Farms are regarded as notoriously hazardous places of work because not only are employees obliged to work around lots of different machinery, they are also working in a busy environment and with unpredictable animals. Indeed, it is not only farm workers who suffer accidents at farms: children and members of the public can also be injured through the negligence of another on a farm.
The first issue to be considered when pursuing a compensation for an injury sustained on a farm is whether a work injury has, in fact, been sustained. The plaintiff (the person making the claim) must have sustained some form of injury either physical or psychological as a result of the incident. Even where an employer has indeed acted negligently, even criminally so, it should be noted that, with regard to the civil law, a potential plaintiff can only claim compensation for a personal injury, loss, or damage that he or she has in fact sustained. A near miss – other than where it can be proven to have caused, for example, a severe psychological trauma – is not sufficient to justify compensation being awarded.
“Farm accidents” do not necessarily always result from the direct action of an farmer/proprietor/employer. The failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment for staff be it through lack of action or training and any other form of contributory negligence where it is apparent that the employer did not take the precautions required to protect employees from possible injury will almost certainly result in the employer being held liable for those injuries.
Liability for Farm Accidents
For a farm accident claim to be successful, the injury sustained must result from the negligence or breach of duty of someone who had a duty of care to the injured party. In almost all circumstances, employers (be they farmers or otherwise) owe a duty of care to their employees.
The onus that the law places on employers in relation to protecting their employees is very strict indeed and, therefore, the law is very protective of employees and, although there are cases where employees may be injured through their own fault and no fault of their employers, it is fair to say that in a large proportion of cases where injuries are sustained in the workplace, it is possible to establish that an employer has not provided a safe farming environment or a safe system of work or proper training to their employees, thereby giving rise to a liability on the part of the employer.
In circumstances where there has been a disagreement between the farmer and the employee as to who shall bear the responsibility for the farm place accident (or more precisely there is doubt as to who is responsible), the court may decide, or indeed the parties may ultimately agree, that both the employer and the employee were partially at fault for the employee’s injury and in such circumstance the principle of contributory negligence will apply.
Contributory negligence is the legal principle that an injured party, i.e. the employee, may possibly have contributed to his or her own injury by acting in a negligent manner when faced with the obvious and known risks, which may reduce the amount of compensation awarded. Often, for example, it may be agreed that the employee bore 25% of the responsibility for his or her accident while the employer was responsible to a degree of 75%. In such circumstances, the employee’s damages, will be reduced by 25%.
Your Employment Status
A work accident personal injury compensation claim cannot be pursued unless you have actually come to harm while in employment. This must be supported by evidence in the form of, for example, witnesses, medical examinations, health and safety reports, etc. An initial, if obvious query that should be addressed, is therefore to ascertain whether you were actually employed by the defendant at the time of the accident.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is in fact a common occurrence for claimants to think they are employed by someone when such is not the case, because, for example, they are self-employed or were engaged as a sub-contractor or supplied by an agency. In such circumstances, it is important to note that a potential claim may nonetheless exist against a number of potential defendants e.g. the proprietors of the building in which you were working. A solicitor should still be consulted at the first opportunity.
What should you do following a Farm Accident?
Your Personal Health
As obvious as it may seem, it should be remembered that your personal health is more important than any potential injury claim that you may have against a farm owner. If you have been seriously hurt in a farm accident, an ambulance should be called immediately.
It is of the utmost importance that you report to the casualty department of the nearest hospital, or, at the very least, make an emergency appointment with your general practitioner. Even if you feel that your injuries are not particularly serious, it is still advisable that you see a doctor.
It should be noted further that your attendance at hospital or with your doctor will be recorded in your permanent personal medical records, which may later be used in evidence to support your farm accident injury claim.
Record Incident in Accident Report Book
Your employer should keep an accident report book on the farm. If possible, you should insist that details of the incident are recorded immediately following an accident. It is important that you do not admit responsibility for the accident. Your solicitor will usually later request copies of the accident report book which will be used to support your case.
- Farms are notoriously hazardous places of work, but farm accident claims can also be made by visitors to a farm when they sustain an injury through somebody else´s negligence.
- Work related farm accident claims will have to show that the farmer, proprietor or employer failed to make the farm a safe environment in which to work.
- As well as potential confusion over who exactly farm accidents claims should be made against, your employment status may affect your eligibility to compensation.
- Contributory negligence may also be a factor in deciding whether farm accident claims for compensation are successful.
- Farm accident claims should be submitted with your medical notes and a copy of the farm´s accident report book in which your accident is recorded.
- This information should be given to a solicitor to help make the strongest possible case for farm accident claims compensation. Seek further advice on our legal claims advice helpline.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have been involved in an accident while at work on the farm and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.