Farm equipment can be so big and obvious that it seems impossible that you would ever be in an accident with one. But imagine the following scenario: You’re rounding the corner of a mostly-empty rural highway, only to see a large tractor partially in your lane, moving at a fraction of your speed. At that point, a collision might be inevitable. Getting in a car accident with farm equipment can be a serious situation. If you or a loved one is in this situation, here’s what you need to know about your legal options.
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How Common Are Farm Equipment Accidents and Injuries
To understand your next steps in a farm equipment accident case, it’s important to understand the legal context around these types of vehicles. The first thing you should know about farm equipment is that it has a right to be on the road. As inconvenient as it may be for other motorists, farm equipment may use the roads, as long as they comply with state and federal law.
Federal law on farm equipment on the road is relatively minimal and mostly focused on equipment manufacturing options that increase safety, such as requiring new tractors to be fit with “at least two headlights, at least one red rear light mounted as far left as practicable, and two red read reflectors,” as well as “hazard warning lights visible to the front and to the rear, whenever on a roadway, to warn operators of other vehicles about the presence of a special traffic hazard requiring unusual care.”
However, most regulation of farm equipment happens at the state level. Illinois has fairly stringent requirements compared to most states. It requires that all farm equipment have two headlights and two taillights, each of which should be visible from at least 305 feet, which is tied for the longest distance nationally. The law requires amber flashing lights to be mounted on the equipment as well as a slow-moving vehicle marker to increase visibility and warn other drivers of the relative danger.
These stringent requirements for farm equipment on the road mean that vehicles are not always in compliance, which could have an impact on liability in an accident. Still, if you’re in an accident with farm equipment, one of the best things you can do is contact a lawyer to help you assess the situation and determine your next steps.
How Are Accidents with Farm Equipment Different?
Like with semi-trailers, the main way farm equipment accidents vary from the average is the often extreme difference in weight between the vehicles. The more mass involved in an accident, the greater the chances of serious injury. However, unlike semi-trailer accidents, there’s a good chance that the smaller vehicle is traveling much faster. More speed means more serious accidents.
Another complicating factor is that farm equipment may not have the same safety equipment that other road vehicles are required to have. This means there may not be airbags or a seatbelt, which can complicate the injury picture.
Worse, in many cases, the farm equipment may not have an enclosed space for the operator. Accidents with those kinds of vehicles can resemble motorcycle accidents. There’s a good chance that the operator is thrown free of the vehicle and could suffer extensive injuries. On the flip side, farm equipment isn’t built for accidents like modern cars. There are typically no crumple zones or other safety-enhancing features, which could mean worse injuries for those in the vehicle involved in the accident with the tractor. One of the things about these kinds of accidents is that there are so many possible kinds of farm equipment and so many different ways in which the accident could occur that nearly every accident is unique.
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What Should You Do if You’re in an Accident with Farm Equipment?
The first thing you should do if you’re ever in an accident with farm equipment is to check on the health and safety of everyone involved. After contacting law enforcement to report the accident, your next call should be to a lawyer. Success in a personal injury case begins with the effective collection of evidence, and the sooner that starts after an accident, the better. Contacting a lawyer immediately helps ensure that relevant information is collected as soon as possible, to ensure that you have as strong a case as possible.
But, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer early on with farm equipment accidents in particular. That’s because liability can be complex in this case. The person operating the equipment might not be the owner, a third party might carry out maintenance, and a fourth might have added the necessary safety equipment to the vehicle before it reached the road. Even if found to be completely at fault, the farmhand operating the vehicle may not have the means to pay restitution, which is why it’s critical to understand the full context around the ownership and operation of the vehicle, which is something your lawyer can assist with, to ensure that your family is taken care of in the event of a severe accident.
How Kane Helps with Farm Equipment Accidents
At Kane Personal Injury, we deal with complex accident cases all the time. And we’re here to help—we only get paid if you win. We’ve been handling complicated accidents since 2004 and have helped countless people in serious accidents get their lives back on track during that time. If you or a loved one ends up in an accident with farm equipment, we’re here to help guide you through the process, delivering critical peace of mind and ensuring you receive the maximum compensation you’re owed. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about what Kane can do for you.