worker fatalities in 2015. This equates to a fatality rate of 19 per 100,000 workers which makes farming one of the most dangerous job occupations in the United States. Accidents involving vehicles and tractors were responsible for the majority of these fatalities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 180 fatalities within the farming sector in 2015. This was a 22% increase from 2014. It is the highest level of recorded fatalities in the past 7 years. Of the total fatalities, 106 were employed in nursery, crop, and greenhouse operations. This was the highest number of fatalities recorded in this subsector since 2010 and represented a 33% increase over the number of fatalities reported in 2014.
Farmers and companies that operate large farms have a duty of care to their employees and anyone who enters onto their property. This duty of care includes ensuring proper training in the use of equipment, the proper maintenance of equipment, and the placement of signage throughout the property warning of potential dangers. Farmers and farm employers who violate this duty of care can be liable for the injuries and wrongful deaths caused by their negligence. Similarly, equipment manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, mechanics, etc. can be held liable for defects in design, defects in construction, and defects in service that cause accidents, injuries, or fatalities. Many farmers in Kansas carry low levels of insurance coverage and it is important to make sure that you always care high levels of uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage that should be at least $500,000.00 per person and $1,000,000.00 per accident. Always make sure that your UM and UIM limits are equal to your bodily injury BI liability limits and you should always consider an umbrella policy.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents farm workers who have suffered a work injury in Topeka, Goodland, Liberal, Garden City, or elsewhere in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Illinois. Workers who have been injured or survivors of those who have died can pursue claims to cover lost wages, loss of earning capacity, loss of quality of life, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. Our firm can help workers and their families pursue the compensation needed to get back on their feet following an accident. We also help injury victims who have been injured by a negligent worker for a farm or large farming corporation.
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