Why Tractor Accidents Are So Dangerous

Why Tractor Accidents Are So Dangerous Agriculture is a major Oklahoma industry. According to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, Oklahoma has 86,000 farms (the 4th most in the country) covering 35.1 million acres. Agriculture in Oklahoma supports 188, 295 jobs and produces $28 billion in output. In their words, Oklahoma Agriculture is “literally feeding and clothing our state, our nation, and our world.”

Tractors are critical to the success of any farm, but their use in farming and other industries comes with a price. Tractors are dangerous vehicles. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agricultural work is one of the most dangerous occupations. In 2017, more than 415 farmers and farm workers died due to farming injuries. The leading cause of those deaths was transportation accidents, including tractor overturns. The CDC states that the best way to prevent deaths due to tractor overturns is to use a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) with a seatbelt. “If ROPS were placed on all tractors used on US farms manufactured since the mid-1960’s, the prevalence of ROPS-equipped tractors could be increased to over 80%.”

What types of injuries are caused by tractor accidents?

In the most tragic cases, someone on or near the tractor dies in a tractor accident. Victims who survive may suffer brain injuries, spinal cord damage, broken bones, crush injuries, soft tissue injuries, muscle damage, ligament disorders, nerve damage, internal bleeding, and many other types of injuries.

Why do tractor accidents occur?

According to the CDC, the main causes of tractor injuries and deaths include:

  • Overturns/Rollovers. These accidents cause about 130 deaths yearly. Most tractors can easily be retrofitted with an ROPS. Older tractors can be replaced with new ROPS-equipped tractors. According to the National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative, “evidence from Europe and elsewhere shows that overturn deaths and serious injuries are virtually eliminated when rollover protective structures (ROPS) are installed on all tractors.”
  • Runovers. These tractor accidents cause about 60 deaths each year. They happen when operators of the tractors fall from their tractor and are then crushed underneath the tractor or by equipment attached to the tractors. Operators may also be run over while they’re standing and starting their tractor. Tractor operators may also run over bystanders if the operator doesn’t see the bystander or the bystander falls under the tractor wheels. Children younger than 15 account for nearly 90 percent of fatalities involving extra riders who fall and are then crushed.
  • Collisions with other vehicles or trains. These tractor accidents account for about 50 deaths (to the tractor operators or passengers) yearly. As urban areas expand, the likelihood of tractor collision accidents will increase. Collisions normally occur when cars try to pass a slow-moving tractor or when cars “round a turn or top a hill and cannot stop in time.” Safety measures include using ROPS and seatbelts, not allowing extra riders, better lighting, better placement of “slow-moving” vehicle signs, following the speed limits, and encouraging drivers to be patient instead of trying to pass a tractor.
  • Entanglement in power take-off drivelines. This accounts for about 10 deaths each year. This number includes the drivelines that “power shafts, pulleys, belts, chains, and gears.” Inspections can often prevent these tractor accidents by showing that the guards are damaged or missing. There are federal laws that require these guards.

Who is liable in a tractor-related injury claim?

If you are injured or a loved one is killed due to a tractor accident, you can file one of the following types of claims:

  • A wrongful death claim. The personal representative of the loved one who dies typically files the claim on behalf of the family (generally, the spouse and children). Wrongful death damages include:
    • Any medical and burial expenses.
    • The grief and loss of consortium of a surviving spouse.
    • The mental pain and anguish of the decedent before he/she died.
    • The financial loss to the survivors – based on the occupation, earning ability, health, age, and life expectancy of the decedent.
    • The grief and loss of companionship of the parents and children of the decedent.
  • A product liability claim. This type of claim is brought against the manufacturer of the tractor and tractor equipment. Manufacturers may be strictly liable for any deaths or injuries that occur – if their product was defective and the defects caused the Oklahoma City tractor accident or the product failed to properly protect the victim. Tractors may be defective due to defective workmanship, design, instructions, or safety warnings. Damages include the victim’s pain and suffering, lost income, medical expenses, scarring and disfigurement, and other permissible damages.
  • A personal injury claim. This type of claim may be filed against the truck operator for failing to use proper safety precautions. The damages are the same as in a product liability case.
  • A workers’ compensation claim. Farming is generally exempt from workers’ compensation in Oklahoma, but like anything, there are exceptions.

Experience matters. At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers have a combined 55 years of experience fighting for victims and the families of loved ones who die in vehicle accidents. We work quickly to investigate the cause of a tractor accident to determine how the accident occurred and who should be held liable. To discuss your rights when a tractor accident happens, contact us today in Oklahoma City, or call 405-232-1212 for a free initial appointment.