The agriculture and food sector is among the largest industries in the country. Besides feeding the nation, farming contributes billions of dollars to the US GDP (gross domestic product) through exportation, taxation, and employment.
The farming industry alone employs over 2.5 million direct on-farm workers on both full- and part-time basis.
Unfortunately, farming is also attributed to a majority of occupational diseases, injuries, and deaths. If you work on a farm, you are constantly exposed to potential injuries and illnesses by hazards like farm equipment and chemicals. As such, it’s important to understand what to do in case you sustain an injury or illness while working on a farm.
Common Accidents and Injuries on a Farm
- Inhaling Toxic Pesticides and Other Chemicals: Farm owners are required to provide proper protective equipment for farmworkers using toxic pesticides and other substances. Long-term exposure to these chemicals can cause significant damage to the respiratory system.
- Tractor Overturns: These accidents are mostly caused by lack of vehicle maintenance, old tractors with ill equipped safety features, and driver errors. Injuries may result in broken bones, neck pain, and even fatalities.
- Animal-Related Injuries: Animal injuries are common on farms that practice intensive animal farming. Examples include attacks by a violent bull or dog bites.
- Falls: Farmworkers can fall from high heights such as storage units or a tractor. Injuries from a fall can range from minor sprains to broken bones that might cause permanent disability.
- Delayed Injuries: Not all farm injuries are evident at the moment they occur. Some develop over time due to continuous strain or repetitive motions. Delayed injuries might be difficult to prove as occupational.
Seeking Compensation for Farm Injuries
The first thing you should do after sustaining a farm injury is to report the incident to your employer. In some states, including California, agricultural workers have the same right to workers compensation as factory or blue-collar employees. This makes it mandatory for farm owners to purchase the coverage for all employees.
If your employer does not have workers comp, you can lodge a personal injury lawsuit against them. You can also file a claim to hold other liable third parties accountable such as an equipment operator or manufacturer, even after collecting work comp benefits.
Let’s look at each of these compensation options in detail:
Workers compensation is a type of insurance policy employers purchase to protect employees who suffer injuries while on the job, regardless of who caused the accident. This coverage also exempts employers from being sued by an injured worker who has collected their compensation.
After reporting a farm injury, your employer will provide you with a form to begin the compensation process. If your claim is successful, you’ll start receiving benefits which include health care bills, retraining costs, survivor benefits in case of a fatality, and lost wages, which is usually two-thirds of your salary.
The farm owner’s insurer might fail to approve your workers compensation claim if you were:
- Committing a crime when the injury happened.
- On a lunch or coffee break.
- Intoxicated at work.
However, the policy does not compensate for non-economic damages such as pain and emotional suffering. This is why you might want to consider pursuing compensation from other possible liable parties with the help of a law firm in San Diego.
Can I Sue My Employer after a Farm Injury?
If your employer does not have workers comp insurance, you may be wondering who’ll pay for your injuries and other losses. Victims of occupational injuries are allowed to file a civil lawsuit against their employer if:
- Your employer has not purchased workers compensation.
- The insurance company has denied your workers comp claim in bad faith.
- The employer caused your injury intentionally or through gross negligence.
- The equipment or product that caused your injuries was manufactured by your employer.
- Independent farm contractors can also sue their employer because most are not covered by workers compensation.
Pursuing compensation for farm injuries from your employer can be an uphill battle, especially because they might be uninsured or have tough legal representation. Your best bet to getting full compensation might be to hire a personal injury attorney.
Suing a Negligent Co-Worker
A farm accident can also occur due to another employee’s negligence, such as an equipment operator or tractor driver. Suing an employer can be straightforward, but what about a coworker? Can you file an injury lawsuit against a fellow employee after collecting work comp benefits?
It’s unlikely you can collect compensation from a coworker even if they caused the accident. Employers assume the responsibility of their employees while they’re acting within the scope of their job. Ensure to check your state laws or consider getting an attorney to evaluate your case and advise you accordingly.
If you can prove gross negligence or if the at-fault party is an independent contractor, you might qualify to file an injury claim.
In some cases, defective equipment or vehicle parts can cause a farm injury. If this happens, you’ll likely be filing a product liability lawsuit against the product manufacturer, designer, or seller.
For a successful claim, you have to prove the defect, and that it caused your injuries. Equipment manufacturers are usually big corporations who are not ready to accept liability because it’s likely to tarnish their brand and plummet sales.
Therefore, you might need a personal injury lawyer who has your best interests at heart and understands the tricks used by insurers to deny or minimize your settlement.
Tips to Maximize Your Compensation
If the circumstances of your case qualify you to file a personal injury claim, here are a few things you can do to maximize your farm injury compensation.
- Notify your employer immediately after the accident.
- Seek medical evaluation either from a personal or company doctor.
- Talk to coworkers who were present when the accident happened and request to record their statements.
- Preserve evidence by taking pictures of the accident scene, injuries, and documenting any other relevant information.
- Seek legal advice from an injury attorney.