Agriculture is one of the oldest professions in the nation — but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The combination of heavy machinery, harmful chemicals, unpredictable livestock, and exposure to the elements makes farmers and ranchers particularly prone to injuries and fatalities.
Of course, Texas is no exception. The Lone Star State leads the nation in the number of farms and ranches, with 248,416 farms and ranches covering 127 million acres. That means there’s an unfortunate number of farm and ranch accidents every year.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed on a Texas farm or ranch due to another person or entity’s negligence or recklessness, it’s important to seek help from an experienced Texas farm and ranch injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to substantial compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
In this article, the personal injury attorneys at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group explain common farm and ranch accidents, the process of recovering compensation, and how our law firm can help.
The Agricultural Industry in Texas
When people refer to the agricultural industry in Texas, they are talking about more than crops and livestock. The industry also includes timber, poultry, fishing, dairy products, horticulture, animal feed production, farm product processing and packing, and aquaculture. Here’s an overview of the agricultural industry in Texas:
- Cattle production
- Sheep and goat products
- Poultry and eggs
- Nuts and Oilseeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Horticulture, including nursery crops and floriculture
- Aquaculture, including catfish farming
Given its size, location, and climatic diversity, Texas’s agricultural industry is a complex and multifaceted operation. From traditional ranching to innovative agribusiness practices, the state continues to be a vital player in America’s food supply and export markets. With all of this activity, however, come vast opportunities for injuries and fatalities.
The Frequency of Farm and Ranch Accidents
Statistics show that the agricultural sector consistently ranks as one of the most hazardous industries nationwide. Every year, thousands of workers and family members suffer serious injuries or fatalities in accidents involving machinery, livestock, chemicals, and more. Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
⇒ In 2020, there were 11,880 injuries in agricultural production that required workers to take time off work. It’s important to point out, however, there is also an under-reporting of injuries in the agricultural industry.
⇒ In 2021, workers in the agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry had one the highest fatal injury rates – 20 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Compare that to a rate of 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers for all U.S. industries.
⇒ Transportation accidents, which include tractor overturns and roadway crashes, were the leading cause of death for farmers and ranchers. Other leading causes were contact with equipment, animal incidents, and falls, slips and trips.
⇒ About 65 percent of deaths in the agricultural industry occur to workers 55 years old or older.
Causes of Farm and Ranch Injuries and Fatalities
From heavy machinery mishaps to unpredictable livestock behavior, the hazards of farming and ranching are as diverse as they are deadly. Understanding these risks is the first step to mitigating them and ensuring a safer agricultural environment. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes of farm and ranch injuries and fatalities in Texas and across the nation:
Modern farming owes much of its efficiency to tractors, but these powerful machines come with significant risks. One of the most terrifying and unfortunately common incidents is the tractor rollover. Despite their sturdy appearance, tractors can easily overturn on uneven ground or if maneuvered incorrectly. This has sadly earned tractor overturns the grim title of the leading cause of death among farmers. Initiatives like roll-over protective structures (ROPS) are helping, but the danger remains.
The array of machinery aiding in farm operations is vast and varied. Combine harvesters and balers, while indispensable, have their own set of dangers. When they malfunction, or when operators use them without proper training or care, the consequences can be dire. Limb entanglements, crush injuries, or even fatalities can result from these powerful machines.
ATVs have become an essential tool for many farmers and ranchers. Their ability to navigate challenging terrains is unparalleled, but it comes with a price. Their very design, which allows for this nimbleness, also makes them prone to rollovers. The risk intensifies when these vehicles are used to haul heavy loads, traverse particularly rough patches, or are driven at high speeds. Safety gear and proper training can reduce the incidence, but the threat looms large.
While they’re an integral part of many farming operations, animals are unpredictable. Larger livestock, such as bulls and horses, have been known to cause significant harm. The sheer strength and size of these animals can result in devastating situations – from powerful kicks to dangerous stampedes. The risk multiplies when workers find themselves cornered or pinned between an agitated animal and a hard place.
Modern agriculture often requires the use of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers to ensure crop health. However, improper handling, storage, or application of these substances can lead to serious health repercussions. From immediate skin burns to long-term respiratory issues, the range of potential ailments underscores the importance of safety gear and training.
Nature, while being the lifeblood of farming, also presents its challenges. Farmers toiling under the scorching sun risk heatstroke, while those working in colder climates might succumb to hypothermia. Protective clothing, regular breaks, and hydration are crucial, but the elements can be unforgiving.
Grain Silo Accidents
The towering structures that store vast amounts of grain are often scenes of tragic accidents. The risks inside a grain silo are multifaceted. Workers can become entrapped in shifting grain, leading to suffocation. Falls from great heights or equipment malfunctions add to the dangers of working in and around these vital storage units.
As we discuss the hazards of farming and ranching, it’s evident that while the industry has advanced leaps and bounds, the risks have evolved too. The key to a safer future lies in equipment maintenance, awareness, training, and the continuous pursuit of better safety measures.
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a farm or ranch accident due to someone’s negligence or recklessness, please reach out to an experienced Texas farm and ranch injury lawyer at our Fort Worth firm. We offer free consultations and can determine if you have grounds to pursue compensation.
How Ranch Accidents Occur & Liability in North Texas
Ranching and farming, an integral part of the Texan identity, is not without its perils. While the vast landscapes of North Texas offer immense potential for agriculture, they also present various hazards for those working the land.
The root causes of many ranch accidents can be traced back to a few common denominators. By understanding these triggers, ranch owners and workers can better equip themselves to prevent unfortunate incidents. Here’s an in-depth look into these causes and the associated liabilities:
Details: Farming and ranching are specialized fields, requiring a nuanced understanding of machinery operation, animal husbandry, and crop management. A novice or an untrained individual may inadvertently commit mistakes leading to personal injury or damage to property.
Liability: Ranch owners can be held liable for accidents if they fail to provide adequate training to their employees or if they allow untrained personnel to undertake high-risk tasks.
Details: Farm machinery, with its myriad of moving parts and complex mechanisms, requires regular maintenance. A lapse in upkeep or the use of substandard equipment can result in malfunctions. This might range from minor glitches to catastrophic failures, such as tractor rollovers or machinery entanglements.
Liability: If an accident occurs due to a machine malfunction, the manufacturer could be held responsible for producing a defective product. Alternatively, if the malfunction is due to poor maintenance, the ranch owner might be liable.
Unsafe Practices or Conditions
Details: Neglecting safety protocols or cutting corners can set the stage for mishaps. This can include not wearing appropriate protective gear, storing hazardous materials improperly, or not following standard operating procedures.
Liability: Ranch owners and supervisors can be held liable for accidents that arise from enforcing or allowing unsafe practices. They are responsible for ensuring a safe working environment and ensuring that safety protocols are upheld.
Details: North Texas is no stranger to volatile weather conditions. Thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, and hail can pose immediate threats to both ranchers and livestock. Working in these conditions without precaution or failing to secure structures and animals can lead to calamities.
Liability: While weather events are often considered “Acts of God” and beyond human control, ranch owners could still face liability if they did not take reasonable precautions or failed to adhere to best practices in anticipation of forecasted severe weather.
When accidents do occur on Texas farm and ranches, determining liability will often hinge on the diligence and prudence of the involved parties. It’s extremely important to contact an experienced Texas farm and ranch injury lawyer to discuss the circumstances of your case and see if you may be entitled to compensation.
Common Injuries Resulting from Ranch Accidents
The expansive and rugged terrains of ranches, coupled with the heavy machinery and unpredictable nature of livestock, make for a challenging work environment. Accidents are common on farms and ranches and can lead to various injuries including but not limited to:
Lacerations or Cuts
Sharp tools, machinery blades, barbed wire, or even the horns and hooves of animals can cause deep cuts or lacerations. These wounds can range from minor scratches to severe gashes that require medical attention.
Bones can break or fracture upon sudden impact, pressure, or torsion. On a ranch, such incidents can occur from falls – perhaps from a height or from being thrown off a horse. Machinery incidents, such as getting a limb caught or being pinned, can also result in fractures.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Traumatic brain injuries are severe injuries that affect the brain, often resulting from a jolt or blow to the head. They can occur from falls, especially if one’s head strikes a hard surface, or from being hit by equipment.
Ranch environments may expose workers to various sources of burns. Chemical burns can arise from mishandling pesticides or fertilizers. Thermal burns may result from open fires or overheated equipment. Electrical burns can occur from faulty wiring or using machinery in wet conditions.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries to the spinal cord can result from traumatic events like being crushed by heavy equipment, falling from a significant height, or even from the jolt of a tractor mishap. Such injuries can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis, affecting mobility and sensation.
While ranches are places of hard work and often intrinsic beauty, they are also environments filled with potential hazards. The onus lies on both the ranch owners to prioritize safety, undergo regular training, and always be prepared with the necessary protective equipment. Awareness and precaution are key to reducing the occurrence of these grave injuries.
Proving Negligence in Farm or Ranch Accidents
In Texas, negligence must be proven for an injury case to be successful – this includes accidents on farms or ranches. To prove negligence, you need to show the following four elements:
- The Defendant Owed a Duty of Care
Everyone has a legal obligation to act with a certain standard of care to avoid causing harm to others. In the context of farms or ranches, this could mean the ranch owner’s duty to provide a safe environment for employees or visitors.
Example: A ranch owner invites guests for a horse-riding session. The owner has a duty to ensure that the horses are well-trained, the saddle, bridle and other equipment is in good condition, and the environment is safe for riding.
- This Duty Was Breached
You must show the defendant breached or failed to uphold their duty of care, either through action or inaction.
Example: The same ranch owner, despite knowing that a particular horse has aggressive tendencies, allows a guest to ride it. This could be seen as a breach of the owner’s duty to ensure the safety of the guest.
- The Breach Directly Led to the Accident and Subsequent Injuries
It’s not enough to show that a duty was breached; it must be demonstrated that this breach was the direct cause of the accident.
Example: While riding the aggressive horse, the guest is thrown off and sustains serious injuries. If it can be proven that the guest’s injuries were directly a result of the ranch owner’s decision to allow riding on an aggressive horse, this condition is met.
- Damages Resulted from This Accident
The victim needs to prove that they suffered harm (either physical, emotional, or financial) as a direct consequence of the accident.
Example: Following the accident, the guest incurs medical bills for treating their injuries, misses work leading to lost wages, and suffers from anxiety around horses. These are tangible and intangible damages that resulted from the accident.
To successfully prove negligence in farm or ranch accidents, the victim must present a clear chain of causation linking the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) to the harm they suffered. Often, this requires gathering evidence, expert testimonies, and sometimes reconstructing the incident to paint a clear picture for the court.
Compensation for Texas Farm and Ranching Accidents
When farm or ranch accidents occur, the consequences can be life-altering. For victims seeking redress through the legal system, understanding the types of compensation available is crucial. These compensatory avenues are designed to restore victims to their pre-accident status, at least financially, and in some cases, serve as a deterrent to prevent future negligence. Here’s a more in-depth look into the different compensation types:
Economic damages pertain to quantifiable financial losses incurred by the victim due to the accident. They’re tangible and can usually be validated with receipts, invoices, or salary statements. Economic damages can include:
- Medical Bills
- Rehabilitation Expenses
- Lost Wages and Earning Capacity
These are more intangible and cater to the emotional and psychological effects of an accident. They’re subjective and can vary significantly from one victim to another based on personal experiences and perceptions. Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Mental Anguish
These damages are not necessarily aimed at compensating the victim but are more focused on punishing the defendant for particularly egregious conduct. By imposing punitive damages, courts also aim to send a strong message to deter similar negligent or malicious behaviors in the future.
For example, if a ranch owner knowingly and consistently failed to maintain essential safety equipment, resulting in multiple accidents, a court might award punitive damages to victims.
Ranch accidents in North Texas, like anywhere else, can have severe physical, emotional, and financial ramifications for victims. The legal system provides avenues for redress, seeking to restore victims and deter negligent behaviors. Understanding the nuances of these compensation types helps victims navigate their legal journey more effectively.
How a Texas Farm and Ranch Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve been injured on a Texas farm or ranch, an experienced Texas farm and ranch injury lawyer can be your lifeline to justice. Here’s what we bring to the table:
⇒Investigation and Evidence Gathering: We will embark on a comprehensive investigation of the accident. This may involve collecting evidence like accident reports, medical documents, witness accounts, and expert evaluations. If the circumstances demand, we might also opt for an accident reconstruction to precisely decode the accident dynamics.
⇒Understanding the Law: Farm and ranch incidents can come with intricate legal intricacies. We understand Texas agricultural laws and standards and will build a strong case, ensuring every potential legal pathway to compensation is pursued.
⇒ Negotiation with Insurance Companies: Navigating conversations with insurance firms can be a minefield, often necessitating adept negotiation tactics to secure rightful compensation. We will handle all negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf.
⇒ Proving Negligence and Liability: We will work to demonstrate the negligence of the involved party. This will entail showing how the party failed in their duty of care, resulting in the accident and your subsequent injuries.
⇒ Evaluation of Damages: Properly quantifying your claim is crucial. We will use experts to evaluate your damages, encompassing aspects like medical costs, lost earnings, physical and psychological distress, and more. We will also look at potential future expenditures, such as sustained medical care or predicted loss of future earnings.
⇒ Representation in Court: If negotiations stall and a fair settlement can’t be reached, we will take your case to trial and fight aggressively on your behalf.
Speak to a Texas Farm and Ranch Injury Lawyer Today
If you were injured or someone you love was killed in a farm or ranch accident due to negligence, it’s imperative to contact a Texas farm and ranch injury lawyer as soon as possible. We can help. The team at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group understands how traumatic these incidents can be, both physically and financially, especially where long-term care is involved.
Let us help you receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Importantly, we operate on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee until we secure compensation for you. We also offer free consultations so there’s no reason to wait.
Call us today at (817) 207-4878 (HURT) or contact us online.